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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Just Like Me They Long To Be Close to You

So great to hear from long-timers and some new folks. Welcome to the asylum. So this writing business. I’ve had a pretty manic spell, at least for someone who has been medicated since 1997. I’m just a surfer now, no high octane highs, no debilitating lows. And every day I’m grateful for my salmon colored tablets that introduce my brain to salt. Good to see you! But I still get these…bursts possibly related to abject fear for the planet. So like 80,000 words or thereabouts and sold some books and like that. Am I jacked up on Coke Zero? Am I high on life, on terror, on hope?

Please stay on your meds or get them tweaked. How’s the mental health? What fuels you right now?

p.s. does anyone know how to drop in pictures. I seem to have lost the knack.

One Toke Over the Line Sweet Jesus

Oh my goodness. Where have we been and where are we going? What is a writer’s responsibility in a pandemic, in an election, in a time of unrest and agitation, violence and injustice? Are we small and insignificant? Are we the mighty sword? How do you write when people are dying, when suffering is pervasive, when the economy is tanking, when governors are kidnapped, when all the dogs have been adopted.

I’ve missed you all. Catch us up. xo

Everything You Own in a Box to the Left


Where do you come down on the nature v. nurture debate when it comes to writing? Is writing an innate ability? Are there writing genes? Were you exposed to writers or books as a child? Did anyone read to you? Did you have any writing mentors? Why do you think you write instead of paint, or tie fishing lures, or build computers? Is writing a god-given talent, a tweak on the DNA, or some bad circuitry in your brain.


You’re Just Too Good To Be True

John Varvatos 804 Old Fashioned Half Frame Reading Glasses

I’ve never been the kind of person to tuck in my shirt, use bobby pins, or follow a recipe. I’m happy standing over the sink with a cheese sandwich so as not to dirty a plate. I choose my bookmarks with care, I stack a dishwasher like a jigsaw, and I always leave my reading glasses in the same place. I don’t believe that when one door closes another opens. I don’t even want to believe it. I want to believe that I will win an Oscar. Full stop.

What kind of person are you?

You’re Only Dancing on this Earth for a Short While

I feel like the girl on the train or the girl in the window or the girl lurking inside a dank doorway waiting for a cab she never called. What I’m saying is I can’t seem to account for the time. What day is it? What time is it? When did I last check in? Where am I? Where are you? Is writing the least or most important thing? At the beginning of the pandemic I had three projects I was manically working on from one to the next. I bought new binders! Finally: time. For a week or so I thought I found the meaning to life: staying home, endless hours to write. Only now the projects are languishing and I can’t find my dick with my own hands.

What are you all up to? Healthy, I hope. xoxo

Everything’s Coming Up Roses


Do you all remember a first sentence contest I ran a few years ago? No, I didn’t either. Well, I have just been reminded that the winner was: “Twig, Population 189.” It’s better than Fargo. Well, that little fucker has crossed the finish line after numerous revisions, turn downs, and help from some supportive writers from the blog.

It was announced yesterday in Publishers Market Place:

“Damhnait Monaghan’s NEW GIRL IN LITTLE COVE, set in 1985, about a teacher from a big city who takes a job at a Catholic school in a small Newfoundland fishing village, pitched as Derry Girls meets Come From Away, to Janice Zawerbny at Harper Canada, in a pre-empt, for publication in March 2021, by Hilary McMahon at Westwood Creative Artists (NA).

Let’s all please shower Damhnait Monaghan with praise, love and roses for her tenacity, discipline, smarts to reach out for support, her belief in her work and her words. If this fucking blog ever did anything good in the world, I believe this is it. Yes, I take full credit and why not? For all of us unpublished and published, loved and unloved, pretty and not so much, fuck all.

And No One Heard Not Even the Chair




Someone in my graduate school zoom group recently remarked that we will all publish into obscurity but we do it anyway. Why? I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I certainly know that my deepest satisfaction comes from working on books that are in print 20 years later and are still beloved. Or  when someone meets me and it’s revealed that I edited a certain book, and the person is suddenly impressed as if I’ve transformed from a mildly interesting girl in glasses to a goddess. I’ve always felt the real reason to write was to score chicks. Everything else is gravy. Money, fame, adoration, it’s all ephemeral. Most writers feel like shit about themselves and complain about how hard their work is even if they’re rich and famous.  Huge ego, low self-esteem is the writer’s cocktail. But the real reason we write is as individual as who we are, and it changes over time. But I suspect one of the more universal reasons we write is because we are unhappy. We need to remake the world, tell our version, dig our grave.

Why do you do it?


When the Smallest of Dreams Won’t Come True

I stopped writing poetry the day after I graduated from my MFA program. Cold. Literally never wrote another poem. I still don’t quite understand how something that mattered so much to me evaporated. I started working in publishing and I was quickly fascinated by the world of books, editing, etc. and I wanted to be a part of it. I still went to poetry readings, bought poetry books, for a while I even sent my poems out to literary magazines. I think I saw a path for me as an editor that I didn’t see as a poet. I took the road more travelled.

What road did you take?

People Stop and Stare They Don’t Bother Me



First, I want to thank everyone who has been leaving their thoughts here. Thank you so much. I was writing like a maniac for the first eight weeks of this pandemic, nearly drunk on my own output, my fingers cramped and achey at night like a boxer (as if I have any idea what it feels like to pull a fist from a glove). I was dancing on the ceiling. I was marinating in my slippers. I could smell myself. I could find the railroad tracks on the same exact spot on my scalp every time I searched for freedom. I threw out clothes. I changed light bulbs! I wore my night guard. I wore pigtails! I stopped dreaming.

What about you?

If Words Could Make Wishes Come True



My mother used to say I don’t have a magic wand. She said I don’t have a crystal ball. She said it is what it is. Who said life was fair? She said short girls should marry short boys. The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.  Out of the frying pan into the fire. She also taught me what a simile is, what a metaphor is, insisted we look up every word we didn’t know, a battered dictionary always open on the kitchen counter.

What did your mom teach you?