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Don’t Tell Me Not To Live

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Last night, I had the great honor of escorting my friend and client George Hodgman to the National Book Critics Circle Awards; his book Bettyville was a finalist. Ittook place at New School’s beautiful auditorium that looks like the inside of a deco egg. It was a star-studded event. To the left of us, Helen McDonald sans hawk. Directly in front of me Paul Beatty who I’ve loved since his first book of poems. Wendell Berry seemed annoyed to be receiving a lifetime achievement award. Everywhere in attendance proud editors, agents and family members. Margo Jefferson’s memoir Negroland won in George’s category, autobiography. No complaint there, but still I have to admit that in the moment before the winner’s name is announced, I found myself hoping with the fervor of a small child making a birthday wish. We consoled and celebrated over a long and delicious dinner with friends where much publishing gossip was exchanged. A meal in itself. When I think about reading the first pages George shared with me and sitting with him last night, and all the work in between that went into Bettyville, I feel so fortunate. Publishing doesn’t always fuck you over,

They Say as a Child I Appeared a Little Bit Wild

 

tumblr_m5agp4ws751rxiaoto1_500Someone recently asked me if I felt anxious about the book coming out because it is so personal. Get to know me. I’m anxious because it might not sell. I’m anxious because the New York Times might say mean things, or worse say nothing at all. I’m anxious because if I fail it’s not only in front of my friends and family, but the publishing profession where I work. I’m anxious because I’m not in therapy and I probably should be. I’m anxious because I don’t feel like myself, meaning I feel a little hopeful and that is just not part of the package.  I’m anxious because it’s all out of my hands now with the exception of boosting Facebook pages and going up and down Fifth avenue in the sandwich boards I’ve made with the Queen of Hearts on both sides.

What makes you anxious about getting your work out there? What’s your worst fear?

Long as I Know How to Love I Know I’ll Stay Alive

08hodgman3-master18051q6c2lxz4l-_sx329_bo1204203200_Congratulations to my dear friend and client GEORGE HODGMAN on his NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE nomination. New York Times Bestseller Bettyville available in paperback  March.

Are you the kind of person who prepares his acceptance speech or wings it?

My Dream It Lingered Near

 

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Three years ago, I started working on a new book. It was going nowhere fast and my husband kept saying that I had to use my blog voice. My what? My sociopath voice? My whiney vaginey voice? My pitted, potted, sometimes besotted voice. My childlike wonder, my hemorrhoidal idyll, my knock knock give a dog a bone. Short story long: my new book is coming out in May, 2016. It wouldn’t exist if not for the four years of writing here, the incredible love and support from our merry band. Even the guy who said he wanted to kill me and Patti Smith with a pitchfork. You gave me the chance to develop my voice, and as we say in these parts, I finished the fucker. Will say more about it soon. Until then, THANK YOU dearest readers of this blog. Love, Betsy

How Bout Me Not Blaming You for Everything

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I’m working on the acknowledgments to my new book. I’ve always felt that the acknowledgments are the closest thing to Oscar acceptance speeches that writers get. I’d like to thank my mother, my father, my therapist in Riverdale. I’d like to thank my left foot, Daniel Day Louis, Julia Louise Dreyfus, my hedge fund manager, my hedge hog, my cockapoo. I’d like to thank my pain. I’d like to thank all the people who didn’t believe in me. I’d like to thank the one man who opened a door for me at Grand Central. I’d like to thank my eye surgeon Dr. Craig Sklar. I’d like to thank the woman at his office who did my paperwork. I’d like to thank my personal assistant, my personal trainer, my personal planner, my personal pizza. But most of all I want to thank the Duplass Brothers.

Who do you thank?

I’m Trying To Beat Life Cause I Can’t Cheat Death

Dear Readers of this Blog: I couldn’t be happier than to congratulate Sheri Booker on the publication of her first book Nine Years Under (notice I am not saying “debut” because I think it’s pretentious) about her experiences working in an inner city funeral home, coming of age there, amid the corpses, inside the embalming room, and among the mourners who looked to her, a teenager, for comfort and tissues. There was a lot to learn about death; there was even more to learn about life.

I have copies to give away to the top three funeral stories.  I’ll see if I can get Sheri to judge.

And here’s some great early press: NPR: http://www.npr.org/2013/06/01/187086911/nine-years-in-a-baltimore-funeral-home  Baltimore Sun Interview: http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/arts/bs-ae-book-funeral-20130601,0,4451923.story  Washington Post:  http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-05-29/entertainment/39591099_1_funeral-business-viewing-west-baltimor   NPR news http://www.wypr.org/podcast/how-working-deadaffects-your-view-living

Blackbird Singing In The Dead of Night

Fourteen years ago, a slim memoir with a simple but perfect title came into the world and created a storm of media: praise and scorn. A sales rep at Random House had sent a copy to my husband with a handwritten note: Great art? Maybe. Provocative? Definitely. The book was The Kiss. The author Kathryn Harrison, a novelist with three books to her credit at that point, was being taken to task for, among other things, revisiting material from her fiction for this memoir, particularly her incestuous relationship with her father.

I turned away, but not because she was continuing to mine her life for her writing (a ridiculous charge on any level), but because I was insanely jealous. As a young editor working on memoirs, I envied the tidal wave of attention hers was getting. But even more, I was jealous as a writer. She had moved a boulder. She had found prose as stark and terrifying as the incident she was writing about. She found the words, and she hit a nerve. I couldn’t touch it.

Years later, I met Kathryn Harrison when we were both on a publishing  panel. I went home that night and found the copy the rep had sent. Interestingly, I had never sold it off over two moves; it still had the note. I think I read the memoir in one or two sittings. It was actually the mother daughter story that initially captivated me. I read it a second time, more slowly, how did she find the control and composure, how did she level her gaze, how did she pin each sentence down?

I received a reissue of The Kiss this week from the publisher. I thought I’d just read a few pages, but I reread the entire book having been captured by the earliest lines which brilliantly telegraph the entire story, “standing against a sheer face of red rock one thousand feet high; kneeling in a cave dwelling two thousand years old; watching as a million bats stream from the mouth of a Carlsbad Cavern into the purple dusk…” It’s all there like Goya’s Caprichos and Van Gogh’s blackbirds let loose over a tragic land. It’s also worth getting for the afterword by Jane Smiley and the Q&A with Kathryn Harrison if you’re interested in memoir or are writing one.

If you could ask Kathryn Harrison a question, what would it be?