THE FOREST FOR THE TREES is about writing, publishing and what makes writers tick. This blog is dedicated to the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gather here. 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 Only Dancing on this Earth for a Short While

I feel like the girl on the train or the girl in the window or the girl lurking inside a dank doorway waiting for a cab she never called. What I’m saying is I can’t seem to account for the time. What day is it? What time is it? When did I last check in? Where am I? Where are you? Is writing the least or most important thing? At the beginning of the pandemic I had three projects I was manically working on from one to the next. I bought new binders! Finally: time. For a week or so I thought I found the meaning to life: staying home, endless hours to write. Only now the projects are languishing and I can’t find my dick with my own hands.

What are you all up to? Healthy, I hope. xoxo

Everything’s Coming Up Roses

Do you all remember a first sentence contest I ran a few years ago? No, I didn’t either. Well, I have just been reminded that the winner was: “Twig, Population 189.” It’s better than Fargo. Well, that little fucker has crossed the finish line after numerous revisions, turn downs, and help from some supportive writers from the blog.

It was announced yesterday in Publishers Market Place:

“Damhnait Monaghan’s NEW GIRL IN LITTLE COVE, set in 1985, about a teacher from a big city who takes a job at a Catholic school in a small Newfoundland fishing village, pitched as Derry Girls meets Come From Away, to Janice Zawerbny at Harper Canada, in a pre-empt, for publication in March 2021, by Hilary McMahon at Westwood Creative Artists (NA).

Let’s all please shower Damhnait Monaghan with praise, love and roses for her tenacity, discipline, smarts to reach out for support, her belief in her work and her words. If this fucking blog ever did anything good in the world, I believe this is it. Yes, I take full credit and why not? For all of us unpublished and published, loved and unloved, pretty and not so much, fuck all.

And No One Heard Not Even the Chair

Someone in my graduate school zoom group recently remarked that we will all publish into obscurity but we do it anyway. Why? I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I certainly know that my deepest satisfaction comes from working on books that are in print 20 years later and are still beloved. Or  when someone meets me and it’s revealed that I edited a certain book, and the person is suddenly impressed as if I’ve transformed from a mildly interesting girl in glasses to a goddess. I’ve always felt the real reason to write was to score chicks. Everything else is gravy. Money, fame, adoration, it’s all ephemeral. Most writers feel like shit about themselves and complain about how hard their work is even if they’re rich and famous.  Huge ego, low self-esteem is the writer’s cocktail. But the real reason we write is as individual as who we are, and it changes over time. But I suspect one of the more universal reasons we write is because we are unhappy. We need to remake the world, tell our version, dig our grave.

Why do you do it?

When the Smallest of Dreams Won’t Come True

I stopped writing poetry the day after I graduated from my MFA program. Cold. Literally never wrote another poem. I still don’t quite understand how something that mattered so much to me evaporated. I started working in publishing and I was quickly fascinated by the world of books, editing, etc. and I wanted to be a part of it. I still went to poetry readings, bought poetry books, for a while I even sent my poems out to literary magazines. I think I saw a path for me as an editor that I didn’t see as a poet. I took the road more travelled.

What road did you take?

People Stop and Stare They Don’t Bother Me

First, I want to thank everyone who has been leaving their thoughts here. Thank you so much. I was writing like a maniac for the first eight weeks of this pandemic, nearly drunk on my own output, my fingers cramped and achey at night like a boxer (as if I have any idea what it feels like to pull a fist from a glove). I was dancing on the ceiling. I was marinating in my slippers. I could smell myself. I could find the railroad tracks on the same exact spot on my scalp every time I searched for freedom. I threw out clothes. I changed light bulbs! I wore my night guard. I wore pigtails! I stopped dreaming.

What about you?

If Words Could Make Wishes Come True

My mother used to say I don’t have a magic wand. She said I don’t have a crystal ball. She said it is what it is. Who said life was fair? She said short girls should marry short boys. The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.  Out of the frying pan into the fire. She also taught me what a simile is, what a metaphor is, insisted we look up every word we didn’t know, a battered dictionary always open on the kitchen counter.

What did your mom teach you?

I’d Give Anything to See You Again

Some years ago, I went to a magic show at the Century Club. I have a phobia where audience participation is concerned, so magic shows are daunting as audience members are often asked to participate. To make matters more uncomfortable, we arrived late and had to sit in the front row. Everything was going well,  when the magician asked us to think of someone we had lost. I knew right away that it was a friend with whom I’d had a platonic love affair. I don’t know if the magician could see it on my face, but he called on me to come to the stage. Then he asked me to take the cover off of a box. Inside was an antique wooden box with a small drawer. He asked me open it. Inside was piece of paper with the name of my friend. The magician asked me say the name out loud, but I couldn’t summon the voice. I believed my friend was going to appear even knowing that I had destroyed what we had through abject selfishness. Did the curtain rustle just then? Did the temperature in the room drop? I would give anything to see you again.

Who did you love and lose?

I Saw the Movie and I Read the Book

Just read the novel Normal People by Sally Rooney and watched the BBC series. There is a particular pleasure in watching a novel come to life on the screen. Most people say they prefer the book, but I almost always prefer the movie unless they really fuck it up. I’m probably biased because my first book/movie was Love Story. Ali McGraw should have won an Oscar for her voice and shiny hair.

Are you a movie or a book person? Any favorite adaptations?

Heaven Holds a Place for Those Who Pray

I’m obsessed with office supplies. I’ve never met a binder I didn’t like. The snap of the three rings as they open and close. I am the proud owner of a heavy duty three hole punch. The satisfying feel of paper crunching. I could paper my walls with Post-Its. Mechanical pencils, push pins, index cards, paper clips. Toner! Highlighters! My kingdom for a tape dispenser.

What supplies do you lust for?

Now Old Friends are Acting Strange

All my life I’ve had intense friendships. Few if any were sustainable, but I dove in head first again and again. I wasn’t interested in anyone who wasn’t equally interested in drama, loyalty, betrayal, and forgiveness which was another way of saying goodbye. It was talk all night or not at all. It was sit at a cafe and never leave. It was a pack of cigarettes and then another. I don’t have a single drop left for all that. But I still wonder what it was: mania, fear, manufactured love, poetry, youth. I still wonder who I was.

What kind of friend are you?