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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.

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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

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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. ūüėČ

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.

People Who Need People Are the Luckiest People in the World

Hey Everyone! It’s that time of year! The 2013 HATE list compiled in no particular order.¬†¬†You Could Have Been Anyone To Me

1.¬†Constant use of the phrase, “I’m obsessed with.”¬†¬†I’m obsessed with Pinterest.¬†¬†I’m¬†obsessed with Snapchat. I’m obsessed with pumpkin chai latte.¬†You can not be obsessed with a pumpkin chai latte. If you want to understand obsession, read The End of the Affair. Then talk to me a about disgusting Starbucks beverages.

2. Transparency. Suddenly everything has to be transparent. Since when isn’t clear good enough. When did clear get demoted? Did clear get the memo?

3. Pumpkin chai latte.

4. I don’t hate Taylor Swift, but I’ve had it, too.

5. Hating on Obama. I loved him, I love him, and I will always love him.

6. What the fuck is the Duck Dynasty and why is it all over the bestseller list?

7. Adam Levine named People Magazine’s sexiest man of the year. Okay, he is the first Jew to be named which I suppose is something. Seriously, there are men in publishing who are sexier than Adam Levine.

8. People asking me if I read “The Goldfinch.”

9. People sending me an email that says, “Call me.” Okay, you’re emailing me to to call you. Why don’t you just fucking call me. Just pick up the fucking phone. In the words of Ernestine, “One ringy dingy.” Are we CLEAR?

10. The continued shortening of every work in the dic.

And just for the record, I love all of you who come here and leave your snail slime in the form comments that are harrowing and hilarious and truly supportive of all the people who check in at the Lerner Rehab Facility for Writers and Artists and stay for a day or a lifetime.

Now, please, let’s see if we can get to 100 items on the hate list. What do you find irritating, obnoxious (besides me), heinous, and hideous?

Humping on the Parking meter, Leaning on the Parking Meter

The bottom line is no one cares if you don’t write. No one asked you to. No one will die. There are chipmunks who work harder than you. You didn’t need to buy that Moleskin. You forgot you had one anyway. No one said: a poem please. No cried out when you sat down, mid-poem, because you couldn’t bleat another line, a lifetime ago on Minetta Lane. Do not ask what your writing can do for you. Do not got to therapy and crawl inside your inner ear. Did you ever think it was a gift from god? To stop? You won’t have to eat. You need not sing. You don’t have to be anything. When you remember those pages rocking out to sea, remember how good it felt to not reach for a simile. My face and your ass. Is like.

Do you ever think of quitting? Please be as negative as possible.

But When You Talk About Destruction

Did you finish your memoir, your novel, one lousy stinking poem? Did you read War and Peace? Rescue a dog? Yourself? Did you jump on the Yonana craze? Lose a notebook with all of your best work? Did you pick peaches? Fuck your wife? Fuck up your life? Did you take up cycling? Wonder why you couldn’t write. Did you talk to a woman at the farm stand? Was your family trapped by a rabid raccoon who attacked your dog and bit off half your finger? Did you think about everyone who died? Did you imagine their airless life? Did you give money to the guy at the entrance to the highway because his sign said he was hungry and for once you felt more compassion than fear? What does it take to write the sentences of your life? To live inside the mole hole? And come out with that grin on your stupid dirty face.

What did you do on your summer vacation?

Just Give Me a Reason Just A Little Bit’s Enough

Dear Insane People Who Write: Why do you like being dangled by your feet from the twentieth floor of a down-on-its-heels Marriott in a bankrupt city? Why do you like the feeling of your eyes being peeled back like the film inside a hard boiled egg? Was it worth removing your baby toe? Or turning a pimple into a mole?¬† Yes, I’m back for more Immodium; what’s it to you? Yes, I take sleep aids.¬† So what if you find me walking down a dark street in my nightgown? It was just a dream that lasted seven months and then I awoke. Why do you torture yourself unnecessarily, my father used to ask. Because necessary torture is for lightweights? You can no longer remember the name of the first boy you fucked. Or what you paid for your first house. If you had chicken or prime rib at your own wedding.¬† Why do you like to get punched in the face, apart, of course, from being a writer?

Got milk?

It’s a Wonder That You Still Know How to Breathe

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Every question every writer has ever asked me about how long they should wait to contact an editor or agent who is considering his work ¬†may now spit in my kasha. And every writer who has asked my advice regarding how to write a cover letter may drop a shovelful of dirt of my grave. I am in Jewish limbo which I believe is like standing on line at Katz’s and not knowing if the pastrami will hold out. Every pore on my face has been scrutinized, every blister on my foot calling out for more torture. One minute I am polishing my acceptance speech and the next I can’t seem to take another step without an infusion of peanut m&m’s. ¬†I’m throwing food from my high chair, I’m trying on clothes in a dressing room that is one hundred degrees and nothing fucking fits, and manically thanking the Starbucks guy working the register as if he were a long lost friend. Please don’t say it’s the journey that counts. Please don’t talk about the “process.” And don’t give me any credit for finishing and getting it out there. What’s so special about special dinners? There is only thing I feel remotely good about is that I’ve started a new project so the screenplay is looking more like a piece of toast with the face of Jesus carved into it.

How sick does it get?

It’s a Wonder That you Still Know HOw to Breathe

Today, a client described the feeling of waiting for his book to come out in the new year. “One minute I know nothing’s going to happen, it’s already over. ¬†And the next minute I’m winning the Pulitzer.” I’m not going to say the truth is probably in the middle because more likely than not nothing will happen, another worthy book will slip beneath the waves, or as a writer once said of publishing a book, it’s like carrying a bucket of water to the sea.

We can talk about the terrible odds of getting recognition. We could also talk of the writer’s ego, the grandiosity and the insecurity, the hopelessness and magical thinking. Or we can talk about the opening night jitters, the complete and total lack of control over whether you will be reviewed at all, and if so what will be said, and then, of course, will it sell.

I ask my client what he’s working on. It’s a sleight of hand question to distract him from the oncoming traffic, but I also think that a new project is the hair of the dog and the only way to move on, move forward, to understand that this one book is just that: this one book. It does not a career make (unless you are Harper Lee). Or, like me, you can continue to shamelessly flog a ten year old book. I’ve seen embittered writers who swear off ever writing a book again, write again.

I don’t think it’s about the triumph of the human spirit. In fact, the desire to keep writing and publishing is more likely a triumph of human perversion.¬†I want to know: does it ever get easier. Does a writer ever say, I’m good. Or, I’m happy. Or is that for other people?