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You’re Just to Good To Be True

I read this story by Ben Marcus on the way home from the city. I don’t really like short stories all that much, but I loved this one. In part because it was like a novel in a nutshell. Partly because I felt tense the entire time I was reading it. I also thought that the details had god in them; the narration so assured I did’t need to worry. And most of all it felt real.

Is is real or is it Memorex?

Both a Little Scared, Neither One Prepared

 It’s almost dark. Leaves skittering. For a moment, I think I see a bear upright and dancing under the lamplight. Then it’s gone. I’m trying to think of the next scene in the script I’m writing. THis is new for me. I don’t usually think about what I’m going to write: I just write. I figure it out after. A man in a red jacket is walking on the other side of the street. We look at each other. He is probably trying to guess my age. I am trying to ascertain whether he is a murderer. Do I slow down or hasten my steps. I could go two ways with the script. Or twenty. It feels like there is a key, but of course there isn’t. Force it don’t force it. Fuck it don’t fuck it. Please don’t kill me. What are you afraid of?

I Went Out for a While and I Never Came Back

Writing a book is like finding a new lover. It woos you, loves you, fucks you, then leaves you. Dearest darling readers of this blog: I did it. I finished my book. I finished the fucker. It was due today and I turned it in today. 91,000 words cracked out of the sky, the tree, the branch, the twig. Am I stoned? Am I dead? Am I run over by a truck? Am I a cat, a bat, an owl, a toad? Every morning at 5:00, 5:30, I glimpsed myself in the window, a shadow, a golem, a cup of coffee. Does my nightgown smell like oatmeal? Who highlighted these transcripts in yellow? How many years did I wait for this? How many before I find another?

Fess up: did you write or did you play with your food?

Don’t Cry for Me Argentina

You’ve heard the expression, “no tears for the writer, no tears for the reader.” What do you make of it? I kind of hate it. But you know I’m a feelings fascist. On the other hand I know it to be true. I have cried while writing shit down. I guess the question is: does that make it good. Just because you can stir yourself, will the reader be stirred. Does “authentic emotion” produce great writing. Or “true” writing. All of these quotation marks are a little sickening. What am I trying to say? If I make myself laugh, will I make the reader laugh? If I fall asleep at my computer? If I eat green eggs and ham? How do you really create feeling in the reader, by having the feelings yourself or manipulating language to be evocative?

 

LAST CALL to WIN a FREE copy of SAVAGE GIRL. Who is your favorite monster in literature. Author Jean Zimmerman will select her top three picks at the end of the week. 

It’s Hard to Get By Just Upon a Smile

Let’s go back to basics. Query letters. Here are ten opening lines from letters I’ve received or concocted.

Dear Betsy: I am a huge fan of your blog and The Forest for the Trees, which I recommend to everyone I know.

Dear Ms. Lerner: Your agency website says that you like the hard to categorize.

Dear Betsy Lerner: I have written a fiction novel of 130,000 words called The Lost Letter.

Dear Betsy Lerner: Have you ever been afraid, really afraid?

Dear Betsy Lerner: I am a Harvard graduate and a Buddhist.

Dear Ms. Lerner: I am a survivor.

Dear Betsy (if I may):  I was about to give up writing until I read your book — I am the wicked child.

Dear Miss Lerner: Part memoir, part travelogue, this is the story of my return to Los Angeles.

Dear Betsy: My novel, The Launching of Fawn Roth, is about a young woman a lot like Lena Dunham.

Dear Betsy Lerner: I am writing to you because of  your personal interest in mental illness.

If you were an agent, which one would you respond to?

Anyone want to float their opener?

You Better Let Somebody Love You Before It’s Too Late

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I’ve never read a Tom Clancy novel and I probably never will. Still: respect. His obit said he bypassed children’s books as a child and read military history. Lord have mercy. I’ve always believed that obsessions from childhood dictate what we write, but that is really something. Also from the obit, “Mr. Clancy said none of his success came easily, and he would remind aspiring writers of that when he spoke to them. ‘I tell them you learn to write the same way you learn to play golf,’ he once said. ‘You do it and you keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kissed you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired — it’s hard work.'”

I played golf for two reasons: to drive the cart and to have a makeshift egg cream which my dad made at the halfway house by mixing cream soda and Yoohoo. THe three rules he would repeat over and over: keep your head down, eye on the ball and follow through.

Though I also have to admit, and possibly from working with Patti Smith, that I have seen mystical things happen, but pretty much only when you are in the deep center of your work, completely obsessed and working like a mad man. (Do mad men work hard? Hmmm?)  But it can happen: a simile arrives unbidden and so perfect that you have ask yourself: did I pull that out of my ass or what?)

Any other decent sports metaphors out there for the writing racket?

And I can’t change Even if I tried Even if I wanted to And I can’t change Even if I tried Even if I wanted to My love My love My love

Novels are flying at my head. Thousands of pages flapping like seagulls at Brighton Beach. Stories from land locked countries, from the mouths of bats, from trains that never leave the station. From the station itself. How did you come up with so many sentences, so many girls named Cara or Carla or Quintana, or Ray. Did it start on a stair, a hill, a bucket, a pail? What’s it about? Well, that’s a good question. The beach, the mountains, a multi-generational tale of raisin bran. You are nothing like a summer’s day. Why do sympathetic characters bring out the sadist in me? Does anyone really change? Are you my beginning, my middle or my ass wipe? Hi, I’m Betsy and I’m addicted to prose. Oh, Daisy. Grow up. There is a big canister somewhere. Dear Betsy: I am writing to see if you would be interested in my five novels, a 874,000 word quintet about two slugs fucking in a snot can. Do you feel me? Oh mighty novelists with your big boots and musky armpits. Where would we be without you?

Where?