• THE FOREST FOR THE TREES

    I wrote a book called THE FOREST FOR THE TREES. It's an advice book for writers, though it's more about what makes writers tick. For four years, I blogged every day about the agony of writing and publishing, and the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gathered and thus ensued a grand conversation. 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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Picture Yourself On a Boat On a River

 

a00e54fe4158b883301157158c128970c-800wiWhen I was a senior in high school, I won a poetry prize of $100. I went to the local bookstore and bought as many poetry books as I could, most just because of how they looked. One of those was Houseboat Days by John Asbbery. I had never heard of him, but I like the woman with the impassive face, elegant dress and oar in her hands. And then I fell in love with the poems. When I was a freshman at NYU, I saw that Ashbery was reading at Books & Co. I had never been above 14th Street on my own, but I braved the subway to the upper east side. The store was packed. Everyone looked impossibly sophisticated. I managed to get inside, but I couldn’t see or hear a thing. It was the best time I ever had.

 

There’s a Room Where the Light Won’t Find You

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It’s August 31, do you know where your novel is? Did you fuck this summer or did this summer fuck you? Did you work? Did you tunnel down, bite down, dig deep or did you drift, go back to sleep, weed your garden? I use the end of the summer to check in with clients who have gone awol for a time. So I’ll ask you: where are you at?

Long May You Run

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I went to Fort Collins, CO yesterday to celebrate Temple Grandin’s 70th birthday. We met about 25 years ago when I was a young editor at Houghton Mifflin having read Oliver Sacks’s article about her, “An Anthropologist on Mars.” I had a sense that she needed to tell her own story and that became the memoir, Thinking in Pictures. I met a woman at a bridge game this year and when it came out that I was the editor on that book, she said, if you never do another thing with your life, that book changed lives. Temple changes lives, and it’s been my great privilege to work with her on her books, and to know her.

 

Father MacKenzie Writing the Words to a Sermon that No One Will Hear

 

224edd7765882e65a992e903436743c0I think of my writing project as my imaginary friend. It’s all I think about no matter if I’m at a party where bacon wrapped scallops are being served, if I’m waiting outside Whole Foods for the prices to come down, if I’m weeding my weed garden, riding Icelandic ponies on a Vermont farm. It’s me and my imaginary friend on the cyclone, on the hay ride, in the sack, the potato patch, the aquarium and the aquarium gift shop.

Tell me about your imaginary friend.

I Send You All My Love Every Day In a Letter

December 1987

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To Mark

Whom I hope will always remain a poet in eternal youth and never lose his precious innocence.

Merry  Christmas baby

I love you, Rachel

 

I grabbed my copy of Poets in Their Youth by Eileen Simpson to take to Jury Duty (I got dismissed). I’d had it for years, found it in a second hand book store, was desperate to read it, but didn’t. When I opened it today, I found the inscription above. I felt like I was eavesdropping. Why was this beloved gift abandoned, returned, tossed back into the sea. Next, precious innocence? Doesn’t every poet want experience? But mostly I was so touched one person would give another a gift about poets in their youth.

Where are Mark and Rachel now?

There Were Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things

 

ac73a58d909a128c7b123b9580879d1cI have jury duty tomorrow and I’m probably one of the few people in America who likes being called. (I also like conventions and trade shows). I love the people watching/scrutinizing, the bailiffs, the lawyers in their ill-fitting suits, and the ceremony. It feels like walking into a short story. I like the rules. I like to see what people are reading, if they are reading. I like the boredom, the slow hands of the clock, the linoleum. The thing I love about being a writer is the goddamn anthropology of everything.

What do you like that everyone else hates?

 

 

But It Wouldn’t Be Make Believe If You Believed In Me

 

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Did you see the eclipse or were you too busy writing? Did you feel the atmosphere change, the air charge, the shadows fall hard on the pavement. Did your heart darken, harden? Did you feel a drop? Did the wind die down? Your cape fall from  a telephone pole. Were ravens praying on a bench. Did you find a tangle of cellophane or a cup of moss, a cairn made of many stones? Did you think about nothing or how hollow you feel most of the time, even now under this delinquent sun?

Your eclipse?