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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Some Say Love it is a Flower


Over the years, I’ve usually said that a manuscript isn’t right for me when turning it down. It’s subjective, after all. All of us have turned down books that went on to success.  Today, in a fit of honesty, I told a writer I didn’t think her work was ready. Maybe that’s as vague as not right for me, but I felt it was more helpful in some way. It needs more work. Most people want a full green light. Orange not so good. Most things need more work. The challenge is finding a writing program, workshop, teacher, editor who can really give you a full assessment, but it’s worth seeking out this kind of support when you’ve taken it as far as you can. Most of the authors I’ve taken on have put their work through tremendous scrutiny and many drafts. Have published in magazines and journals and on-line magazines. They enter the fray having built up a considerable portfolio.

When do you submit your work?

I said I like it like that I said I like it like that I said I like it like that I said I like it like that


“I don’t suppose I get the six white roses, but thanks all the same. Does this leave you as confused as ever? Sorry, Best, Truman Capote”

This little fragment of a letter cropped up in some old letters and was reported on in the NYT today. It’s hard for me to believe this makes national news, but for me totally. When I was an editorial assistant at Simon and Schuster, the Gerald Clarke biography, ten years in the making, was just coming to fruition. I lovingly transmitted the book into production (known as “Passed for press”). Ever the eager student, I hoped to get an A, and stood nervously as the Managing Editor checked off the components that made the manuscript pass-worthy. More, I went deep into Capote’s work, reading everything, absorbing everything. One night, I dreamed he was my brother, more evil twin, and we shared a Hostess Snowball on a school bus painted brown.

Who is your literary hero?

I Really Don’t Know Life At All



Where do you keep your diary? Hiding in plain sight? Under your pillow. Mattress? A rock? Do you confess, boast, embroider, lie? Do you confide, testify, take an oath, prepare to tell the whole and nothing?  Do you scribble, dribble, doodle? Ballpoint, pencil, fountain pen? Do you write every day or only when you have something beautiful to say? Dear Diary: I  can not tell you how bad I feel or how much I need or how lost I am. I can not tell how these pages have saved me.

Dear Diary:

Like It Was Written In My Soul from Me to You


I always felt defective as a poet in that I wasn’t a free spirit. I had a savings account since I was twelve. I pay all my bills in full and on time. I’m punctual. I’m judgmental. I prefer a schedule to spontaneity. I don’t want to stop and smell the flowers, run barefoot through a field, and please don’t your hands over my eyes and tell me you have a surprise. I don’t like to try new things. I don’t like to travel. I’ve never dyed my hair pink, blue or green. No piercings. I keep a miniature pharmacy in my pocketbook.

Are you defective?



I Had a Feeling I Could be Someone


I have been having a lot of lunches with youngsters, and by that I mean people in their late twenties and early thirties. Many with marvelous piercings and tattoos. All with passion for their work, the projects they’ve acquired, just being in the publishing circus. I remember when I was a young editor in my Anne Taylor suits and god knows what kind of sensible shoes. And shells. Shells were big. I had a big Coach tote bag, one of the first things I bought with my first credit card. I loved the shit out of that bag and hung it up many years later like a feed bag on a hook in a horse barn. It was big enough for two full-length manuscripts, wallet, keys, and the like.  And I toted it around so proud to be an editor.

What is your experience with editors?


There’s More Than One Answer to These Questions


Ambiguity is one thing, confusion is another. When do you leave the reader in a state of heightened awareness to the possibilities and when do they turn back a few pages to see if they missed something? While we’re here, how much ambiguity can people take. I find very little. Open ended endings are like…Last night I went to a movie and there were all kinds of hints about who was going to end with whom and how, but when it was all over I didn’t know and I didn’t care. That’s bad. Ambiguity should be delicious, not maddening. The writer must be clear especially about ambiguity, ambivalence, uncertainty, discomfort, sadness, despair, confusion, and love.

Are we clear?

Don’t Give Yourself Away

At every reading, someone always asks what my process is. First, spend your childhood in a state of terror. Become a chameleon in high school and befriend everyone. Latch on to a creative writing or English teacher. College go underground with your poems. Do not work on the college literary magazine, do not go above 14th Street. Check out the poetry slams at the Nyorican but don’t read your ballad, Calories & Other Counts. Apply to Grad School.  Become utterly convinced of your inferiority, though you also spot a few charlatans and people better suited to mental health testing  for profit. Are you depressed? Lose you diaries. Lose your mind or watch it unravel and refuse to give up the seat closest to the tube. Now, I get up at five, coffee, write, break to walk the dog, have a low-fat grilled cheese sandwich with pickles and get back to work.

What’s your process?