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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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

When 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?

Why Do Fools Fall in Love

So great to hear from you all from the cattle farms of Oregon to Washington Square Park. What a time. I am pushing myself to write three hours every day from 5:30 to 8:30. I keep telling myself that this will be over and I will regret having lost so much time to low-grade anxiety and depression. I can’t vouch for my writing. For all I know it’s All Work And No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy. But that beats three hours of CNN. Is it me or Anderson Cooper. Please keep writing.

What are you working on?

Yesterday Don’t Matter if It’s Gone

Dear Readers of this Blog:

I apologize for being so absentee over the last months. I just wanted to touch base now and see how everyone is faring during this crisis. Hoping that you and your families are out of harm’s way. I’ve missed you all.  Love, Betsy

Please let us know where you are, how you are.

Is You is Or Is You Ain’t You Ain’t My Baby

I’m on the fence. Sometimes I think that all the criticism and discouragement I got from my  parents made me ever more determined to write. The first time my father read a poem of mine in a literary magazine, he threw it on the floor. Threw is strong. He flicked it. When I told him I had gotten into an MFA program, he begged me to get an MBA. When my mother read my memoir, she said it was a pack of lies! Alright then. Other times I think that love and encouragement are all that matters. Love and encouragement. Would I even trust it? Would it not gross me out?

What defines your writing life?

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?