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  • An Instant Shrink for Writers: Betsy Lerner Revises THE FOREST FOR THE TREES
An Instant Shrink for Writers: Betsy Lerner Revises THE FOREST FOR THE TREES
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The Ambivalent Writer, The Natural, The Wicked Child, The Self Promoter, The Neurotic: which one are you? These are the first five chapter titles of Betsy Lerner's (agent, writer, editor) book, The Forest for the Trees. It was first published in 2000, and I've probably read it yearly since buying it. (Note picture of worn book reflecting clutching, bathtub reading, and talismanic lifting to heart, kissing, and offering to God.) Now a revised version has launched. Lerner's book will always be on top of my constantly changing top ten writing books list. Not because it teaches one better ways to write, not because it teaches one how to navigate the shoals of publishing, and not because it will teach you a guaranteed way to get an agent (though it will help with all the above) but because it takes you to the other side of the desk and holds up a mirror. An unflinching mirror held in a sympathetically lit room. Lerner holds your hand; she interprets your dreams (and the meaning of query responses) and scolds when needed. In other words, you'll get a writer's shrink for the cost of a trade paperback. Most notable, is Lerner's writing. Clear as water, cool as the same, and welcome as a brownie to a food addict, her words entertain, teach, and soothe. Plus, very important for someone (um, me) who will cry at the slightest sense that someone actually does not like her, Lerner does not scold. I've gone back to The Forest for the Trees through every stage of writing: While writing the (many) books that landed in the drawer, while writing the book that almost made it, and finally, blessedly, while writing the book that got published. When I searched for an agent, I read this book as though searching for the missing link of humanity. When I searched for a second agent (after the literary divorce,) yes, back to Betsy. When I got the agent, when she sold my book, when I tried to figure out what my editor was thinking and why the entire publicity didn't have me on speed dial: Betsy, Betsy, Betsy. The Forest for the Trees was my long term Effexor, my short hit of Xanax, and my glass of wine and I recommend self-medicating two ways: 1) take as needed. 2) Read minimum once per annum.

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