THE FOREST FOR THE TREES is about writing, publishing and what makes writers tick. This blog is dedicated to the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gather here. I post less frequently now, but hopefully with as much vitriol. Please join in! Gluttons for punishment can scroll through the archives.

    If I’ve learned one thing about writers, it’s this: we really are all alone. Thanks for reading. Love, Betsy

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I Can Take All the Madness the World’s Got to Give

I went to Walgreen’s on Friday and it was closed for lunch hour. I went on Saturday, and it was closed., full stop, even though the website said it was open. I went today, Monday, and there was a sign, pharmacy is closed today. No reason, no explanation, no hint as to when it might re-open. I have also received two threatening texts from the pharmacists that they will put MY DRUGS away if I don’t pick them up. And since when don’t people take lunch in shifts?

How was your day?

I Really Don’t Know Life at All


I burned my two most recent diaries this morning, Watched the pages consumed by flame. I did it because I didn’t want anyone to ever see them. There were no big secrets there, just the contours my cruel heart, my peevish dislikes, all the hateful thoughts that cycle through me. It was more difficult than I thought. I had been so certain when I flicked on the lighter. I had been thinking about it for months. Only watching the pages curl and turn to ash felt like a betrayal of my self. I have around 40 boxes filled with diaries and letters. I always hoped to take up smoking again in my old age and read the diaries on the front porch of an assisted living facility.

Have you ever destroyed your work?

It’s Laughter and It’s Loving I Disdain


It’s July 13, do you know where your pages are? No beach, outdoor concerts, barbecues, carousels, trips to Paris, Maine, or the Jersey shore. It’s time to buckle down. We are not normal. Personally, I prefer to be by myself for as a long as possible. Inside. I like to see how long I can go without talking. I like to put in my eye drops, pop on my reading glasses, and stare at my screen-mirror-masturbatorium-sandbox-rosary-ghostdance-mask-trojan horse-armor-packing tape-first edition Elizabeth Bishop – and retractable measuring tape.

What kind of summer are you going to have, writing-wise?

I Keep my Visions to Myself


I’ve kept a dream notebook since 1988. It’s 4 x 6 with graph paper. It’s taken 34 years to fill because I only remember three or four dreams a year. And never a single wolf in a tree. I read Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams in college and have always relished analyzing dreams, believed they were windows in the psyche. Most of my dreams are violent, often I’m being chased by someone who wants to hurt me. Usually people who are minor characters show up to give me a plate. I’ve been run over many times including by my agent in a tractor.

Do you remember your dreams, do you analyze them?

Let the Morning Time Drop All its Petals on Me


Beginning, middle and end. Pick your poison. For me starting is always the best. The moment I get a title or a first line in my head, I feel like a racehorse at the starting line. It’s this infusion of adrenaline and excitement. Most of the time, I don’t get far, but for the few moments before the idea fizzles, I’m my most happy. Writing is a brilliant cocktail of ego, narcissism, and the rush of making something out of nothing. It’s like a hunk of clay moving beneath your hands, a climbing wall, a pool table with balls racked. It’s a cigarette slowly burning, an empty swing with a violent back story, a pair of shoes, a bit of wind

How do you get started?


Animals Strike Curious Poses


I can’t decide if I like Andrew Garfield.

What say you?

I Like the Way You Work It


To know what I think. To know what I feel. To amuse myself. To unspool myself. To keep secrets, truths, lies. To try on hats. To wrestle the world. To wrestle myself. To build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung. Bran muffin, mail box, magnets, mole hills, chutes, ladders, left turns, dead ends, tables set with ceramic tureens in the shape of cabbages. Details whether god is in them or not.

Why write?

Tommy Can You Hear Me


It’s time to talk about it. I haven’t said anything for a long time, but the truth is I do it a lot. LIke every day. I’m talking about podcasts. I listen when I’m doing the dishes, walking the dog, folding laundry. I’m pretty promiscuous. I listen to The Daily, to Ezra Klein and Still Processing. Two personal favorites are Tell Me About Your Father and Sounds like a Cult. The Powers that Be. Sway. The Dating Game Killer. Lots of crime. I didn’t want to let them into my life, but now it looks like they are here to stay. I find them very entertaining. Sometimes informative. But what I really like is that they crowd out all the constant spinning in my head.

Do you podcast? Got any recs?

I’m Not Too Blind to See

My writing partner, apart from being generous, astute, and insightful, is a master at calling out stinkers. Again and again, every line, paragraph, and idea that is either slightly off or completely off, she gently says, “maybe this could come out. Not sure. What do you think?” Oh, gentle lady! If you have someone in your life with a dowsing rod, aka, a stinker meter, don’t let them go. This begs another question, why don’t we know ourselves when we’ve besmirched the page?

Do you know you’ve written a stinker?

I am Yours Your are Mine You are What You Are


When I was in grad school, the world was divided into two camps: fiction writers and poets. Dogs and cats. Mice and men. It was unheard of for anyone to cross genres. I was a so-called poet and it never occurred to me to write a single line of prose. I was after line breaks. I was looking for images that obscured what I was feeling. A poem was a painting, a grove, a hideout, a cave. I was also trying to be funny. I wrote a sestina called Calories and Other Counts. I called my collection, Venus Envy. A professor I revered compared me to Fran Leibowitz and it wasn’t a compliment. I never wrote another poem after I left graduates school. Ten years later I wrote an advice book. How did that happen?

What’s your genre?