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How Do You SOlve a Problem Like Maria

I’ve spent thirty years as an editor and now agent talking writers off the ledge. That’s what we do. And it’s never more intense than in the two months before publication when anything and nothing can happen. When all your hopes and dreams could fill a dirigible floating over the city. Your fears and anxieties florid and deranged.


HOw do I talk people off the ledge. First, I remind them their book is awesome, how much work it took, their dedication, their craft, how worthwhile it is even before a single copy is sold. Then I tell them stories the way you tell children stories to keep the bogey man away or stories to make them feel hopeful, about little trains that could. Or little books that grew up into mighty oaks. I get them thinking about their next book, about their inner life as a writer, about the long distance race. If all this fails, I suggest, they go shopping, to the movies, mani/pedi, hit the gym, start tutoring kids. If you’re in therapy: stay. If you’re not: start.

When I try to talk myself off the ledge, I realize something very scary. I am the ledge. Any advice?



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?

If I See You At All

CONGRATULATIONS To my most G client, William Todd Schultz on the publication of his new biography of Elliott Smith, TORMENT SAINT.

Here’s a spotify list: http://open.spotify.com/user/meg.ernst/playlist/6fpTyvd96SC2ZZ4pXUtYnk

Please tell every Elliott Smith fan you know. Or people interested in the Portland indie music scene. Or understanding the tragic lives of young, gifted artists who didn’t make it. Todd has also written books about two of my favorite artists, Diane Arbus and Truman Capote. Brilliant psychological portraits that don’t attempt to explain a person’s life or choices, but brings you in as close as possible to understanding the forces and obsessions that compelled each artist to do their work, and how their work failed to save them.

October 3, 2013,

Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times

Ten years ago this November singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, then 34, died in an Echo Park bungalow from two knife stabs to the chest. According to William Todd Schultz’s “Torment Saint: The Life of Elliott Smith,” a clear-eyed and devastating new biography of the gifted and troubled artist, his death, likely a suicide, was inevitable. The only questions were how and when. read more…


What’s the saddest song you know?

In My Own Little Corner In My Own Little Chair

Okay, fuck the query letter. But before I take my pre-holiday dive into depression, weight gain,  and the return of the winter rash between my big and second toe, I have to tell you something, Nation. Tonight, from 6:45-8:30, I was in the GREEN ROOM of the Colbert Report. I was there, of course, with Patti Smith. Mr. Colbert is too big of a pussy to have me on his show and take me up on my challenge to eat through an interview. But the laugh is on him, because I ate through his green room: raspberries, blackberries, pineapple slices as thin a permanent paper. There were six kinds of cheeses, crackers, prunes (though maybe just large olives), and a HUGE JAR of m&m’s. Yes, folks, this is LIVING.

When he came to meet Patti before the show, he was super polite. Amped, but polite. Whoa, they pile the make-up on. A dog called Elvis was running around, very cute little Benji style dog. The lady said it was a rescue dog. I always feel a little shitty when people say they have a rescue dog and it’s not just because I paid a small fortune for a cockapoo to be shipped from Ohio. Or maybe it is. Did I mention that we got totally GIFTED with SWAG. Yes, that adorable woman running around Manhattan with a cap emblazoned with “C” is me. I’m never going to take it off. Patti did great, by the way. It’s on tonight, Monday, if you’re up.

Well, my carriage has turned back into a pumpkin. My footman a big fat rat. What is your craziest fantasy of success as a writer?

And the Dreams that You Dare to Dream Really Do Come True

Dearest darling readers of this blog: it’s up! The revised and updated edition of The Forest for the Trees on Amazon. Shit, this is really, finally, happening. I even got a nice, encouraging note from my publisher, you know, the great and powerful Oz! My intern is clacking addresses into a label maker file. The guy helping me with marketing has made a fabulous e-card and is designing a brochure. My publicist is sending out the books and talking to folks. My editor gave me 11 pages of notes for the revision, so if you like the changes, blame her! I’m pushing myself on to people (just today got a MFA prof to invite me to his class), and have written letters to anyone who has ever so much as sneered at me. I’m working on a piece for Modern Love and it SUCkS. I’m working on something for Publishing Perspectives. Most important, I’m working really hard to get down to my fighting weight and fit into the Nanette Lepore dress I bought a size too small on a great sale this summer at Bloomingdales.

What are you doing for your book?

More, More, More How Do You Like It, How Do You Like It

Cougar I

Highlight of my day: a fuzzy faced man-boy at Starbucks took my order. I asked if he could grind the pound of coffee I was buying. He said, “How would you like me to grind it?” I said, “I would like you grind it really hard.” No, I said, “for press.” And he said, “French Press?” And I said, “yes.” And he said, “Nice.”  Yes, I’m not above a little cougarity once in a while. And yes, a little validation for my coffee method goes a long way.

Cougar II

Low point of my day: I had the kind of conversation today with a publisher that makes you want to pull all the books off your shelves, make an enormous pile in the middle of the floor and light a match. Then you can strip off all your clothes and dance around the fire until it, too, consumes you.

Cougar III

Medium point of the day: I finally got started writing those damn letters asking friends and acquaintances for help promoting the book. Why do they all sound like barf on melba toast? Is the phony banter completely transparent or partially? Should I not be offering lap dances? Could I possibly be this perky? IDK.

P.S.  Thanks so much for all the great ideas and invitations that came through after my brazen bid for help with self-promotion. I also got some exciting emails and invites through my askbetsy box. Thank you thank you thank you.

p.s.s Cougar III is for you — you know who are.

Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, Sweet Darlin’

My new look

One of my back to school projects involves trying to promote the revised edition of The Forest for the Trees which is coming out in early October. Here’s what I’m doing:

  • Writing personal letters to every bookseller and person in the media I know
  • Sending an e-card the publisher created to the heads of writing programs, writing conferences, writing/agenting bloggers
  • Supposedly setting up a Facebook fan page
  • Sending a finished book to writing program directors in the tri-state area with the hope of getting speaking gigs
  • Writing a spec essay for Modern Love (I have a rough draft)

THe publisher is also doing a big mailing and some giveaways. I’m going to do some giveaways from my blog, but I have to figure out a contest of some sort.  I’m also supposed to tweet more, but  I’m hoping Twitter falls off the earth before I get around to composing any more 90 character salvos from the dark side.

I devote a whole chapter in Forest for the Trees to self-saboteurs to self-promoters. When I first published the book I was a SS. Now, I’m happy to report that I’m a card carrying SP. So if anybody out there has any thoughts about how I can turn Forest For the Trees into THe HElp, let me know. ALSO, if you can get your local reading groups, colleges, brownie troops or kennel clubs to invite me to read, talk, video chat or lap dance, please let me know as well. THanks!

Or just tell us what’s been effective for you promoting your work.