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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It Feels Good To Be Out of the Rain

Image result for umbrella

When I was little, I used to love to do impressions. Mostly of grown ups, Hebrew school teachers, cashiers, bank tellers. If I made my family laugh, I’d keep going with the impression, sometimes even losing control, unable to break character long after everyone stopped laughing. It was then my mother would scold me with the reprimand that shut it all down: you just don’t know when to quit. To this day when I push something or someone too far, I hear my mother’s damning words: you just don’t know when to stop. The thing is I know when to stop. I don’t keep going because I don’t know when to stop. I keep going because I’m a relentless bastard. Because if I can get two laughs, I want four. Because I want to get under your skin. Trust me, this relates to writing.

Do you feel me?

You’ll Never Know Dear How Much I Love You




Is it better to give or receive? I’m talking about feedback. When I was in poetry workshops, the rule was the poet, after reading his or her work, was not allowed to speak. The reason being that talking back or answering shut down your readers and made it impossible for the poet to actually listen to the feedback. Listen? Whenever people talked about my poems it came through as whale song. Why not just put the poet in a temporary grave? Once in a while,  one of the poets would break the rule and…speak! Usually something insane like, “But that’s how it really happened,” or “you had to be there.” Poor poor boo boo. Really, just listen. Even when your biggest enemy says he doesn’t get it or the young depressed woman in a straw beret who has never before spoken summons the courage to tell you that your controlling metaphor breaks down in the four stanza, just listen. There is time for McDonalds later. My mother always repeated the wisdom of the ages: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. There’s that, too.

Are you better at giving or receiving feedback?

Hey Little Girl is Your Daddy Home

One of the first books I ever signed up as young editor came in with the title, something like, I Hate Myself and Want to Die. Did I jump on it? Hell, yeah. And thus started my hair-raising, maddening, hilarious, heartbreaking and ultimately toxic relationship with Elizabeth Wurtzel. She died earlier this week from cancer at 52 and it feels like a hurricane has left the island of Manhattan. Elizabeth didn’t write so much as stick a pen in her vein and let it flow. She was funny, furious, impossible, exhibitionistic and I would have given anything to be as seductive, forward, and fearless. Working with her was like inhaling the most amazing second hand smoke and I was intoxicated from the first whiff. Somehow her passion for madness and mine for order produced three books that I feel honored to have worked on. Her extraordinary memoir which was eventually titled Prozac Nation, then Bitch which is a brilliant book about women, feminism, and sexuality. Was it wrong to pose topless flipping the bird for the jacket? And her last book, More, Now, Again, which was a chronicle of drug addiction, specifically Ritalin abuse. Elizabeth and I parted company as agent and client, and we didn’t stay friends though we promised we would, the way you do, in the midst of a painful breakup. Elizabeth kept a suitcase of her fan mail. It was filled with hundreds of letters from mostly young women who said Prozac Nation saved their lives. Elizabeth loved pawing through them and sharing them with me the way others might run their fingers through pearls.

Thank you, Elizabeth. I think this was your favorite photograph. It was definitely mine.download-2.jpg


Remember the Day I Set You Free

It’s 10:20, do you know where your Golden Globe is? People knock the Globes and award shows in general. They’re too long, they’re self-satisfied, rigged, the monologues are terrible, etc. Here’s what I have to say: SO WHAT? People ask me why I watch them and the answer is simple: because I want to win one. Because I want to thank the Foreign Press Corps and my fellow nominees. I want to be at one of the back tables and have to walk the entire length of the room when they call my name. When I recite one of the million acceptance speeches I’ve written in my head over the years. 

Who do you have to thank?

I Am I Said


Went to bed at 11:45 as my own special poke in the eye to New Year’s eve. Broke my diet first thing today. Fuck you resolutions! Here’s what I can tell you. Hold fast to those you love. Write every day even if it’s just a sentence, a snippet of overheard dialogue. Read more. Form a writer’s group. If you’re stuck, go back and make an outline. Spend three months on your outline. If you’re stuck, go back and develop your characters. Get back into therapy. Get back on the Stairmaster. Bake a cake, pull weeds, practice scales. Sleep late, irritate someone you love, remember to bring bags to the Stop and Shop. And to all the freaks and geeks who still visit this site: Happy new year. I love you.

What to you hate?

And It Wouldn’t Be Make Believe if You Believed in Me



Why is everything curated from artisanal pickles to a reading series in Dumbo.  One editor I met at a lunch date said she curates her Instagram account. You mean you put up pictures that you choose?  How does a smart Vassar graduate recently promoted to assistant editor say, over cobb salad, that she’s curating projects in the non-fiction space. I give up. Stop with the curate. Stop with the space. It’s happened. I’m no longer that young thing in a rust colored raw silk blouse and a black Ann Taylor suit trying to impress some agent bitch with her lacquered nails and signature necklace. I hate the world right now. I’m in the self-loathing space.

What are you curating.


The Movement You Need Is On Your Shoulder

Custom-Cartoon-Printing-Cover-Girls-Diary-Wholesale-School-Supplies-Cute-Diary-Notebooks-for-Gift.jpgDid you ever start a successful new writing project in a new notebook? I think not. A new notebook, in my opinion, is a cry for help. All of my new notebooks start with a proclamation that I will write every day. It’s like making a promise you know you’ll never keep. Like a diet or the desire to become a better person. I wrote every day from the time I was in high school until I got married. If you call squalling writing. What you want is a notebook that’s broken in like a pair of jeans. And yes you mourn when you have to throw the jeans out. When the tufted pages dwindle down. What I can’t figure out is why some notebooks stall out after a few pages and others take root. For all those years when I wrote every day, I used a basic composition notebook. Now it’s all Moleskins and Shinolas, and other fancy assed notebooks. What’s become of me? 

Do you have a relationship with your notebooks?




I Can See All Obstacles in My Way

Finished the fucker last week. Hold your applause. But, yes, thank you. Any toe over any finishing line is worth celebrating. I had a plate of spaghetti.Image result for spaghetti in red sauce

What do you do to celebrate finishing a book?

You Are My Love and My Life You are My Inspiration

 I don’t believe in inspiration. I believe in compulsion. Anything I’ve ever written, including when I wrote poetry, came from self-loathing. I never saw any light, angels, symmetry, never heard a muse, never lit a candle, saw Jesus in the tapestry or golden scroll unfurl with a string of notes only God could hear. I wrote out of pain, loneliness, confusion and desperation. I needed to keep diaries. I never said, “I really should write every day.” I wrote every day and it was a cross between a school girl’s cry and a banshee’s screech. I was compelled to write as surely as a leech needs to suck blood from a dying man. I was compelled to write because I was depressed and it was how, bucket by bucket, I pulled myself out, if only for the time I was actually writing. No halo effect. No resonance. No satisfaction. No after glow. In this way writing, for me, is like a contact sport, a staring contest, a long and exquisitely held grudge, a splinter. That’s what writing is like for me.

And for you, Boo boo?

God Save Your Mad Parade

“Life is a racket. Writing is a racket. Sincerity is a racket. Everything’s a racket,” as spoken by none other than the late, great Nick Tosches (1949-2019). I have to admit, this quote comes about as close to my life philosophy as anything I’ve ever seen. Insincerity is also a racket. Love is a racket. Friendliness is a racket. Hopes and dreams: big racket. Being nice, gossip, NYC, racket, racket, racket. Nature is not a racket. Good self-esteem may seem like a racket, but it isn’t. Your book advance, your number of followers, the idea of following is a racket. Publishing is a racket. Believing that you can make a difference is not a racket, though it often gets dressed up as a racket. Rachel Maddow, Starbucks, Netflix, New Yorker, the guy on the home page of Chase on-line.

What’s your racket?