• 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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Sometimes When We Touch, the Honesty’s Too Much

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The first time you sent out a story the first time you got rejected the first time you got accepted the first time you kissed a boy the first time you started a novel the first short story the first time you saw a play and cried when the convict died. The first time you got a bad review, a good review, lukewarm, no review. What am I chopped liver? Baby in a corner. Ship in a bottle. Port in a storm. The first time you couldn’t write. The millionth time you couldn’t write. The dictionary. The dinosaur. The first time you wrote a character that didn’t smell like you. The first moment you realized you were a goner.

What was your first time?

Cecilia, You’re Breaking My Heart

 

138_jpgPip, Holden Caulfield, Lily Bart, Humbert, Ethan Frome, Miss Havisham, Portnoy. How do you name your characters? Phone book, high school year book, book of names? Or do they come to you in a dream, visions of Johanna. Do you start with a name and build from there, or does it emerge later, organically. Do you give your character a name the way you do with an infant and hope it fits. Can a name mean too little or too much? Have too much import or not enough. I once started a novel called the The Resignation of Rochelle Epstein.

What’s your favorite character name?

I Can Be Whatever I Want to Be

 

three-white-mice-e1457098307869I can’t tell if I’m a writer because I’m unhappy or if I’m unhappy because I’m a writer. I can’t tell when everything first went wrong or right. For me writing has always been about keeping secrets, which probably explains why my first loves were the confessional poets. I’m talking about writing in a notebook in front of a painting, in front of dramatic cliff, a ditch, the front seat of your boyfriend’s Monte Carlo if you had a boyfriend or feelings for anything except yourself. I don’t know why I wanted to sit in a crawlspace under the staircase by myself writing shit down.

Where’s your writing spot?

I’ve Looked Around Enough to Know

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Do you write for yourself or do you write for others? 

You Know That It Would Be Untrue

 

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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

 


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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

 

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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?