Tag Archives: Betsy Lerner

Ashes to Ashes

dusty houseWow. Look at this shabby old blog. I haven’t been here since December last year. When I tried to get on I got kicked off for using the wrong password. It is dusty and rusty around here, let me tell you. How do you add an image? Why is this font so small?

But the hell with it. Today the spirit moved me. In part because Betsy Lerner published her 1,000th blog post today and is writing a new book. I’m a shameless fan. Would bring her bagels every morning and dust the books in her library and walk her cat for her, but not in a creepy way.

And, I have plunged into a new writing program at Grub Street in Boston called The Novel Generator. I meet weekly with fourteen other lost souls to learn craft, to agonize, to workshop pages, and at the end of a nine month gestation period, to pop out a 360 page draft of a novel.

The instructor, Lisa Borders, must have a tool bag of superpowers (or a thermos of dry martinis) to get her through this undertaking. We are like a box of eager, hungry puppies vying for affection and food. Take me, adopt, me, listen to me, read me, love me. And yet we are warm and affable and so damn sincere and cute. We want to please and do this writing thing and be good at it. We can barely contain ourselves with nerves and insecurity and happiness. Thank God I have landed there because I have been in the desert for ages. Believe me, I am choking on sand trying to write around here. Even the computer is like, girl, you think you can just come back and type up on me?

I have no idea if anyone will read this thing – if it will show up again in your email or RSS feed or on Instagram or in some X-ray. But I think it is time. Writing winds are blowing. Shit is stirring up. Just a quick warning. Some of it may land on you.

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Sometimes a Cigar

warhol20freud1Last night I had a dream that Betsy Lerner recruited me to join a baseball team of wannabe writers she was putting together. The team was called Midlife Crisis. A few of us were huddled around a small student desk in a ratty classroom trying to decide what position we should play and tossing around ideas for uniform colors. That’s it. I woke up feeling anxious and needing to pee.

Pretty weird, right? In my defense, the heat here on the East Coast is disintegrating my brain cells and to counteract I had a big bowl of Rhode Island Lighthouse Coffee Ice Cream smothered in butterscotch sauce before going to bed. So bad for me on so many levels but again in my defense I do live in Rhode Island and I am a big fan of lighthouses.

But back to the dream. Of course, who wouldn’t want to be recruited by Betsy Lerner to do something – to do anything? I don’t stalk her but that’s just because I’m lazy. As for baseball, I would suck at this, which is (duh) my fear about writing. Don’t get me wrong, I know all the rules – my father was a Little League coach throughout my entire childhood and while girls couldn’t play at the time (dating myself here) I attended almost every game dragging along a cooler full of sodas for the boys, memorizing my father’s bizarre hand signals, and keeping up a steady banter of He’s a wiffer, Good hustle, and Battabattabatta. Then I went to college and lived in Red Sox Nation for years and now I’m married to a Yankees fan. And while watching baseball on TV makes fuzz grow on my teeth, I love the sound of a game as background noise on a hot summer’s day while I’m reading a book and drinking mint infused iced tea. So I know baseball. But could I actually play baseball? Never. Just like I know writing, but can I actually write? How obvious can this dream get?!

As for the name of our team, that’s another big duh. Might as well stamp that on my forehead. I think the fact that we were in a classroom and not at a ball field is pretty telling – I often think I should have gone for that ubiquitous MFA but I was always too chicken shit. And my dream job, my dream life actually, would be to write and to teach writing. As for the discussion about uniform colors, well, I guess a girl has to look good no matter what she does.

So there it is, my writing dream. Not exactly earth shattering but at least it got me up an writing this morning. How about you? Had any writing dreams lately?

 

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Fifty-Five But Who’s Counting

Today is my birthday. I’m not that fond of birthdays. I think it takes a certain amount of courage and energy and self-confidence to really enjoy your birthday, and in general I cannot muster all these things at the same time on any given day, let alone on a hot muggy day in August. But I’m pretty old. I’m not trying to be morbid but I do think I should take advantage of the fact that I’m still around and post something. Here’s what I thought about today.

1) I definitely look better in mirrors that are slanted forward. They hide my double chin and make my eyes look bigger. Maybe I should try to stand leaning forward (or maybe backwards?) to get the same effect.

2) Betsy Lerner has the same birthday as me. I find this remarkable. I’m a huge fan and read her blog religiously. If you’re a writer you will recognize yourself somewhere in Forest for the Trees. Buy the book, read her blog, like her, friend her, tweet her, build a shrine to her. You’ll thank me.

3) It’s getting harder to care about my day job.

4) I got calls, cards, and emails from friends who know me and love me beyond reason (you know who you are). This is such a gift. To have people in your life who know you in a way you barely know yourself. To realize there’s a piece of you out there walking around in someone else’s heart–that’s something worth having a birthday for.

5) This is a message from my dad–“Why the hell do you have a cell phone if you don’t answer it?! OK, Happy Birthday.”

6) The birthday cake: lemon strawberry. All you chocolate fiends are booing, I know, but it was delish. And it was vegan. I’m back to no dairy which is tragedy of Oedipal proportions but it had to happen. It’s been 13 days. They say you need to get to the 3 week mark and then it’s a piece of cake (vegan cake, of course). Had to go off my anti-inflammatory meds so I’m feeling pretty inflammatory. No dairy should help. But cheese-less pizza is like when my dog humps a stuffed animal–you just know it’s not the same.

7) It’s almost midnight. I made it through another one. I’m hoping to wake up tomorrow and face the next year with a little more stamina, a little more humor, a little more faith. I’ll keep you posted.

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Canned Laughter

I read Betsy Lerner’s blog pretty religiously and she tends to throw out a question at the end of each post to get everyone yakking which I think is genius because it takes the pressure off of her. I try to do it sometimes but it feels awkward, like having a conversation between stalls in a public restroom. Today she wanted to know about everyone’s favorite Hard to Categorize (HTC) books, as these are the ones she is most drawn to and also the ones most difficult to sell. I usually read everyone’s comments and even at times post a response. But today I thought, holy crap, I’m illiterate.

Now don’t get me wrong. I read all the time. I read Toni Morrison and Louise Erdrich and Jeanette Winterson and Amy Bloom and Richard Russo and Jane Smiley and Michael Ondaatje and Joan Didion and Alice McDernott and Michael Cunningham and Dorthy Alison and Ann Patchett and John Irving and Michael Chabon and Eudora Welty and Wally Lamb and Margaret Atwood and Mya Goldberg and Junot Diaz and AS Byatt and Anne LaMott and Pat Conroy and Jane Hamilton and Cormac McCarthy and JK Rowling and Dr. Andrew Weil and Betty Crocker. You should see all my books. I’m an obssessive compulsive reader. I have blackouts in bookstores and leave with hardcovers that for gods sake are NOT ON SALE!!

But when I read the responses to Betsy’s blog my throat twisted up like the cord on a hairdryer and my eyes started to blur, then to water, then to flutter at half mast. I barely recognized a single author. What the hell was everyone talking about?! I thought I would just humorously post that I didn’t recognize any of these writers, and ha ha aren’t I stupid. But I didn’t recognize any of the writers and felt so stupid!!

So after trying to calm myself by breathing into a plastic CVS bag (which after a few moments felt suffocating and ecologically irresponsible), I just closed out of the blog and went back to my day job. And I thought, well there goes that. What kind of a reader, writer, literary icon am I going to be if I can’t keep up with all these amazing and ridiculously well-read people? I suddenly feel like an old rerun on TV. I am The Dick Van Dyke Show instead of Mad Men. I am Murder She Wrote instead of The Killing. I am terribly unhip and irrelevant. Who do I think I am trying to write and get published at my advanced age? Who in the world would read anything I write?

Have you been here? At the bottom of your own masterfully crafted pile of dung? I’m there now and it’s not pretty. So I decided to get in front of my computer and shovel out. Just write about what happened, like an addict at a meeting. Hello, my name is Marie and I’m a self-loathing writer. Give me my bag of chips and I’ll go home. But first, let me tell you a story…

And so it goes. I get back up and start again. I put my slip behind me, shrug off the insecurity blanket, and hit the keyboard running. Well, maybe walking, no shuffling. But at least I am here. I am not giving up yet.

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