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 Know That It Would Be Untrue



On three recent occasions, I was introduced as someone who is blunt. Blunt. I felt, well, blunted, insulted, my tender buttons pushed, my pride smooshed, hurt for being curt. I looked to my husband to deny, to smooth my feathers, to say oh dearest darling you are the opposite of Emily Blunt; you are gentle, refined, kind. Dear reader, he said I was blunt and not just blunt but super blunt, Upon seeing my crumbling face, he said he thought it was a compliment, high praise, blah blah blah. So maybe I am blunt. What the fuck is it to you?

Am I? You know, the b-word?

Come on the Safari With Me



Writers in the summer not pretty. We are indoor people. We are lumpy or bony with bad hair. We are not poolside, oceanside, hikers, bikers, or amusement park riders. We are bad houseguests, self-absorbed and antsy to get home. Brunch brunch brunch brunch. I fucking hate it. I don’t want to pick berries. I don’t want pale ale. I don’t like chicken thighs. I hate summer because I don’t know how relax.

What’s your summer?

You Saw Her Bathing on the Roof



Do you ever have one of those days when you mistake your life for a short story? When every detail is telling, every person a character, every snippet of conversation a witty quip? Do you see yourself leaving the deli after flirting with the counter man? Do you see the gumsplat and grit in the sidewalk as a constellation of stars. Is that you saying hey to Pat, the weather, the weekend, the holiday. Are those the trains pulling in or pulling out? Did a stranger leave or come to town? Are the best days ahead or behind? Do not look at yourself in a mirror.

What am I talking about?

They Say Our Love Won’t Pay the Rent


In the middle of a big editing job: erasure shavings everywhere, post it notes creeping up my ass, hunting and pecking for transitions, new structure shaky like the legs of a doe. Looking for the heart of the thing, the lungs and liver. I fucking love this work. It’s just me and the page. Face to face. Man to man. Thirty years of a muscle. I truly believe where there is great writing a book of great beauty can emerge no matter the struggle . I loved being an editor. Was proud to tell a stranger on a train what I done for a living. Now, I’m that thing with eight legs but I still have my blue pencil. Still have a trick or two.

Every Time You Go Away, You Take a Piece of Me With You

event_davidsedarisI’ve been reading David Sedaris’ diaries, Theft by Finding. Reading a writer’s diary is something of a guilty pleasure, like being invited into his apartment and rifling through the medicine chest, not that I would ever do that. Sedaris is so brilliant at the telling details that it isn’t surprising to find the diary filled with them, with hilarious dialogue, with life’s indignities and absurdities. What I find so moving in reading the entries is feeling how essential they were in the formation of the writer. Not just because they supply material — that’s the least of it. Every single diary entry no matter how ordinary or extraordinary reveals the Sedaris mind at work, like looking into the gears of a beautiful clock. You understand how writing is living.

Do you keep a diary?


I Hate Carrots, Peas, Asparagus Virtually All vegetables, Circuses, All Festivals



How did everything suddenly become “curated?” I was happier when curators did the curating. Now the instructor at spin class curates the play list. The publishing imprint curates its titles. The waitress explains how the menu at the farm to table restaurant is carefully curated.  The summer festival is curated. The boutique is curated. The pickles are curated. The cupcakes? Curated! The wine list, the pearl jam, the french macaroons. I sing the body curated. Collections, selections, groups of things, bunches of stuff beware. You, too, could be curated.

How does it happen?

And the Jay-Z Song Was On


barr-hill-logo-goldsqWork parties are weird. All parties are weird if you’re a writer. They call forth all your anti-social skills. Personally, I lurk by the walls, find one person to talk to, and monopolize them. I don’t drink because of my meds, or maybe just one glass of white wine or bar hill gin and some artisanal tonic. And I don’t smoke either, except in some vestibule and or atop a manhole cover erupting with steam. It’s always great when somebody snubs you or loves you or asks about your work.


Have you ever been trapped by a writer at a party?