• Archives

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.

nh43901-enhanced

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?

Yesterday Don’t Matter If It’s Gone

bicycle20rider20backs

I know it looks like The Bridge Ladies have hijacked my blog about writing, depression, and how publishing will break your heart in a hundred different ways. The Bridge Ladies is my new book and it’s coming out in May and if you love me even a little please buy a copy or 200 for your local synagogue’s sisterhood. Or pre-order. 😉

So I’m working on changing the blog and trying to keep it the same. I’m trying to lose weight and am gaining it instead. I’m trying to sleep through the night but I’m up every hour. It’ been seven years since I published a book and I feel as nervous as a virgin. I want to spread the word about Bridge Ladies and hear from people about their  Bridge memories. But I also want to throw my mashed potatoes on the floor and spit peas through a straw at the ceiling.

I’m thinking about blogging about the publication of the book. Is this interesting or even more indulgent than the thousand plus posts I’ve dumped on a beautiful and unsuspecting world.

What would you do if you were me?

When You’re Alone and Life Is Making You Lonely

It’s been a while since I went to a book party, and I gotta tell you I was rusty. In the first place, I completely forgot to frisk the medicine cabinet. Then, I didn’t get my mitts around a glass of Cabernet for nearly a half hour. By then the party was in full swing and I was desperately searching the room for a friendly face. Another glass of wine and 36 baby carrots later (guess who’s back on Weight Watchers!?), I hit my stride, saw some old friends, chatted with some mucketies, thanked the host, hugged the guest of honor and headed home feeling only a vague sense of self loathing. All told: a good night.

I also ran into Walter Kirn and I’m saying this even though he’s NOT MY CLIENT: I love the guy’s writing. His new book is coming out next month and it sounds fantastic especially if you’re like me and imagine the person beside you is almost always a killer. And here is a home video which proves that highly intelligent people are not immune : http://walterkirn.blogspot.com/2014/02/video-killed-literary-star.html?spref=tw

Being writers and all, how do you do at parties? Honestly.

It’s Hard to Get By Just Upon a Smile

Let’s go back to basics. Query letters. Here are ten opening lines from letters I’ve received or concocted.

Dear Betsy: I am a huge fan of your blog and The Forest for the Trees, which I recommend to everyone I know.

Dear Ms. Lerner: Your agency website says that you like the hard to categorize.

Dear Betsy Lerner: I have written a fiction novel of 130,000 words called The Lost Letter.

Dear Betsy Lerner: Have you ever been afraid, really afraid?

Dear Betsy Lerner: I am a Harvard graduate and a Buddhist.

Dear Ms. Lerner: I am a survivor.

Dear Betsy (if I may):  I was about to give up writing until I read your book — I am the wicked child.

Dear Miss Lerner: Part memoir, part travelogue, this is the story of my return to Los Angeles.

Dear Betsy: My novel, The Launching of Fawn Roth, is about a young woman a lot like Lena Dunham.

Dear Betsy Lerner: I am writing to you because of  your personal interest in mental illness.

If you were an agent, which one would you respond to?

Anyone want to float their opener?

Could It Be That It Was All So Simple Then

Guys, guys, guys, guys. It’s Book Expo in New York. I just tripped over Scott Turow. I didn’t get invited to the Malcolm Gladwell party. I didn’t get invited to my own publisher’s party. That I take as a badge of pride. I ran into a book rep I haven’t seen since the Fifties, but he’s still wearing that bolo and I still remember Miami. I saw a machine that makes books on demand.  I saw a vampire in broad daylight. I saw my beloved Japanese agent and she was wearing a gorgeous floral skirt that she bought at thrift shop, then corrected herself: Vintage. I met with a mother-daughter team who sell audio books. When I told the daughter she looked like Kim Kardashian she seemed to be insulted. I wandered through the booths thinking about all the publishing jobs I had, all the bosses I didn’t blow, all the massive excitement I used to feel helping books come into the world and learning how to galvanize my passion.  Or how I could get high off the smell of books fresh out of the carton. Or the party I once threw for a first collection of stories, decorating my apartment with candles and peaches.

Were those the days?

The First Cut is the Deepest

My submission strategy appears to be largely unsuccessful, though appearances can be deceiving. A small press has recently accepted one of my books for publication. This will be my first published book.  –-Tetman

Come on everybody,  give it up for Tetman. One of our tribe just got a book deal. Come on, Tetman, tell us all about your first time. HOw old were when you lost your publishing virginity? Is it everything you imagined, are you  all look both ways before crossing the street or have you already figured out how you will be  discovered as a fraud? How many submissions did it take? What would you differently? Will it be a book book, ebook, or droid implanted in my thigh. What’s it about?  Tetfuckingman! I am so happy for you.

What was your first time like, book or whatever.