• 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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You’re Gonna Make It After All

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I saw a post today on FB about an assistant editor who got a job as a full editor at one of the big five publishers. She was ecstatic.  I knew her because she was the assistant on The Bridge Ladies and she was amazing. Calm, efficient, encouraging, and always in a good mood. I could count on her to take care of any detail no matter how small. And to indulge any insecurity of mine, no matter how huge. I am so happy for her. But I am also so nostalgic for that moment in my life. My Ann Taylor suit and off white shell. My little loafers and Coach Classic Duffle. It was the most expensive thing I owned and took six months to pay off on my credit card. I acquired the first books that would put me on the map editorially and I’m still exceedingly proud of them and honored to have worked on them: Thinking in Picture by Temple Grandin, Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy, Train Go Sorry by Leah Cohen and Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel. I had my first office with a window!! I bought coffee and a bagel with a million anonymous New Yorkers in the deli below the office that once had been the great Max’s Kansas City.

What was your first job you really cared about?

Speak to Me Heart

My great friend, mentor and client has a new book coming out in ten days. As always, working beside her is a master class in tireless intensity, aesthetic devotion and a kind of literary and spiritual alchemy. Words in air. Beguiling sentences. Unexpected humor and a well of sorrow. But always at the center of her work is an optimist insistence that a better world can be realized if it can be imagined. The Year of the Monkey is an agitated, spirited reckoning with a year of wandering, loss, discovery, conversations with inanimate objects and figments of the imagination. It’s 2018 when a lot went wrong and few things exploded with light.

Hear Me Singing Through Those Tears

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Over the summer, one of my best and oldest friends (and clients) took his life. Though he suffered with addiction over the course of his life, I never suspected that he would end it. On the contrary, he was always reminding me when I was going dark that something wonderful could be just around the corner. Right now, it’s hard to fathom that corner without him. George was exceptional in every way. As a writer, as an editor, wit, and friend. I always said he was the most wicked and kindest person I knew. His blue pencil was fierce, exacting, demanding. He was after excellence and seriousness and razzle-dazzle. He put many writers on the map and the bestseller list. As a writer, he was elegant, funny, always pushing himself to make the sentences ring. He loved his readers, wanted to please them. Spoke at hundreds of books clubs and library events and readings. If they built it, he would come. And every time I went, I watched him take the room of people and put them squarely in the palm of his hand. Treat yourself to a copy of Bettyville and hang out with my friend for a few hours. You’ll be richly rewarded.

Love you, George.

 

Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down

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I love rainy days. I’m a writer, for fuck’s sake. Who the hell needs a beautiful day to make you feel like a freak supreme for staying indoors. I don’t swim, garden, play sports including croquet. I take walks, that’s about it. And if I didn’t have a dog, I would hardly do that. I’m not interested in balance, in self-care, in yoga, meditation, or anything vegan. I want to type and go to movies, preferably alone. Being alone feels good. It’s relaxing. It’s the quieting of the unquiet mind, the portal to a long slide, it’s the crawlspace beneath the stairs, and a fortress of crumbling cinder blocks completely covered with moss. 

Do you crave being alone?

I Want It That Way

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I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, but it’s on my mind. In his diary of making his first movie, Spike Lee said that whenever he talked about a project too much it wouldn’t happen. Whenever I succumb and tell a person what I’m working on, I feel ashamed later. What am I trying to prove? I always feel better when I don’t yap about my projects. It’s superstitious on one level, but it’s more than that. It’s about honoring the sanctity of your inner world.  Bam!

Are you a yapper or the silent type when it comes to your                                                          work?

First I Was Afraid I Was Petrified

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I spoke tonight at a writer’s conference. I hate breaking hearts and you can’t talk about trying to get published without invoking hardship and pain. How do you find an agent? How do you write a query letter? Do you need a social media presence? Everyone says they love my book, but no one wants to take it. It’s like one of those climbing walls where you get so far and then fall with no one to catch you. I try to be honest and entertaining, but I saw at least three people nodding out. I told myself that they had been in workshops all day or were shooting heroin.

What would you like to ask me. I’ll try to answer.

Is That You Baby or Just a Brilliant Disguise

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What I really love about writing is that when I’m writing I cease to exist. I cease to think about calories, bills, clients, frizz, my mother gone. I cease to think about unreturned calls, nursed hurts, the big scoreboard in the sky, the petty resentments, the regrets. Why do I want to disappear? Please. I wrote to escape as a child in a crawl space beneath the stairs. I kept diaries from high school on. One notebook after another creaking with ink, a roll call of heartbreak and slights real and imagined. I know I’m not alone, but I love being alone.

Why are you a writer?