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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Same as It Ever Was


images-4.jpgI’m attached to my routine. Always have been. On the fifth day of my honeymoon, my husband looked at me and astutely asked, “Do you miss your routine?” I also don’t like new places, new things, new foods, new experiences. I would rather read the same book twice than start another. I like seeing the same movie seven or eight times. If I get gas at the Mobil you’re not going to see me at Sunoco.

What about you?


You Were Only Waiting for this Moment to Arise



You know I’m a hater, but I’ve been crying a lot lately. Every time I see video of the nurses and doctors on the front lines. When I see people singing opera from balconies. The city erupting in applause at 7pm for all the people putting their lives on the line. The beauty and bravery, the resilience and strength. You know I hate looking on the bright side, silver linings, half-full glasses. Negativity and hopelessness is my default like Little Father Time in Jude the Obscure. Of course, I do much to convey a different persona: false enthusiasm, false encouragement, counterfeit generosity. A cellist saws away on her front stoop, a flash mob of Walmart workers materializes between rows of merchandise,  a conga line of nurses and doctors dance when a patient comes off a ventilator.

What makes you cry?

I Can Take All the Madness the World Has to Give

Lately, lots of off-the-wall submissions. Definitely feels like end of days. And as always they evoke a spectrum of feelings and reactions in me. First, self-pity. Why me? Why do I get these letters and why do I feel I have to answer. Next, annoyance. Can you not be bothered to do a a simple Google search and discover that I’m not interested in self-help, how-to, sci-fi, fantasy, new age and books on spirituality? Books on spirituality in particular enrage me. Then there’s the writing thing. Most people who get published work at their writing for YEARS. These query letters generally come from people who just turned on an Apple for the first time and believe that whatever comes out deserves to be published. Then there are the letters that say something flattering about my books, this blog, clients whose work they love. These letters touch me a little, but I also know the compliments are in the service of self-interest. When I do workshops, someone invariably asks whether pitch letters matter that much in the scheme of things. For me, they determine whether I will read the manuscript, so yeah they totally matter. They are like the bouncer outside of a club.

I’m happy to critique your pitch letters here if anyone wants to post. The more opinions the better.


Wanna Change My Clothes, My Hair, My Face


Most of my clients aren’t writing. The pandemic, the lock down, the news, finances, plans, health, relationships, the future. All these years I’ve listened to writers’ excuses for not getting writing done, for missed deadlines, , writer’s block, life.  But never anything like this. I know it’s really hard. Some people don’t have ten minutes of privacy, or a place to write, a walk to take, or a mask or a meal. But I also want to say that if you can muster the energy to write just a line or a two a day, please do it. You are writers. Shine your light.

How are you managing?

Don’t Give Up Until You Drink From the Silver Cup


Today the world disappeared with its terrifying pandemic, the sirens, cardboard coffins, and empty shelves of brown eggs. I was intoxicated by my own fumes, working on my own projects. The thing is you have to be a little selfish to be a writer. Scratch that: you are a little selfish to be a writer. Make that a lot selfish. You can put it all away. If you had your druthers, you would never need to appease or please anyone but yourself. The world exists because you wrote about it, motherfucker. 

Who are you trying to please?


Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes


I once gave a blurb to a book I didn’t read. Why? Because I didn’t want to read it, but I wanted to be a nice guy. I know how hard it is to get blurbs when you’re just starting out. Then I met someone who told me that she read a book because of my blurb. I confessed my sin. She was really upset. What about your good name, she asked. How could you do that? 

Am I a bad person?

I’m in Love for the First Time



My dearest friend, colleague, client and partner in disgust has launched a fantastic podcast called Tell Me About Your Father. It’s inspired by her superb memoir, Don’t Let me Down. I’ve been all about the mommy drama for most of my life. Finally, a conversation about the patriarchy, love, regret, abuse, daddy’s girls, the first man in our lives. The episodes are funny, moving, outrageous, in your face and by the teeth.

Got daddy issues?

I Could Hold You For a Million Years


I just went into my daughter’s room and she was writing in a journal. Be still my heart.  I asked if she was writing wonderful things about me. No. Anything about me. No. She says she wants to get back to writing everyday. Join the club. Actually I do write every day, but I don’t want to gloat. Is there anyone more obnoxious than a person who loves to declare that she gets up at 5:30 am every day and writes until 10:30. Yes, I can go fuck myself.  

What’s in your diary?

Was It Somethin’ That Somebody Said



When I was young, I thought about death a great deal. I was obsessed with writers who took their lives. I didn’t know how to negotiate the toll of self destruction until I self-destructed. And from there it was brick by brick, every day brick by brick, every month, every year a small nod to the gods that kept me going forward, kept me on my meds, staying attached.

How do you stay attached?


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


I started a new book today and when I read the dedication page, I liked it immediately: “If you need this book, it is for you.” I was filled with massive need for the book. Did I ever need a book more? Had a mirror ever been tipped so precariously at my chin? And what of that pile of books I gathered in a North Fork used bookstore. Didn’t I need those, especially the one about egrets? If you need this book, it is for you. I felt both recognized and reprimanded, which is exactly how I like to feel. If you are lost, now you are found. If you are caught, now you are free. The book is Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House. We’ll see about that, little lady. We’ll see if you’re the one for me.

The book you are reading, to whom is it dedicated? And does it tell you anything?