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I’m Singing In the Rain

Dear Betsy,
Honestly, how important (or not) is it for a writer to have a blog? I started one over a year ago to try and promote my work, but I decided to stop for a number of reasons, at the top of the list that I wasn’t updating it every day. I write longer pieces, and I felt that my audience (barring 37 friends) wanted shorter. I also began to feel like a hack; I don’t read blogs (except yours and those of a few foodies), I read books. I write books, and I hope they will be published. Have I squelched my chances by removing myself from the cybersphere?
Your Fan,

P.S. I also hate Facebook.

Dear To Blog or Not to Blog:

You shouldn’t blog. You tried it, like you might try sweet and sour soup, or snowboarding, or tinting your eyelashes and you determined that it wasn’t for you. It’s not a crime not to blog. It’s tempting in this rapidly changing world to think you have to cover all the bases: website, blog, facebook, tweet, and god only knows what’s coming down the pike. Some people are not temperamentally cut out for it. I think Robert Lowell would have blogged, not so Elizabeth Bishop. Walt Whitman and Alan Ginsberg would have blogged; Emily Dickinson might have tweeted. Sylvia Plath would have blogged. Anne Sexton would have been all over Facebook.

Some writers have made tremendous use of the web to promote their work. I think the best example is Chuck Palahnuik. Not that he needs my plug. His site, aka The Cult, is pretty amazing with forums, writers workshop, galleries, chat rooms and a store! If anyone wants to know what to get me for any occasion, I really like the t-shirts.

Look, it’s certainly an advantage if you have a huge presence on the web, especially if you are starting out and want to show a publisher that you have a following, a platform to use their word. Of course it is. But you can’t make yourself someone you’re not. As far as I can tell, Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Lorrie Moore don’t blog.

What do you think out there? How important is it to B-L-O-G?

When You Got Nothing, You Got Nothing To Lose

National Book Awards  failed to recognize two of my clients. Big mistake. 


I was going to tell you what books have influenced John Cusack (thanks to O Magazine), but I’m in too shitty a mood. Instead, this is an open letter to John Cusack’s agent and manager: WHAT THE FUCK? How come you guys can’t get him anything better than some dumbass martian kid movie and that other widower one that stares at me from my video store shelf like some filthy sock puppet that the dog doesn’t even want. Do I have to remind anyone how hot and sensitive this guy was? And I was a Sean Penn girl myself. Okay, I’m sure we don’t need to elaborate on that (Hamm v. Byrne, etc.). Still, I’m a book agent and I think I could get him a better movie part. A monkey could. Proof: In production he has something called “Hot Tub Time Machine,” and in development, “Cosmic Bandit.” I rest my case. Or is there something about him we don’t know, something some genius publicist has kept out of the papers? If so,  she works hard for the money. Does everybody know some secret about Cusack but me?

Okay, I’m feeling a little better.Here are the books that influenced Lloyd Dobler:

JC: Fear and Loathing, To Kill a Mockingbird, Bob Dylan Chronicles, The Great Thoughts, The Shock Doctrine

 Here are the books that influenced Squeaky Lerner:

BL: Carrie, In Cold Blood, I Am Third, Helter Skelter, Ariel.

And last, I just pulled this quote from Cusack on IMDB: 

“Martian Child was just a movie the studio [New Line Cinema] offered me and it was the best job I could get at the time. It was about a relationship between a guy and another kid, and I thought that was good. It was a sweet movie. They offered it to me and that was the extent of that. Grace Is Gone was something I REALLY wanted to do.”

Now I feel REALLY bad. I’m going to rent Grace Is Gone, aka Unwanted Sock Puppet. But seriously, I think it’s time for him to do an HBO tv series, if anyone at WME is listening. Hello? John, call me.

I’m Rubber and You’re Glue

Michiko Kakutani ripped Jonathan Lethem a new one in her review today of his new novel, Chronic City. She is, of course, famous for this kind of attack but it’s been a while and I was growing old and getting fat reading about luminous this and numinous that. These are, by far, her two favorite words. I hate those words. Moving right along. She called the novel, in case you missed it,  “tedious,” “overstuffed,” “a lot of pompous hot air,” “insipid,” “plasticky puppets,” “lame and unsatisfying.”

I’m not particularly interested in her taste, agenda, what have you. What I want to know is how Lethem’s feeling. Does this mean another ten years in therapy or is he able to shrug it off, so many books behind him, his literary stature seemingly secure. I’m writing because when I read a review this rabid, I get scared. And I think about what it is to put yourself on the line as a writer. It’s easy to forget about the vulnerability involved when it looks like a published writer has it made what with publications, teaching positions, awards and so forth. When one of my clients gets a bad review, I want to say, hey, c’mon, my kid deserved a B+. That wasn’t fair! Then we spend lots of time talking about how fucked up the review was, how wrong, how the reviewer had an agenda, how it doesn’t  make a difference in the overall scheme of things. And sometimes I say, don’t forget, tomorrow that newspaper will be used to pick up dog shit. (Though, of course, most people use plastic baggies.)

Well, Michiko just sold at least one book for Mr. Lethem. I’ve never read him and now I’m totally intrigued. It’s like when my mother says she hates a movie; I rush out to see it the next chance I get.

They Feed They Lion

When I first thought of blogging, a couple of people close to me thought it was a bad idea given  my “Impulse Control Problems.” I thought deeply about it and decided to take the plunge anyway. Today, I am ending this post in advance of saying some things I should not make public.  And yes I want a mental health medal.

If you can stand another moment of me before signing off for the weekend, here’s a radio  interview I did yesterday on publishing. I totally fudged the Google question; is it obvious?http://writersonwriting.blogspot.com/2009/09/betsy-lerner-and-rachel-resnick.html

While U Were Out

A lot of really nice things happened while I was away. Makes you wonder if it’s sometimes better to clear out instead of  trying to make things happen. On the other hand, that’s my job description.

Goat Song went into a fourth printing after a rapturous NPR. Dreaming in Hindi gets a UK offer. Columbine sells in Japan. Down the Nile makes the BOGO promotion at Borders (that’s Buy One Get One Free). I made a sale the day I left (top secret for now). And I took on a new client three days into  the trip and one day before I defended my mini-golf championship.

I think I mentioned that I didn’t get to pleasure read on vacation. I did slip in some magazines. My client Hamilton Cain has a wonderful piece in this month’s Men’s Health. The sex tips, however, are neither interesting nor useful. James Ellroy has an article from an old issue of Playboy about his obsession with women. Worth reading. Nicholson Baker’s article in the New Yorker about the Kindle (did you hear that? the sound of me supressing a yawn). And much loved is a poem by CK Williams in the 8/3/09 NewYorker called “Dust.”


(Proper Name) ought to be an easy person to (Verb). He is (adjective), (adjective), (adjective), and ridiculously well connected. His father is (Proper Name), the editor of (National Magazine), and he grew up in the kind of gilded New York (noun) where Joan Didion, Jay McInerney and George Plimpton were drop-in guests. His godfather is Morgan Entrekin, the publisher of Grove/Atlantic, who bought (Proper Name’s)  first novel, “(Book Title)” when (Proper Name)  was just (Age).  Hunter S. Thompson, another family friend, came through with a timely blurb, saying, “I’m afraid he will do for his (Noun) what I did for mine.”

Photo: Michael Nagle
If that weren’t insufferable enough, (Proper Name), now 25, has a third novel, “An Expensive Education,” being published on Wednesday by Atlantic Monthly, and “,” meanwhile, is being made into a (Noun) starring Kiefer Sutherland, Chace Crawford and (Your Favorite Rap Artist).
*Copy supplied by Charles McGrath/NYT/8/3/09


Nation, tonight on The Colbert Report, please check out Neil de Grasse Tyson. Yes, he’s the guy on Nova, the director of the Rose Center and Hayden Planetarium, author of Merlin’s Tour of the Universe, Death by Black Hole, and the Pluto Files among others. He’s the guy who downgraded Pluto’s cold ass from beloved planet to icy comet, and thereby became Public Enemy #1 to fifth graders everywhere. Most important, People named him sexiest astrophysicist of the year.