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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?

Love the One You’re With

When I was in college, I had a friend whose father was a dry cleaner. He referred to his work as  “pressing the piss out of other men’s pants.”


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?

And I can’t change Even if I tried Even if I wanted to And I can’t change Even if I tried Even if I wanted to My love My love My love

Novels are flying at my head. Thousands of pages flapping like seagulls at Brighton Beach. Stories from land locked countries, from the mouths of bats, from trains that never leave the station. From the station itself. How did you come up with so many sentences, so many girls named Cara or Carla or Quintana, or Ray. Did it start on a stair, a hill, a bucket, a pail? What’s it about? Well, that’s a good question. The beach, the mountains, a multi-generational tale of raisin bran. You are nothing like a summer’s day. Why do sympathetic characters bring out the sadist in me? Does anyone really change? Are you my beginning, my middle or my ass wipe? Hi, I’m Betsy and I’m addicted to prose. Oh, Daisy. Grow up. There is a big canister somewhere. Dear Betsy: I am writing to see if you would be interested in my five novels, a 874,000 word quintet about two slugs fucking in a snot can. Do you feel me? Oh mighty novelists with your big boots and musky armpits. Where would we be without you?


I Love All the Things You Say and Do

Just want to mention that I spent four hours in Temple and forgot to atone. Spent the entire time thinking about writing, my writing, the writing of others, the cover of the NYT book review, a new client I shook hands with, the way my eyes feel most of the time which is dry and achy and sometimes slightly pulsing. The lady in front of me had a lace doily folded in the shape of a piece of pie and pinned to her head with a bobby pin. But it came loose and the pleats on the doily were hanging precariously off her head, the bobby pin also hanging on for dear life. Really, pray for my sins and pray for the dead with all that going on? Please, ladies, attend to your doilies! I beg of you.

What distracts you from yourself?

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered Am I

Went to a museum today, saw some paintings that could have been old friends. Went to a play and fell into a deep sleep. When I awoke a young man shouted something about jumping into the Danube, and then the actors came out and bowed to to weak applause. The painting is impervious to my feeling; is that possible? And what about the double play, the white cotton nightgown with spaghetti string straps? A Japanese bowl perfectly decorated with blue pansies. Is it likely that painting coffins in rust and red, the painter dreamed his death by his own hand? Or the beautiful rear end of a woman in an orange towel making a bed, packing a suitcase. This is the story I tell myself. A grandmother in a yellow sari dotted with mirrors the size of quarters stands beside Christina’s World as her daughter snaps a picture on her iPad. The actor playing Wittgenstein is almost dashing. He is the last thing I see before I fall asleep.

4:40 a.m. Anyone up?

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?

All You Need is Love

I want to talk about being selfish, about being a selfish bastard, about boundaries and limits and the hard bark of an elm tree. I want to talk about waking up in a cold, empty house. Outside, gnarled gray branches electrified the sky. The plan is to work all day. Reading Poets & Writers to procrastinate, you see the face of a poet you once loved, followed to Baltimore; a failure in courage when you didn’t say hello. Later, a fruitless trip to Staples, forgetting the kind of toner you need, standing in the aisle like Ruth amid the alien corn. Can I help you, ma’am? Yes, dear man. Can you cover my body in toner and set it on fire? I spent the vacation writing. Writing!

I was hoping to do something new with the blog this year, to be positive and affirming and full of love, but I can’t. I can’t. I can’t and I won’t. Resolution: eat shit and die.

And your resolution? Whatcha got?

Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?

This is a post about something very difficult to come to grips with that no one likes to talk about — it’s about hitting the wall. And by that I mean when you are stuck, whether you’re crashing into the wall or the wall is crashing into you. I’m not talking about a bad day or even a few months of writer’s block. I’m not talking about a string of rejections or seeing your book on the remainder table where no one wants it, even for $5.99. What I’m talking about is something deeper and more terrifying. It’s when you realize you’ve been writing the same book over and over. Or when you can no longer stand writing in the register you’ve been writing in and don’t know how to get out.  This isn’t a slump, a bad patch, a bush-league case of writer’s block or stage fright. This isn’t about not being able to come up with a new idea. This is bad. It’s when you understand the limits of your imagination, intellect, creativity, skill, or drive. It’s when you no longer know when you’re faking it; when you’ve succeeded at fooling yourself. I’ve seen it in writers over the years. You can’t say anything. It would be cruel, like waking a sleepwalker. You know the writer is in agony even if he can’t admit it to himself, even if he’s on the couch five days a week, it’s almost impossible to admit.

What I want to know is: have you  hit the wall and what did you do?

THe Killer In Me Is the Killer In You

When I was younger and met people who lived for the weekend, I had a great deal of disdain for them. Or to use a word I only discovered this weekend (in a book): misprision. First, I thought it pathetic that you would spend five days a week dreaming about a fishing pole and a Heineken. But the real reason was I hated weekends. What I hated even more was people asking, “how was your weekend?” For me, my life has been about working. I didn’t really start making the friends I really loved until I was in my thirties. I put everything into my work. I would spend entire weekends editing and be grateful for the engagement. I was a workaholic and I didn’t want a cure.  It was never ambition that fueled me. It was fear of sinking.  Fear of the great  wave. Of my legs entwined in weeds, my cries unheeded. How was your weekend? I read a book about Sylvia Plath and I’m fifty one years old almost. The only thing worse than a weekend is a long weekend.

How do you get up in the morning?