• 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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Above Us Only Sky

 

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Most writers question the value of their work on a fairly regular basis. During times of crisis, it can seem even more inconsequential. How do you sit down at your keyboard when an ice skating rink has been converted into a morgue? When so many people are dying alone? I’m quite sure I don’t have answers. I only know that writing is what has always been made me feel sane, less alone and myself.

How are you handling this crisis?

Why Do Fools Fall in Love

 

shiningjohnny.jpgSo great to hear from you all from the cattle farms of Oregon to Washington Square Park. What a time. I am pushing myself to write three hours every day from 5:30 to 8:30. I keep telling myself that this will be over and I will regret having lost so much time to low-grade anxiety and depression. I can’t vouch for my writing. For all I know it’s All Work And No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy. But that beats three hours of CNN. Is it me or Anderson Cooper. Please keep writing.

What are you working on?

Yesterday Don’t Matter if It’s Gone

vintage-corona-typewriter-david-hinds.jpgDear Readers of this Blog:

I apologize for being so absentee over the last months. I just wanted to touch base now and see how everyone is faring during this crisis. Hoping that you and your families are out of harm’s way. I’ve missed you all.  Love, Betsy

Please let us know where you are, how you are.

 

 

 

Is You is Or Is You Ain’t You Ain’t My Baby

 

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I’m on the fence. Sometimes I think that all the criticism and discouragement I got from my  parents made me ever more determined to write. The first time my father read a poem of mine in a literary magazine, he threw it on the floor. Threw is strong. He flicked it. When I told him I had gotten into an MFA program, he begged me to get an MBA. When my mother read my memoir, she said it was a pack of lies! Alright then. Other times I think that love and encouragement are all that matters. Love and encouragement. Would I even trust it? Would it not gross me out?

What defines your writing life?

It Feels Good To Be Out of the Rain

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When I was little, I used to love to do impressions. Mostly of grown ups, Hebrew school teachers, cashiers, bank tellers. If I made my family laugh, I’d keep going with the impression, sometimes even losing control, unable to break character long after everyone stopped laughing. It was then my mother would scold me with the reprimand that shut it all down: you just don’t know when to quit. To this day when I push something or someone too far, I hear my mother’s damning words: you just don’t know when to stop. The thing is I know when to stop. I don’t keep going because I don’t know when to stop. I keep going because I’m a relentless bastard. Because if I can get two laughs, I want four. Because I want to get under your skin. Trust me, this relates to writing.

Do you feel me?

You’ll Never Know Dear How Much I Love You

 

 

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Is it better to give or receive? I’m talking about feedback. When I was in poetry workshops, the rule was the poet, after reading his or her work, was not allowed to speak. The reason being that talking back or answering shut down your readers and made it impossible for the poet to actually listen to the feedback. Listen? Whenever people talked about my poems it came through as whale song. Why not just put the poet in a temporary grave? Once in a while,  one of the poets would break the rule and…speak! Usually something insane like, “But that’s how it really happened,” or “you had to be there.” Poor poor boo boo. Really, just listen. Even when your biggest enemy says he doesn’t get it or the young depressed woman in a straw beret who has never before spoken summons the courage to tell you that your controlling metaphor breaks down in the four stanza, just listen. There is time for McDonalds later. My mother always repeated the wisdom of the ages: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. There’s that, too.

Are you better at giving or receiving feedback?

Hey Little Girl is Your Daddy Home

One of the first books I ever signed up as young editor came in with the title, something like, I Hate Myself and Want to Die. Did I jump on it? Hell, yeah. And thus started my hair-raising, maddening, hilarious, heartbreaking and ultimately toxic relationship with Elizabeth Wurtzel. She died earlier this week from cancer at 52 and it feels like a hurricane has left the island of Manhattan. Elizabeth didn’t write so much as stick a pen in her vein and let it flow. She was funny, furious, impossible, exhibitionistic and I would have given anything to be as seductive, forward, and fearless. Working with her was like inhaling the most amazing second hand smoke and I was intoxicated from the first whiff. Somehow her passion for madness and mine for order produced three books that I feel honored to have worked on. Her extraordinary memoir which was eventually titled Prozac Nation, then Bitch which is a brilliant book about women, feminism, and sexuality. Was it wrong to pose topless flipping the bird for the jacket? And her last book, More, Now, Again, which was a chronicle of drug addiction, specifically Ritalin abuse. Elizabeth and I parted company as agent and client, and we didn’t stay friends though we promised we would, the way you do, in the midst of a painful breakup. Elizabeth kept a suitcase of her fan mail. It was filled with hundreds of letters from mostly young women who said Prozac Nation saved their lives. Elizabeth loved pawing through them and sharing them with me the way others might run their fingers through pearls.

Thank you, Elizabeth. I think this was your favorite photograph. It was definitely mine.download-2.jpg