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

  • Follow me

  • Archives

Something Inside Had Died and I Just Can’t Fake It



When you finish a piece of writing, I recommend: printing it out, reading it aloud, make notes with a pencil, input the changes, put the pages in the potato bin for ten days to two weeks.  Reread, delete 2-10,000 words, read a major Russian novel, ask a trusted reader for feedback (no first degree relatives or people you’re fucking). Ask another reader. Revise again, read out loud again, potato bin, writer’s workshop or retreat. Find a therapist.

What do you do when you finish something?

What Would You Do If I Sang Out of Tune?



What do people mean when they talk about voice? For me, the first book I ever read that screamed voice was Catcher in the Rye. Then I discovered the confessional poets whose voices I loved. Is voice only first person? Is voice quirky, inflected, blood-soaked, ironic, quixotic, besotted, divided?  Junot Diaz, David Sedaris. How does it suffuse third person or omniscient narrators. Through tone, detail, pacing, revelation.

Can you teach voice, develop it, find it?

Oh Simple Thing, Where Have You Gone?


sb01-firesecuritysafe-smallIn the last few weeks, more than one writer has mentioned that he or she is working on something “just for themselves,” “no pressure,” “a totally different genre,” etc. I get it. It’s the desire to write in obscurity, which is ironic since the desire to come out of obscurity is so overpowering before you get your work out there. It’s a desire to protect the creative process, to stop second guessing what the market, agents, editors think. When writing ceases to be fun and by fun I mean rewarding, you need to reboot. I still think that the person writing just for him or herself still hopes the work will be met with open arms. What am I saying? You can run but you can’t hide.

Where do you go to hide?


Thank You Disillusionment



Now that I’m officially not working on a writing project, I want to talk about how it feels. It feels fucking great. My skin is clear, my nails are manicured, I’m sleeping again. I don’t know how I ever wrote at all. It’s so hard. LOL. Seriously, if you told me I had to write another book right now I would start crying and never stop.

How the fuck do you do it?

You Don’t What You’ve Got ‘Til It’s Gone



I’ve spent the last year having mother daughter conversations at libraries, bookstores, Jewish Centers and bridge clubs. Last week, I was on a panel with three other writers talking about mommy memoirs. I could have hit myself in the face with a hanger. This post is dedicated to my dad. I credit him with everything I know about business and my love of movies, Broadway, stars and salty food. He would have preferred me to get an MBA instead of an MBA, but when I started acquiring books he was always thrilled to see my name in the acknowledgments of books I had worked on. He would literally show the acknowledgments to anyone who visited our house.

Was your dad proud of your writing, you?

The Best Things in Life are Free


When I was a young idealistic poet type, I heard this quote by SamuelJohnson, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” I was deeply offended by the sentiment. I mean shouldn’t one write for passion? Ironic isn’t it that I became a literary agent, that my work is all about getting writers money? Literally. Benjamins. It’s my job to get out there on the choppy waters and bring something home. Sometimes when you do a huge deal for a writer, he’ll say:  I would have written it for free. Blockhead. Okay, I still believe you should write out of passion and I’m not even going to say the money will follow. That’s another not truism.

Do you write for money?

With Two Cats In the Yard



Do like to go away to write, find a cabin or studio apartment or barge or yert. Do you need total silence to concentrate, hunker down. Do you need to put distance between you and your loved ones, your work, your chores, your buttons. Have you been to Yaddo or MacDowell or other writer retreats? I’ve heard they provide box lunches. I’m sure I wouldn’t like the lunch. I’m sure I would want to break the no talking ban. I’m sure I would start smoking, possibly burn down my cabin. Fortunately, I like writing at home in my own little corner in my own little chair.

Where do you write?