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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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?

Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear



Watching a documentary about Miles Davis. When he was a boy, he’d take his horn into the woods and imitate birdsong. When I was a girl I’d pull a blanket, a flashlight, notebook, pen, and snacks into a crawlspace beneath the stairs and pretend I was Anne Frank.

Do you have a seminal childhood memory that connects to your life as a writer?

And if You Want It You Can Lean on Me



If your local indie bookstore is still fulfilling orders, please buy a book from them today. Buy a whole stack if you’re able. Our stores are taking a huge hit over this crisis, just imagine how it would feel if they folded. Here’s my favorite store. I’ve spent hours there browsing, had readings and taught writing workshops. The owner Roxanne Coady is a force of nature. Her store is the heartbeat of our community.

What’s your favorite local indie?

Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This


Identical_Twins,_Roselle,_New_Jersey,_1967.jpgWhen I wanted to go to London for my junior year abroad, my mother sensed that I was trying to run away from my problems. I know this because she said, “You’re trying to run away from your problems.” Somehow  I finagled my way there and for the first time in my life I had my own room. A single in a dormitory in the south of London. I put up exactly one poster. I had my shelf of books (lots of Thomas Hardy). And most nights, I holed up with a novel, a bottle of cheap red wine and a sleeve of peanuts. I nursed my depression in my happy cell.

What did your mother say?



You Are My Candy Girl



Head writing. I started another brilliant short story today while walking my dog. In my mind’s eye, it was in The New Yorker Font. The dialogue, if I do say so, was spectacular. Crisp and funny and surprising.  My first sentence was sublime. And the whole thing just flowed. The further I got, on my walk, the more I wished for a pen to write it all down. It was that good. By the time I got home, it was gone.

Is head writing by definition delusional? Or just me?



Chapter Two I Think I Fell in Love With You


This is what I’m reading for pleasure.  What about you?

Above Us Only Sky



Most writers question the value of their work on a fairly regular basis. During times of crisis, it can seem even more inconsequential. How do you sit down at your keyboard when an ice skating rink has been converted into a morgue? When so many people are dying alone? I’m quite sure I don’t have answers. I only know that writing is what has always been made me feel sane, less alone and myself.

How are you handling this crisis?