Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Some things that really BURN MY ASS!

Hellion Infidel
Originally uploaded by mewmoocouw.
Disclaimer: this is a bipolar rant. I am generally very scrupulous about being as accurate as I can be in all my statements. But here, I'm just gonna let it fly. I have pitifuly limited knowledge of how city and federal government works, so if I'm wrong about any of my assertions, bear with me or correct me.

In some ways, NYC Mayor Bloomberg is ok. He's managed to carry on the fine work of Rudy Giuliani, his illustrious predecessor, by keeping the streets of NYC relatively safe and user (and tourist) friendly. However:

I don't like the smoking ban, because...well.,,I'm a smoker. In fact, I think Bloomberg used to be a smoker as well. I also heard tell that he did smoke pot at one point, and DID inhale, and did enjoy it. Keep in mind my disclaimer above; this may only be one of those urban legends. Now there's a push for banning smoking in public housing projects. Can you spell (or smell) 1984?

I loathe his insane push for a West Side Stadium. This scheme involves mucho dollars in tax money, again as far as I know, chiefly in his bid to see the Olympics hosted by our city. Who ever heard of building a stadium for the Olympics without knowing if you're going to host the games? And who's paying for all those commercials touting the stadium, and who's paying for all the little Olympic sticker emblems I see on every subway car, even though many of the subway stations are disgracefully in need of repair, and many token booth clerks are being eliminated altogether, replaced by vending machines?

Bloomberg's bid for a Manhattan stadium was shot down, so now he's trying for one in Queens. There are plans abroad for new stadiums for the Yankees and the Mets. All very well and good, I guess, though I don't see the purpose. If it's coming out of my tax dollars, I don't like this shit one bit.

The fact that this guy is a multi-billionaire but uses his wealth for ad campaigns for the upcoming election, but as far as I know does not donate money for the city, makes me madder than hell. As BG said, he could be a major player in the NYC history books if he parted with some of his own cash to help the city by, say, building a West Side Stadium with his own funds--although I think there are plenty of other more worthy projects he could contribute his dinero to.

The founder of WalMart just passed away the other day. He was I think the fifth wealthiest man in the country, but like other zillioinaire assholes, he had to tempt fate by riding around in some little jerryrigged glider plane. I heard tell from BG that he allegedy was super cheap. So what did all that money get him in the end? Maybe he willed some of it to worthy causes, but if not, what was it all for? Something for Bloomberg to contemplate, perhaps?

A new contract has been established for NYC police that will substantially lower officer's starting salaries to a disgraceful level. Since recruitment is allegedly down, why in heaven's name would they pull such a stunt? On a positive note, veterans of the force are in for a very nice pay raise. But still.

There's an old library a few blocks away from BG's working class Bronx neighborhood. Across the street, they are constructing a brand new, shiny, fancy library. Again, very nice. But there is talk that unless there is a push for continued funding of the libraries at least up to par with what we have now, they may actually cut library service by several days a week. I would rather see the old library stand as is than a fancy new one that's only open three times a week instead of six. Many kids in this neighborhood cannot afford computers, and need these libraries to study and learn. It is a disgrace that one of the few eductional resources open to the poor in this city may be taken from them.

In several posts, such as AA: Threat or Menace?>, I've told about my experiences with the AA fellowship. I think it works beautifully for some, but not for all. Nevertheless, I think that despite its supposed non-profit status, there is a very very profitable AA-allied industry in this country which may be seriously impeding possible alternate modes of treatment.

First off, I have heard talk of a medication that can help alcoholics in their quest to stay sober. It has apparently been available in Europe for some time. Recently it finally received FDA approval. But no one knows about it, and I think I know why.

I believe the drug companies cannot make a lot of money off this particular medication; perhaps because it originated overseas. Secondly, the whole idea of a pill that can help alleviate addiction is anathema to the AA philosophy.

Money is being poured into the coffers of many via the myriad AA-inspired substance abuse institutions and programs such as those affiliated with rehabs, hospitals, employee assistance programs, prisons, etc. etc. One thing they all have in common is their adherence to the twelve step approach. Insurance companies give much more generous coverage for employees and others for rehabs than they do for mental illness inpatient and outpatient coverage. There is simply no other condoned model in this country for addicton recovery.

Some of this has been covered in Always Wear your Party Hat regarding contraception and abortion. In addition, despite the current war, resulting in the death of many American soldiers (as well as Iraqui civilians), I feel that vets get the short end of the stick in this country.

BG is an honorably discharged vet. There have been rumors of the Manhattan VA being closed or else converted to a solely outpatient facility. The wonderful art therapy program he loved has practically dried up altogether. Services are sometimes good, sometimes horrible. BG was literally almost killed several times by incompetent doctors and other health care "professionals" at the VA. Is this any way to treat our vets, especially with the gung ho attitude of Bush et al about the war?

I am also concerned about the push to reduce funding for the already limited Section 8 housing program, which helps assist low income individuals and families to find decent, affordable housing with the help of federal rent subsidies. Not to mention the whole social security debate/debacle.

Plus the whole Republican love affair with already filthy-rich individuals and corporations, and their complicity in sheltering them from their rightful tax burden.

I'm mad as hell as all the truly sick, demento shrinks out there who abuse vulnerable patients. BG's story is especially horrific, and I will post his travails with the mental health industry soon.

I am also miffed, to put it mildly, at the continuing shame, stigma, and ignorance associated with mental illness in this day and age. Not to mention the shameful media sterotypes like those found on crime dramas such as Law and Order and NYPD Blue. I love these shows, but to watch them you would think that all mentally ill people are babbling dementos who refuse to take their meds (which are, of course, some cure all wonder drug) and subseqently make a hobby out of pushing people in front of incoming subway cars. More on this in another post.

That's it for now. Now I want to hear from YOU!!!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Dysfunctional family reunion

Lunch in the country
Originally uploaded by Dw in Paris.
Henry's recent post on Muslim Marriage Counseling has inspired me to peruse my own "Binder of the Bizarre," as Henry refers to his collection of freakish ephemera collected in his native NYC and his adoptive home in California.

About a year ago, BG received a strange letter from "Smith Family Reunion Headquarters." Who were they, what did they stand for, and what did they want?

BG's last name is not Smith. His dad, who also received a copy of the missive, vaguely recalled that the Smiths were some cousin's uncle's dog's brother's half sister or some such thing. He'd never met them either, but here they were, sending an invite from out of the blue to come visit for the day at some church site in Spiro, Oklahoma. Although BG was born an Okie, he and his immediate family haven't set foot there in at least 40 years.

BG, being rather unsentimental, promptly discarded last year's letter. The most memorable part, as I recall, was the entreaty to "bring a covered dish" to this apparently potluck get together. BG and I imagined getting stopped by guards at the airport because of some bizarre concoction we'd tried to smuggle onto the plane. Plus which, we're both hard-core New Yorkers: I was born in Queens, and BG has lived here for the most part since the summer of '69. Why would we want to take a train (which would take days) or spend the money on airfare (not to mention the cost of preparing the covered dish) to visit a bunch of bowleggers* with dubious and obscure connections to the BG clan?

Recently, BG received the second such letter announcing this year's annual reunion bash. Just for fun, I decided to deconstruct this one. Its overweening flaw seemed to be "too little information," combined in part with the dreaded "too much information." resulting in a generalized feeling of total bewilderment on the part of this hapless reader.

First and foremost, the letter (or more accurately, "The Smith Family Newsletter" was so impersonal somehow in its generically folksy, familiar tone that one couldn't help wondering what the writer could have been thinking--or not. Why at the very least wasn't there a little sticky note attached saying: BG--I'm Laura Nell Smith, your long lost second cousin thrice removed. I would love to see you at our annual bash." Instead, Laura Nell assumed that her long-lost city slicker cuz somehow knew everyone involved from previous wild and wacky Okie wing dings.

Here is the newsletter. My comments are in brackets. All typos and other lapses in grammar, syntax, and common sense are reproduced verbatim. I think it adequately demonstrates why, even if we were for some untold reason planning to swing by that neck of the woods, wild woodchucks couldn't drag us to this meeting of the "Deliverance" clan--even if BG's DNA is somehow remotely connected to his Gooberville "relatives."



This is our reminder to come & gather as a family on July 16th. [Well, greetings yourself! And who the f*uck are you?]

Next month, that's a Saturday morning, at the Spiro United Methodist Church, located at 109 East Broadway, as it has since 1920, we are hopeful that first time family we be joining this gathering or some that haven't been this way in many years.
[109 East Broadway--isn't that in Chinatown? Oh, I guess not, since the return address on the envelope says Spiro, Oklahoma. What's wrong with us; aren't we psychic, seeing as we're family members and all?]

Staying connected is a great energizer. Do you need a little more "GET-UP-GO!" to your days? [Hey, babe--you'd never make it as an Madison Avenue copywriter, ok? Don't even try the hard sell for this gathering of the aberrant.]

Sure it is a stretch & that is understood, but please try real hard, after all, there is food & great stories & lots of laughter & someone is really counting on seeing you, especially you! [What? The guest of honor? We had no idea! Well, let's see here: in order to partake of all this food & stories & laughter stuff, I'm figuring airfare & cab fare & hotel to some abject hole in the outskirts of Gomer Pyle-ville--but hell, well worth it for one day in paradise!]

Who knows, you might learn something new or even meet a new cousin or several cousins, surely you get it by now!


There will be a short business meeting before lunch. [See? That's why we should have attended last year. They would surely have had a business meeting then, letting us know that there would also be a business meeting this year, and doubtless explaining why a family reunion would require a business meeting--and maybe even provide some clue as to what sort of business they're into. Moonshine, perhaps?]

Bring your favorite thing to make & don't worry about having a balanced meal, just come for the fun of it! [Favorite thing to make? Hmm..anything? Play-Doh sculptures? Cheap, and not hard to pack. Next!]

Someone will be at the church [the church? Who knew? Will they allow Jew-girls like me to attend?] by 9:00 AM or close to that time, at least. [those country folk and their laid-back ways; so charming! I guess if they're late we'll just go chat with the pastor or something.] Jimmy & my home phone number is X XXX XXX XXXX [sorry all; family only!].

We will have a "White Elephant" bingo & for those of you that want to bring the REAL thing, don't, at least, not those live ones that make really BIG memories! [Ah, looks like they have that old BG family brand of dry humor down pat!] Just something from all stuff we collect that we really don't want to pass on to the next generation or maybe you do, but without them knowing it is from YOU, so wrap it up & no one will even suspect you would ever possess any such item, the more unusual, the better. Bring one item per person. [That old designer bong that's been sitting in the closet might be nice.]

Remember wonderful Glen's "Award-Deserving" ice cream? [Ah, yes, wonderful old Glen...shame that he only had award-deserving ice cream. Couldn't he have had the award-winning ice cream and perhaps received an extra "White Elephant" memento?]

The table centerpieces will be photographs, older & some more recent. These are going to be door prizes [more giveaways!] Please sign in as you arrive & get a ticket for the drawing. [Sign in where? Is the reunion in the church? On the grounds outside? Oh, well, I love surprises. Details--so anal!]]

Don't worry if you haven't sent Judy a recipe. [Ah, good old Judy, cooking away in the old country kitchen...] Just bring one with you & some reason why it's special to you. [Let's see, where did I put that recipe for homemade magic mushroom stew? I think that would be a big hit at the next reunion.] These projects [huh?] require time to complete, but will be a treasure when they are all ready.

If you think I may have missed an invitation to someone you really want to see, call me, and please leave a message on the recorder, if you can't speak to me directly.[Wow, so that's how it works! Goll-ee, those new-fangled recording devices sure are convenient.] I am not working these days which means I am home even less, go figure!

You all are invited to stay over Saturday night [oh, how sweet! At least we'll save on the hotel bill] & visit our worship service the next morning. And should you be interested in doing that, I am listing the following overnight accomodations [oh, f*uck. Thought we were gonna experience some down home family hospitality.] Both are less than 30 minutes from Spiro.

Guest House International (Ft. Smith) X-XXX-XXX-XXXX


Holiday Inn Express (Ft. Smith) X-XXX-XXX-XXXX

Please enter through the east side door facing parking lot.

Look for the church sign with "SMITH REUNION" [No map, no directions, no nothing? Ah, we'll find it. Let's book now!]

Ya'll come!!

Laura Nell

Lest anyone think I am a New York snob, well...I probably am. But from what BG and I have experienced, a lot of folks who live out of the city--even some as close by as Long Island or New Jersey--would sooner have knitting needles inserted in their eyes than set foot within the five bawdy boroughs.

Nevertheless, I plan to send out a big-ass invite to the whole BG extended clan to come on down and visit BGs beautiful digs in the Bronx. If they bring their sleeping bags, they can save on hotels by camping out in the hallway with the crackheads. We'll order up some Chinese or some real New York pizza, and I just know a good time will be had by all. But we're keeping it simple: no raffles, no door prizes, no church services. The only thing they have to bring is themselves--and maybe a nice covered dish.

In BG family parlance, a bowlegger is a country bumpkin or otherwise out of touch rube.

On this site, I affectionately refer to my boyfriend as BG, or Bowleg Guy. Despite having long ago earned his stripes as a real New Yorker by surviving the roughest possible periods in this city before the current "Renaissance," BG still retains some of that wide-eyed down home country innocence that is part of his considerable charm.

Bowleg is also used to describe a certain herbal supplement which is generally smoked or sometimes baked in brownies. Now THAT would have made for an interesting "covered dish" for the big Oklahoma blowout!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

SIZZLING HOT Comments of the Week!

In this weeks comments sections:

Fellow bipolar claims that Elvira is a fraudulent, pathetic poseur who is just pretending to be a psycho because she thinks it's artistic and cool! Check out the crazed comments and responses to same at This Bipolar Life.

Linkmeister Henry gives Picasso-hating artiste Mani a piss-in-your pants-worthy tongue lashing! Verily he smiteth the self-righteous! Enjoy the fireworks in the comments section at Annoying Artiste Assholes!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Help! I'm turning into a pack of Marlboro Light 100s!!!

Originally uploaded by Sour Power.
No, that's not me. Just another sweet young innocent, as I once used to be, who thought that smoking was kewl...courtesy of Sour Power. Click on the pic and check out SP's photostream.

I started smoking at 16. Thirty-plus years later, not only am I still at it, but I think, esp since I started blogging, I'm probably up to about two plus packs a day. I tend to lose count, and just intermittenly glance down, only mildly surprised to see that yet another pack is empty.

This, along with the lack of exercise since starting this blog, is beginning to alarm me mightily. I actually stopped smoking for about 5 years long long ago, but after I stopped taking Lithium (I'm now on other meds) I went into another hypomania and started puffing away again, similar to the old "getting back onto the bicycle" routine.

I've read over and over again that those with mental illnesses are much more likely to smoke, and that perhaps the nicotine serves as some sort of self-medicating thing. I know it helps quell anxiety. And there's nothing more anxiety producing than getting admitted to the psych ward, where on top of everything else you can no longer smoke. When my b/f, who's been hospitalized too many times to count for schizophrenia, starts wondering if he should check himself back in again just for old time's sake, I remind him that not only is there no real help for him there, but the prison-like atmosphere will soon be made that much more unbearable by the absence of cigs. Used to be you could smoke your brains out in the loony bin--what the hell else was there to do, anyway?--but now, no dice. I was lucky that during my last hospitalization, in Payne Whitney, they allowed those with privileges to go out in a group several times a day in front of the hosp and have a cig or two.

Back when my employment counselor/liaison at my job--who was arranging my inpatient hospitalizations and other services--heard that I sometimes drank and smoked pot, she assumed I had a dual diagnosis and sent me to a twice-a-week rehab group. At that point, I was too psychotic to speak, let alone use substances, but I do remember her telling one pot junkie, after seeing his urine sample, that "we could smoke you."

That's kind of where I'm at right now--just light me up!

I was on the patch in the hosp, but when they realized I was also going out for the cig breaks, they took me off. It might have helped--hard to remember. After they banned us from smoking cigs in our private offices with the doors closed at work, one of my colleagues did the patch and the gum on top of the smoking (she had to go to long meetings without a fix). Now that really is crazy.

Anyone have any tips for me? Hypnosis, acupuncture, patch, gum, Zyban, cold turkey, cutting down gradually, putting myself into a sleep pod like in 2001 or Alien and just waking up a few months later when the nicotine has finally leeched out of my system?


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Annoying artiste assholes

Originally uploaded by Dakgirl1.
NOTE: Dakgirl, whose cool photo is shown here, is in no way implicated as belonging to the annoying artiste assholes clan. Click on the photo and visit her site for more samples of her excellent work.

Henry's super-fab new blog entry, The Art Snob, has inspired me to finally write about something that has been stuck in my craw for a long time now.

In Publish or Perish, I wrote about the sometimes obnoxious ways of aspiring writers. Based on my admittedly more limited experience with painters et. al, I think that emerging artists can be ten times as bad. My theory is that those who are trying to break into a highly competitive creative field where the likelihood of obscurity is high and the chances for wildly lucrative fame and fortune are low are often plagued with ego-driven jealousy and spite toward fellow artists (both struggling and sometimes world-famous). In some cases, this may even develop into full-fledged raging psychosis, complete with megalomania and paranoia (remember that kooky little would-be artist by the name of Adolph Hitler?)

Henry wrote of one snobby photographer who used a commonly available technique in Photoshop to enhance her "signature" style. When H asked her about it, she said it was her little secret. Hah! Gotcha, smug little arty-bitch!! Good going, H.

In my comment to his post, I in turn described my experience with a relatively successful downtown artist who often exhibited in the funky little downtown gallery that BG had the misfortune to show at, as described in "Alternative" Gallery Hell. Despite our initial effort to explore possible collaborative efforts, our correspondence fizzled out due in part to a media blitz he is currently involved in.

One day, for a goof, I visited the New York Times Artists and Exhibitions forum to see what other artists were discussing. A two-minute glance revealed that the forum was essentially a vehicle for a few very bitter, vindictive artists to trash each other's work and engage in a lot of boastful one-upsmanship about their respective art knowledge and sophistication. How very strange, I thought.

Before I hightailed it outta there, I spotted one poster who left his calling card, viz:

"Want to get away from the indecipherable imbecilities and absurd pretensions of the modern art establishment? Check out my web page."

Intrigued, I did check it out, and it proved to a very fascinating site indeed. The artist, who was also hawking what I take to be either an e-book or a print on demand effort, regaled his readers with an elaborate and scathing view of the often dreadful contemporary work to be found in major museums, as well as trashing such demi-gods as Picasso, who he felt to be a hack!!! Mon Dieu! What cheek!

In a similar vein to Henry's art-snob friend, he had done a (evidently) Photoshopped little pomo take on the classics by "repainting" them in outrageously iconoclastic fashion; for instance, portraying Picasso's monumental Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon with one prostitute busily picking her nose. Jolly good fun!

His diatribes against Picasso's "schmears" and such were relentless. Overall, I found his site quite entertaining, and agreed with some of his views about modern art, much in the vein of Tom Wolfe's masterful decimation of the great midcentury art gods in his classic satire The Painted Word.

So I decided to e-mail the boy and tell him how much I enjoyed his site, as well as his art, which he provided a link to. It was quite professsionally executed, but very heavily indebted to the style of Salvador Dali. It was, in fact, a kind of Dali clone. Nonetheless, I was lavish in my enthusiasm about the site and his works.

He e-mailed me back, though his message was, I thought, very nasty indeed. In response to my assertion that I thought his art was brilliant, he wryly replied "Funny. I don't." How disingenuous! Generally, I thought he was whatever the male equivalent of raving bitch was, and wrote back a suitably scathing reply, in which I dared him to write me again.

He did, and thus ensued what one might charitably call a "spirited" exchange of e-mails, with plenty of mutual verbal abuse and heated debate about modern art. In response to my enthusiasm about postmodernism, which I felt virtually defined all 21st century endeavors, he at first avoided the subject altogether. When repeatedly pressed, he finally smugly stated that postmodernism was "avant-gone." Ah, don't get me started!

Finally, the exchanges descended into such relentless nastiness that I stopped e-mailing and never heard from him again--even after I sent him a note to check out my new blog, where he was welcome to leave a link to his site.

I encourage others to visit him, and if you're a fan of verbal fisticuffs, try a little e-mail exchange.

Meanwhile, for some really cool art by a really cool chick, visit Marachino Venom and drop Brink a line in the comment section if you've a mind to.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Pomo phenom of note

punky b
Originally uploaded by bellekai.
This may or may not be an occasional series chronicling the ubiquitous infitration of pomo (aka postmodernism) on everyday cultural life.

This post may not be suitable for children-- or anyone else, for that matter, who dislikes being confused.

Rated HD (Huh? Duh!)


Greek tragedy replete with choruses and deux a machina doings.

Elizabethan dramas, passion plays, etc.


All that other old stuff.

Technology explodes: Electricity. Silent films, talkies. Technicolor, Hollywood Babylon. TV, teleplays.

Mass marketing of movies as America's second-favorite pastime and TV as fave family member.

Rise of the "auter" as per film critic Pauline Kael. In other words, the shift in emphasis from the big Hollywood producer and actor as star of the show to the rise of the almighty director. Enter the French "new wave," and other uber modern postwar directorial wunderkinds, a la Rosselini, Pasolini, Truffaut, Goddard, Polanski, Bunuel, Bergman, Kurosawa, Fassbinder, and all the rest of the boyz.

American directors begin their steady rise in status, as Hollywood's awesome resources and mighty international cultural clout become evermore bloated. Some directors recognized in pomo-retrospect as league-worthy of the Euro-worship treatment--Hawks, Minelli, Hughes, Welles, et al. Great value placed on directors are who are adept at handling superstars such as Bette Davis with aplomb, as fans discover from the tabloids which thespians are "difficult to work with." Precursor of today's florid blow out pomo-brawls between actors and paparrazi, and Pamela Anderson-Tommy Lee/Paris Hilton sexploit vids. Deconstruction (in this case, the dismantling of fantasy elements and other pretty artifices by de-mystifying the actor/person behind the movie/role) is a pomo thang.

Brando, Dean, et al and the rise of the Method Actor. The Method serving to supercede the artifice and hokiness of the trad acting style a la Gone with the Wind and all Joan Crawford flix (pomo payback: Mommie Dearest), et. al. Like directors, actors morph from mere glam-cult idol to Oscar-worthy creative force.

Rise of the classic teleplay and teledramas (Death of a Salesman, et. al.); and legendary TV writers (a la Rod Serling), as well as auteur god vehicle Alfred Hitchcock Presents (wherein Hitch's dryly comic antics signal the beginnings of self-mocking/self-referential pomo), etc. Classic comedy: Burns and Allen, Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton, Your Show of Shows.

Contemporary (aka deliberately self-conscoius, eyes-wide-open) pomo: Tarantino (seventies cliches and Hong Kong movie kitch as iconography); Ang Lee (The Ice Storm's scathing look at seventies suburbia and the self-actualization craze), et al. Remakes of classics (Invasion of the Body Snatchers). Sequels; prequels. Reruns, special anniversary DVD editions. Satires of modern/contemp culture: Saturday Night Live, SCTV.

Japanese kitch-horror containing subtext of nightmarish devolution caused by post-nuke/Hiroshima-esque radioactivity, i.e. Godzilla, Mothra, et al (can you see the wires?)

Mid-20th century educational film strips re-released on DVD collections. Quaint instruction on personal hygiene, dating rules, the horrors of drug use, etc.

Pee Wee's Playhouse, which includes liberal use of the above.

Old TV cig commercials re-released on DVD, featuring cig-conoisseurs as discerning and sophisticated as fine wine critics. (Try mine... Hmm, flavorful--yet surprisingly mild.) Extra pomo points for extinction of these ads due to pomo revelations on the myriad hazards of tobacco.

The glam-veil of celebrity continues to wither away as stars voluntarily or involuntarily reveal their just-folks vulnerability (mental illness, substance abuse issues, etc.)

Clueless contemporary (unintentionally pomo): reality shows which deflate former icons a la the Ozbournes.

Retro TV: Lawrence Welk, Leave it to Beaver, the Flying Nun, the Brady Bunch, Andy Griffith....fill in the blanks or see Nick at Night/TVland schedule for more details. Serve as ironic low-cult counterpoint to the all-holy modern Method and teleplay/screenplay as High Art.

In the spirit of cyber-pomo, I will periodically update and add to this bare bones, shamefully limited, typo riddled, and doubtless unintelligible post.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Publish or perish, Part 2

NOTE: To see Part 1, click here.
To view a larger version of BG's illustration, just click the pic!

Ok. Looking back, I gotta confess that sometimes I really rode hard on my bipolar hypomanic high horse in these writer's groups. I thought I was really hot stuff--big published writer and all--so I would offer feedback, ideas, suggestions, helpful links, support and encouragement to all. But though some responded with the gratitude and thanks I felt I so richly deserved, most did not.

I must also hasten to add that many writers in these groups were NOT newbies. No Stephen Kings, but many had achieved at least a modicum of success in publishing their books, poetry, and short works and/or editing e-zines. .

Still and all, I thought my "positive vibes" in the groups served as a shining example to all. I wanted to be like my hero Susan Shapiro--spreading good karma by praising other's accomplishments, and checking out and often bookmarking the links to their sites or e-zines. In a word, I thought my demeanor in the groups was siimply beyond reproach.

Well, to be painfully honest, what really got my back up was when I started posting about my new blog. In my heady excitement, I actually posted several entries (or excerpts) to three of the groups, with a link to my site. Although some people responded--especially those who had some solid publishing creds under their belt--it wasn't enough for me.

So after all my kind-hearted posts to the Donut Guy (DG) who had written so eloquently on "craftsmanship," I finally got fed up with singing his praises--including, in one post, actually comparing his laid back, conversational style to Stephen King. I meant it too--I found his work really good, though he probably needed a merciless editor to cut down on some of the excessively flowery background details, or so I thought.

When a new member of the group--let's call her Angie--wrote in saying that the short story she'd posted had been deleted, I saw it as a chance to finally air my resentments. Angie said that in other groups, when people posted, they would receive constructive criticism--sometimes very specific--and that was what she wanted as long as it didn't degenerate into a simple "this sucks."

Turns out later that she'd actually posted the story to another group by mistake. But I jumped at the opportunity to get up on the soapbox. I decided that I'd had enough of the unrequited "caring and sharing" crap--I was putting my foot down this time, and giving this group the scolding they deserved!

Here's my shameful, ego-bloated post:


I may have responded to your offering, but I took a quick look and can't find your post either--although I only did a quick glance through my in-box. I'd contact the moderator directly to see what happened--I'm sure it was an honest computer error.

But I'm glad you brought this up, actually, because there's something I've been meaning to share for awhile. I've been a member of this forum and other writer's groups for awhile, and have observed the following:

Some people post stories very frequently, some every day in fact. That is fine. I have occasionally supplied positive feedback when I was particularly impressed by a story. But you don't always exactly get a thank you for that--maybe a response with further info on their work, but not necessarily a simple thank you. Some do, some don't. But if someone says something positive about my work, you'd better believe I will let them know how much I appreciate it.

Despite the fact that up until now I'd only posted compliments as well as info that I thought might be of help to other writers, I was disappointed to find that when I finally posted a few pieces from my new site that no-one responded--and probably never visited the site. Of course, you can't force someone to read anything or press their finger on a link provided to visit your site, but do people only read their own writing? As Angie said, this group is supposedly for mutual support, no?

Another aside--since starting my site, I've received some private positive comments (not from writer's forums, BTW) but these folks rarely post these on my site. The nasty commenters love to add their two cents, and I love it because I can either delve more deeply into the topic I started, or else just gleefully and humorously insult the s##t out of them for revenge. But a little thing like "liked your story" or even, "hated it--you're an idiot" (that's just me; I don't mind any comment--positive, negative, or indifferent) means an awful lot to me and most writers who crave some sort of feedback.

I have been on some (non-writers) boards where there was a great deal of flaming, and I'm grateful that the moderators at the writer's boards don't tolerate this--either that, or we writers are very kind and empathetic folk. It is probably the case that if someone has constructive criticism about a piece they fear saying anything for fear of offending. But there are ways to help without being condescending or nasty.

And lastly, on this and other boards, I have often gone out of my way to provide some helpful info in response to people writing in for assistance. Many times I get no acknowlegement and no thanks for this effort.

I know writing is a competitive field, and some of us may indeed just delete other's offerings while posting our own. But I agree with Angie that this should be a supportive and helpful forum for all writers--hopefully not just a one-sided ego boost.

Hope this post doesn't get deleted too! And I hope someone out there, at least Angie--will respond.


As soon as I posted this, people started to come out of the woodwork in "support" of my position, directly or indirectly. Angie liked my site, and we soon developed a nice little e-mail friendship. A long-time lurker wrote in--he had already published a well received book--offering a sample of his soon-to-be-published novel. I read it, and it was great--and I said so. In return, he made nice about my blog, and before long we were linking to each other's sites. Another author (more on him later) wrote in to announce the upcoming publication of his new book, which had already received great responses. I visited his book site, congratulated him warmly, and he in turn called my site "wickedly funny." Angie posted some of her fictional pieces, which were fab, and I sang her praises, along with just a smidge of constructive feedback.

Even the moderator got into the act, saying that she had been trying in vain to get the group to be more responsive. So I felt vindicated in speaking up and straightening out these passive-agressive, self-centered namby-pambies once and for all.

Predictably, in the middle of all this heady excitement, Donut Guy posted another one of his pompous ramblings about how his stellar novel-to-be was progressing. Flush from my victory, I dashed off the following note:

"Hi DG:
I've given you feedback several times--positive feedback, so I hope you read my previous post and perhaps consider giving some to others.


Soon after, DG posted another revision to a chapter he was working on. I said it was great, but noted a few references to places or things that puzzled me. He replied affably, saying he'd welcome some clarification.

So I cited a few more references that had gone over my head. At the end of the post, I added the following little nudge:

"One final thing I brought up in a previous post--and this is the last time I will attempt to get a response--

In order to answer your latest question, I had to hunt down your post, my post, cut and past portions of your old post, etc. I could have just said screw it, but I didn't, because I think you're a good writer and I assume you wanted some specific feedback from a fellow writer.

But as I mentioned the other day, the forum, up until one or two days ago, seemed to consist predominantly of frequent postings by a few people, with occasional replies of "sounds good, liked it," etc.

If you want more specific responses like the one I'm giving you, rather than no response or just "liked it," I think it would be only fair that you also comment on other people's stuff once in awhile. What's your take on what others are writing? Do you have any feedback or suggestions?

Otherwise I think this gets to be a very one-sided group. More people would probably respond to your fine posts if you responded to some of theirs. Otherwise what's the real purpose of posting with no responses forthcoming? Are we not here to support each other?

What do you think?"

That's when the shit hit the fan. DG first petulantly lambasted my latest feedback, and then berated me verily. Here's what he had to say about moi:

'I think that I don't need lectures on how to conduct my life, not even that portion of my life which occurs in public forums such as this. You don't know why people don't comment at length on every piece of writing. You have no right to presume to tell us to do so when you don't know why we don't. And it may very well be none of your business why someone doesn't write 50 pages about what a writer posted.

If "you" wish to comment at length on every poem, short story, or excerpt that someone posts, that's your right and you should do it. But you have no right to lecture us on the subject; we will, or won't, comment as seems good to us.

For my part, I'm a very busy person. I have a life outside this list. I work 40 or more hours a week, and I'm currently looking for a second job. This is because my wife is going to retire in just a few days due to failing eyesight, and we need the income until we can get the Social Security Administration to admit the painful reality of her deteriorating vision. Because my wife's Korean and her English is fractured, I'm spending considerable time doing paperwork for her, and going with her to appointments (we have one Tuesday--an MD, even though it's her eyes that are the problem). Somewhere in all this I try to find time to read, and to walk, and to write, and to at least glance at most of the posts I receive. On top of that, this week I'm fighting YahooGroups so that my mail will get out. and even if that weren't all happening, I'm not a critic and don't pretend to be. Those who are able to analyze and offer criticism are free to do so. I won't pretend that's one of my abilities to please you, even though I envy those who possess the ability and wish I had it.

Now I was under no obligation to offer this explanation. Given your attitude, I could have legitimately told you to walk north till your hat floats. But I've offered it because I am quite frankly upset at you treating me like a little kid who needs instructions on when to sit and when to stand and when to go to bed. I'm 45 years old and I don't need lectures or instructions, and I resent you presuming to lecture and instruct me. Perhaps knowing just how many balls I'm juggling will remind you that you're not the center of my universe.'

I just laughed heartily and cynically at his post. I was still smug in my role as writer's group queen, single-handedly transforming the forum into the interactive, lively, mutually supportive vehicle it should have been from the beginning! Yesiree, my hypomania was, like, totally under control. I'd just dash off a little judiciously worded reply and show him up in front of the whole group! Mmmm-yeah!

"Wowie zowie! I'm sorry I asked.

OK--firstly, I and others have been sympathetic to your plight with your wife's disability, BTW. You never seem, however, to have any empathy or compassion--not even a word of thank you, if I recall--when someone expresses interest or concern in your personal or professional life as you've chose to share them in this forum.

We are all writers; we are all busy; we all have lives. I just find it personally annoying after awhile when someone uses this as a (very time consuming) forum solely to just post and post and then comment on what they just wrote, etc. It just seems a little solipsistic to me. But of course I can't tell anyone else what to do.

I guess you don't really want any feedback anyway, since you were so defensive about it. I am just telling you my viewpoint as a reader (who I personally try to keep in mind when I write for publication). I think it helps when one wishes to sell one's work.

As I said, that's the last I'll say about the matter. I'll let the tone and the content of your reply speak for themselves."

Well, that was the end of that. This was not the adolescent, flame-throwing kind of group I chronicled in Support Group? Feh!.

Oh no. We were way too civilized for that. We maintained an admirably calm and mature level of discourse and decorum. We were writers, after all. Professionals-- or soon-to-be.

Yeah. It's true. But the group was also often mind-numbingly boring.

Moreover, underneath the surface, there was plenty of the stuff that makes for a good scary read. Seething jealousy. Mean-spiritedness. And worst of all, indifference. (Anyway, in my self-righteous indignation, that's the way I saw it at the time). But it was all done in a subtle, passive agressive, ultra-civilized, writerly way. More on that later.

And so it went. No unruliness or further flaming (if that's what the previous exchange could be called), no writers taking sides (publicly) with one or the other asshole. Angie, however, did agree with me privately that she thought DG was rather full of himself, etc. But that was that.

The denouement? DG actually posted a few responses to other's posts--for a few days. I considered it a major example of social engineering at its finest.

I was triumphant. I ruled! All hail the queen of the writer's groups!

But I soon had to admit to myself that my hypomanic alter-ego, which I thought I had tamed and rendered obedient to my will like a wild horse, had still exhibited its dark, ugly side. Just for starters, I hadn't stopped to consider that I'd humiliated DG in front of the whole group. I began to feel the pangs of shame and remorse.

I now realized that I had been just as big of an asshole as he was. Actually maybe more. If the asshole quotient of my messages (EB) were to be compared to the assole quotient of his (DG), the algebraic formula would be thus:

EB > or = DG

At virtually the exact same time that all this was going on, a few great writers, as I mentioned, wrote into the group about their new books. One had actually had his manuscript accepted by several of the traditional, print (aka brick and mortar) pub houses, but they were dragging their feet too much. So he fuguratively flipped the bird at them, and went ahead and self-published it with one of the more reputable, proactive self-publishing sites. This, combined with his own marketing efforts, was already leading to great advance reviews on and Barnes and

So of course, not more than a millisecond after he hit the "send" button, other group members instantly descended like ravenous vultures. These posts were all basically craven efforts to find out more about his positive experience and get info so that they, too, could "instantly" succeed. The author also told me in a private e-mail that others had also contacted him off-group with the same intention. No one even bothered to preface their craven "what can you do for me lately" messages with a simple: "Congrats, guy! Way to go!"

Of course I, in my infinite wisdom, composed a wry little note from atop my lofty perch: something to the effect of: "My, certainly have created quite a stir in our little group! Congrats (etc etc)--best of luck!"

Ah yes; those pitiful, desperate, self-centered twits! I knew all about the big bad scary publishing world. If only these numbskulls would heed my sage advice. I had clawed my way up the "ladder,"after all-- paying my dues for year after agonizing year!

Meanwhile, I was as ego-bloated as all the rest of them. Of course I was! I was a writer, and I wanted to be read. Not to mention my pathetic new obsession with the number of hits I was getting for my new blog, as chronicled in my e-mail exchange with Henry where I bared my pathetically publicity-hungry soul.

Despite realizing in retrospect that I had made a horse's ass out of myself, there was one more beef I had that was the beefiest of all by far.

In another writer's group, we'd had a long standing debate about the merits of blogging. Some wrote in, saying they were puzzled as to how blogging could help one become published. The old guy who had written all the books that never got bought up said that blogging was a young person's game, and the only "hits" he was interested in were from publishers who wanted to buy his work. He felt that blogging was a passing fad, like the internet had been (!?)

In this group, I wrote in once or twice on the joys of blogging, siting examples where published authors often used a blog to help promote it. Conversely, and probably less often, some bloggers were noticed by editors who might conceivably approach them. There was one author, in fact, who began an great but infamous blog that actually cost her her job due to the nasty things she had to say about her employment experiences. She is now a regular columnist at Another possiblility was to send a query to an e-zine, and give a link to your blog to provide a sample of your style. If you then published a piece in the e-zine, you could post a link to your blog, and conversely, post a link from your blog back to the e-zine's site--and maybe re-post the article there too, depending on copyright issues.

Lastly, I offered the caveat that most e-zine editors would probably not accept a piece that had been previously "published" on one's blog. One person responded with another caveat--always check carefully for typos and other egregious errors, since many e-zine editors, including herself, often checked out blogs. Too many typos could make one look unprofessional.

I was disconcerted to note that she made no direct reference to my blog. When she talked about typos, was she referring to me? Sure, I had some gaffes, but not many, I didn't think. Why did she so studiously avoid saying anything directly about my site?

Meanwhile, Angie told me she was looking for e-zines to submit some of her short stories to. I recalled that there was one member of another group who had a link to her cool e-zine, which aimed to give aspiring writers some solid feedback on their submissions. If they accepted the piece, they would work with the writer to edit it, if necessary. If they didn't accept it, they would nonetheless provide helpful insight into how the writer might proceed. This represented an admirable attempt to help clue the hapless writer into the mysteries of how an actual editor thinks, rather than merely receiving yet another rejection form letter.

I checked out the site, bookmarket it, and even plugged it later when I sent several writer's groups a list of helpful links I'd found for writers. So when Angie said she was looking for some vehicles for her short stories, I enthusiastically suggested she check out this site.

She did so, and while she found the e-zine to be a fairly good one, she noticed that in the archives there were articles that had typos, and this gave her pause.

I thought about it, and finally put two and two together. Sure enough, the poster who'd darkly warned of blogging typos was the same woman who published this e-zine which claimed to be staffed with attentive and supportive editors who would work with the author to produce a professional published piece!

With gleeful relish, I dashed off this note:

"You wrote a reply to my e-mail awhile back re:blogging and my blog on the "X" Writer's group. Here it is:

'Another caveat: if you are planning on using your blog like this, make sure you take the time to make sure you are posting clean copy on it. Sure, editors can see your style, but even if they love how you write, they may pass you over if your blog is riddled with grammar and spelling errors. No one's perfect, so I'm not saying absolute precision in every post. I am saying that if you know you have a tendency of making many typos/spelling errors/grammatical errors, double-check your writing before posting. And yes, I often read blogs of writers, and I know I'm not the only editor/publisher who does.'

Wasn't sure if you were referring to my blog or just in general, but I thought I'd alert you to the following:

I directed one of the members of another group, XXX, to check out your site because she was looking for a place for her short story. She said your site looked quite good, but when she looked back in the archives, she found typos, which gave her pause.

Just passing the info on.

Elvira Black"

She in turn wrote me a rather defensive, yet admirably restrained reply, where she attempted to cover her ass by saying that she was understaffed, writers often submitted works with a lot of typos, there was virtually no publication that had no typos, etc.

That's when I rolled up my sleeves and wrote her back,

"I'll be honest with you. I am not concerned myself with the typos in your pub. What I was responding to was your assertion on holding blogs to a certain standard, which I think I ably fulfill on my site.

I have praised your site to you and others; have listed your link in 3 of my writer's groups; and have just referred someone directly to you.

What troubled me was that in response to my excitement over my blog, you merely commented on typos on blogs; which I wasn't sure was directed toward me, since you made no direct comment on my site.

What I'd hoped, after all the above plugs, was that you might take a moment to check out my blog and perhaps comment to the blog or to the group.


Elvira Black"

This merely prompted another long winded reply where she stated that she was referring to blogs in general, not mine in particular, etc. etc. But once again, no mention of my site whatsoever. She didn't (sob) even thank me (sob sob) for my thoughtfulness (wah), generosity (blubber blubber) and infinite coolness (boo hoo hoo)!!!

The thing is, Angie also thought it was highly unprofessional to turn out an e-zine with typos. Wasn't that what editors were for--to polish up a piece before it was launched into the world? Likewise, I said that I had spent many years doing copyediting for academic promo pieces, and the two most important things any editor had to keep in mind were:

1. Always assume that every writer will make errors in grammar, syntax, spelling, transitions, and so on. Sometimes a manuscript might have to be virtually rewriteen before being published.

2. It was an editor's sworn and sacred duty to hunt down all instances of this kind of sullying of the English language and cast them all asunder like some horrible plague, leaving no typo unturned.

I also noted with grim glee that this same woman was posting a lot of know-it-all messages to the group: things like how she would fail any of her students who tried to provide composite characters for a creative non-fiction piece, and how she personally knew the illustrious editor of a "noted" site. If anyone wrote to him with a question and received no response, she would contact him and see to it that he did so.

Yeah, what an asshole. Reminded me of someone, somehow. Hmmm...could it be--ME?!?

I thought about replying yet again to the e-zine editor, but decided instead to blog about it.

BG and I believe in karma and the golden rule. Of course, I for one am not perfect, so I don't always, in my heart of hearts, follow the karma-axiom of putting your positive vibes, helpful deeds, etc. out there, wIthout expecting praise or appreciation in return.

We also subscribe to the notion that some experience that seems bad at the time can turn into something terrific later. So in this case, I have to admit that I did meet a few great writers that I corresponded with privately several times, and a few that I continue to e-mail back and forth.

Perhaps providing helpful links that I had culled did help other writers, some of whom did acknowlege my efforts.

And looking back, I know that my hypomanic self-righteousness made me look like an asshole to others and myself.
Let he amongeth you who is without typos cast the first nasty e-mail!

But the real beauty part? I got to write this piece and get it all off my chest.

And ironically enough, my in-box has now accumulated about a hundred unopened messages from my writer's groups, because I have become a "bad" member--too busy blogging to do my part for my fellow writer's in arms!

For a shamelessly cruel--and totally hysterical--look at the Gotham Writer's Workshop, see Harris Bloom's Memoirs of a Memoir Writing Class. This link will get you to chapter 10, but you can scroll down for links to all the previous chapters. Also check out the spellbinding Epilogue here.

Monday, June 06, 2005

AA Saints Bob and Bill

AA Saints Bob and Bill
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
The founding fathers of the AA fellowship, as portrayed here by BG, were not as angelic as they appeared. I hereby allege that Dr. Bob died a drunk and Bill W was a lustful adulterer. This is not the sort of thing that is discussed at a typical AA meeting.

For more on the darker side of the fellowship, see AA: Threat or Menace?

AA anniversary party-o-rama

AA anniversary party
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
Here's a typical AA anniversary party as BG saw it for AA: Threat or Menace? As soon as we joined this particular AA group, we somehow found ourselves constantly setting up, cleaning up, buying the cakes, serving the cakes--all in the name of AA "service"--and because the other members were just not "reliable."

"AA: Threat or Menace?" special anniversary edition

AA Skank boy
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
Since a picture is worth at least a thousand words, and my very first post, AA: Threat or Menace? was probably a lot longer than that, I thought it only fitting to add some of BG's illustrations for that old piece here. At the time I wrote the AA story, I didn't know from flickr, so I couldn't figure out how to add them in.

This is Skank Boy, one of our lovely AA brothers in arms. Malordorous, obnoxious, pushy, arrogant--but other than that, a really nice, decent guy.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Young Ezra Pound, Shithouse rat mascot

Young Ezra Pound
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
Here is BG's portrait of psycho-genius poet Ezra Pound (1885-1972), in 1913 at the age of 28. During that year, Pound resided with fellow legendary modern poet W. B. Yeats at Stone Cottage in Sussex, England, where the two delved into the occult. During the next year, he married English artist Dorothy Shakespear and met T. S. Eliot. He sent Eliot's seminal work, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," to the journal Poetry, where it was subsequently published in 1915. During that year, Pound also began his Cantos, a major endeavor in his long, illustrious career.

Here is a snippet from Pound's Canto LXXXI, which BG loved to recite while drunk:

What thou lovest well remains,
the rest is dross
What thou lov'st well shall not be reft from thee
What thou lov'st well is thy true heritage
Whose world, or mine or theirs
or is it of none?
First came the seen, then thus the palpable
Elysium, though it were in the halls of hell,
What thou lovest well is thy true heritage.

For more on Ezra Pound's wild and crazy life, see my previous post: Ezra Pound, Psychotic Genius Poster Boy. For a bitchin' W. B. Yeats poem, see The Second Coming.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Publish or perish, Part 1

Mailboxes 2
Originally uploaded by darko138.
Ah, yes, the empty mailbox...the bane of every aspiring writer; as dreaded as the legendary writer's block.

For an unpublished author, even finding yet another rejection letter in your mailbox in response to yet another of your precious "babies"--your beloved manuscripts or proposals--being launched into the cruel world to test their wings would at least be proof that you indeed exist. The rejection letter (and there are varying degrees thereof, some better than others) signfies that you ARE a writer, that your words are being received and responded to by another entity, instead of existing in a limbo-like void! But sadder still is the mailbox filled only with bills and junk mail because the would-be writer has never sent a single query or manuscript to an editor for consideration in the first place.

When I was first trying to get my work published, I experienced a daily mailbox angst. Back then, e-mailing back and forth to editors was not an option, at least not for me. I had an old battleaxe of a p.c., but no connection to the internet, which had not yet reached the user-ubiquitousness it has achieved today. So it was the old snail mail agony--and snail mail from editors could often mean weeks, if not months, of waiting for a reply.

As a newbie, I struggled mostly on my own. Since I wrote propaganda for a living for a major NYC university, I knew how to write. I could craft the blab-vertising for the Man, all right--you'd be surprised at just how many different ways there are to say something is wonderful, marvelous, flawless, and the best in the land--but for many years never really dreamed of writing freelance, for newspapers, with a byline.

About 18 years ago, I had my first hypomanic attack, and it was a doozy. I started hatching multiple schemes--get married and have a huge reception, teach an editing class, go for a second master's (or a second and third simulaneously), convince my Luddite boss to explore computer applications for our office as of yesterday, and on and on. But of all the ideas that popped into my fevered noggin at the time, the one that bore the most delicious fruit was my decision to take a journalism course through the university I worked for.

Although I had received an MA in English through this same university (tuition free, since I was also an employee), this particular course did more to help me understand newspaper and magazine publishhing than any class I'd ever taken before.

The prof was a great, affable guy with a lot of publishing creds under his belt. He had a bulletin board called the Wailing Wall where he posted rejection letters--including his own. He started the first class with a quote from, I believe, Samuel Johnson, who supposedly said something to the effect of "Anyone who writes without getting paid to do so is a fool."

We were taught how to research a publication we were interested in by requesting a media kit (meant for potential advertisers) which would give us inside info about the pub's demographics, philosophy, and other nuggets of wisdom so that we could determine if our piece or idea would be a good "fit" for that particular pub. This was crucial, since one of most newbies' biggest mistakes is submitting a piece or idea to an inappropriate market, wasting their precious time as well as the editor's.

I learned that for nonfiction work submitted to newspapers and mags, the professional writer will often submit a query letter rather than the entire manuscript. This letter gives the editor a little tease--telling them what the author has in mind in brief and an idea of their style, as well as the author's qualifications for writing the story, their previous publishing experience, if any, and other info. From there--especially if one has compsed a killer query--one may get an invitation from the editor to submit the proposed piece for publication.

The prof granted an automatic A to anyone who could get an acceptance from a paying market. I submitted three queries. One of these was to the late, great Spy Magazine. I received a personal reply--not a form rejection letter--that said something kind about my submission, but regretted that they could not use it. I can't remember anything about the second. With my third query, I got a much more favorable response. The letter, sent to an editor at the Village Voice, was a proposal for a humorous piece about a "lingerie party" I had inadvertently attended at my now ex- boyfriend's sister's house on Long Island. This is very similar to a Tupperware party, except that the hostess hawks cheezy underthings with names like "Kiss Me," "Thrill Me," and "Take Me," rather than the microwaveable two-quart container or the jumbo multi-piece all-purpose food storage system.

Since my query gave an example of my style and humorous take on the proposed story, the Voice editor wrote back and said that although this topic had been done to death and she could not run with it, she really liked my style and would welcome further ideas from me.

This could have been my entree into writing for a major NYC alternative paper (which would, no doubt, pay me something for my efforts and give me that much-coveted byline every writer craves.) But shortly thereafter, I descended into a deep depression and my rejection/acceptance letter was filed away.

Years later, most probably in another hypomanic state, I decided to resume my writing in earnest. I managed to get a short piece run in the "Metropolitan Diary" section of the NY Times, as well as winning a New York Press Best of NY reader's essay contest and getting a piece run there too. I did not receive payment for either of these pieces, but I was thrilled nonetheless. I had my first published "clips"--and they were good. They would serve me well when I submitted other proposals or pieces to editors to demonstrate I knew how to do it up right.

Then followed a long struggle to get more pieces in print. I read all the books I could find, and kept sending out queries. For some, I received personal responses, but nothing seemed to click. Then I heard of a continuing ed course taught bySusan Shapiro,a terrific writing teacher who was also a prolific freelancer with many NYC pub credits to her name.

I took several courses with Susan, and they were indeed the beginning of a very successful freelance run. For one of her courses, she invited a new editor from a pub each week, who gave us the inside scoop on what they were looking for, and how to approach the pub with queries and manuscripts. Sue urged us to send a follow-up thank you note to editors we were interested in writing for, and also enclose any clips we had, a formal query, and maybe a new writing sample.

I did this for two editors from major NYC mags, and established a long fruitful freelance relationship with both. I had over 90 pieces publlshed in about 18 months for these two papers and another local rag that let me write on just about any idea I could come up with. I did music and book reviews and features, as well as a few humorous essays. I had arrived--a real published writer at last, paid for her efforts!

I finally abandoned the freelance gig in exhaustion, since I was also still doing my 9 to 5 writing gig as well, and it became too much. However, I recently started this blog so I could write about anything that came into my hypomanic little mind, without an editor or client looking over my shoulder and advising me on style, length, tone, subject matter, or intended audience.

Months before starting this blog--way before it ever occurred to me to do so--I joined a number of on-line writer's groups. There are a bewildering array to choose from, but I chose one nationwide group with a lot of members, and two of the more popular NYC-based ones, to start.

I soon found myself going through deja-vu from the moment I opened my in-box each day. There were many newbies who were suffering the same struggles and frustrations I had when I started out. But the difference was, perhaps, that I learned a lot of things on my own, the hard way--through experiencing and dealing with rejection, and having the guts to send my work or ideas out into the cruel world after editing and re-editing it to "perfection." I had never been a joiner, so instead of enlisting the help of support groups, I took courses with published authors and voraciously read how-to-get-published books. I learned a lot that way. And now that I had the internet, I discovered and bookmarked myriad writer's sites, e-pubs, and other invaluable resources that would have helped me immensely back in the day.

But with several of the e-groups I joined, many newbie members didn't seem as resourceful. A few had no chance, since thier sample short work or poem was filled with egregious typos, just to start. Others were so green that they worried about attaching the copyright notice to their work (completely unnecessary) lest someone steal their totally original and brilliant ideas. Some had finished, or were working on their first novel, but had no publishing experience, since they had never tested the waters by sending out a short story or article query to a real live editor. One poor gentleman had about 10 or 15 book manuscripts under his belt, but had so far, after many, many years, still not succeeded in getting an agent to acquire even one. His theory was that in the present book publishing environment, only celebs could hope to get a book deal.

Others would write in, plaintively asking for help in locating an agent for their book. Though I was not in the market for a book deal myself, a brief websearch and link-crawl led me to this essential info: never pay an agent anything for reading your manuscript. No reputable agents will charge any up front fees. There are a lot of dubious agencies out there just looking to steal a starry-eyed newbies dollars, so an agent should at the very least be a member of the Association of Author's Representatives. This was aside from the fact that a good agent was probably swamped with acquired author's works and other desperate requests for representation, so it would be tough going for a newbie to get an audience with the good ones. However, there were ways to get a foot in the door by attending writer's conferences where agents and publishers might attend, and researching which agent or publishing house a favorite author in a similar genre to your own had signed with.

But my newbie group members apparently never utilized the wealth of info literally at their fingertips. Instead, it was a sad case of the blind leading the blind, as they asked mostly unqualified members to assist them.

In fact, one of the most valuable tips I received from one of my "how to get published" books was this: Never show a story to a friend. If you show a story to friends, family members, etc. each will say it's great, but maybe change the ending, the beginning, blah blah blah. This tends to lead to head-splitting migraines and perhaps even, in some cases, chucking the thing into the bottom of a drawer and going back to pursuits offering more immediate gratification, like doing the Times Crossword or writing letters to the editor.

To me, submitting work to other newbies seemed like this sort of risky endeavor. But I needn't have worried--there was little in the way of constuctive crit to be found here. I had the feeling that many simply pushed the delete button as soon as they saw a message entitled: "new poem" or "my story." And after all, people were trying to get their own stuff read--why waste time reading other's efforts?

So a few members would post their stories daily, or even several times daily, hoping for a little instant gratification. One poor man had gathered his numerous stories into a large number of e-books, and had them with a POD (print on demand) e-publishing house/website. Many of these services involve submitting your manuscript, which will be accepted without reservation by the company, as long as you pay the fee for them to set it up.

The writer's books were definitely G-rated, and he "warned" his potential readers of this. However, when you clicked on the main site, the first thing you encountered was a book the POD site was apparently pushing hard--namely, a new translation of Mein Kampf.

When you did get into the author's little page, the books were all listed there. However, neither the publisher nor the author had made the vaguest attempt to interest the potential buyer in the works. There was virtually no description of what was in store, other than a few short sentences about the whole series. No sample chapters to draw the reader in and give them a reason for buying. No marketing/distribution plan to get the word out there. As a result, the poor guy had sold not a one.

So instead, he started virtually daily postings of his funny little stories to our group. They were a little corny, but I and others wrote in response to some of the stories. People genuinely thought they were delightfull and funny. But this group was the only forum where he could find any recognition for his efforts. I guess that's something.

Another group member posted chapters from his novel in progress regularly. I sometimes replied with encouraging comments, since I liked his style. But I didn't see much in the way of feedback from others, and even this writer never wrote as much as a thank you for my positive feedback. He also was rather pompous and full of himself, and would post recommended "reading lists" (usually some World War II related books that looked way boring). He also sent missives about his journey of self-discovery: how his characters and the plot came together in unexpected ways, etc. But after awhile, these constant self-centered messages became grating, esp. since virtually no one responded to them but me, on occasion.

There was one memorable message from this man, entitled "Craftsmanship." In it, he started with the premise that when we take our car in to be repaired, we expect them to do a good job for the money we pay them. Similarly, when he wrote--even just informally, as when dashing off an e-mail--he always strove to make it the best gosh darn note he could muster.

Then the analogy took an alarming turn. This forty-something writer started to describe his job, which he said generated a lot of money--for his employer, since he had to do the work of four people. Turns out his day gig was working the donut assembly line at the local Wal Mart, where he took extraordinary pride in his work.

Unlike donuts from other stores, he always made the extra effort to make sure his were of uniform size and shape, and generally prepared with loving care. When visiting other donut places, he was disgusted with the lack of attention being paid to quality standards. He asserted that certainly, these donuts might taste good, but because of the slipshod way in which they were made, they would never pass his lips.

I felt sorry for this obviously literate man, with his dreams of instant fame and fortune from his novel-in-progress, who spent his days trying to maintain some little shred of self-esteem while working the Walmart donut line. I'm sure it was an honest living, but somehow I wouldn't be advertising it if I were him. In any case, it made me feel even more sorry for him, alone at his computer, madly posting his chapters and random thoughts not just to our group, but to a bunch of other groups simultaneously. Again, where was the effort to put a toe in the big scary waters of the real world--to send a short work (I knew he'd e-published a little poetry) to a real live editor and see how they responded?

ATTENTION ASPIRING NOVELISTS AND WRITERS: For an inside look/reality check on how a typical editor views some unsolicited submissions, check out I Do not have Time to Read this Crap at PCQuill. Then, for uplifting inspiration, go onward to Rejection Letters (A Must Read) at the same excellent site.