Women do that, why?

by Amy Bernstein

I have been thinking a great deal lately about the way that women treat each other. Not just in general, but about the way women I know have ended friendships, or had other women do that to them. 

I had it happen to me many years ago, my dearest childhood friend suddenly stopped speaking to me.  There was no explanation or reason given.  it was just, suddenly, over. And, not being one to let go of anything over a mean 30 years, I still wonder about it.  Although, in the last year, I wound up talking to this woman's brother who said she had done it to him as well.  This made me feel a tad bit better. Maybe it was about her and not me at all? 

The same thing happened to my mother, who lost her dearest friend this way and wondered about it for years. By the time she called when my mother was dying, saying she had to "rush over and take care of her," it was too late. 

I have never heard of a man doing this.  Other things, sure, but not this. I recently wrote a short story about this.  Any thoughts?

Not being treated nicely

by Amy Bernstein

Most of the time, literary magazines try their best to treat us writers well, but sometimes, we happen upon an exception. Sadly, I had an exception experience with a new Lit magazine recently. There are several literary magazines that pride themselves on their respectful treatment of authors; apparently, Pangyrus does not aspire to be one of these. A new magazine, they have already shown that being respectful to authors is not their top priority.  I am writing to let other authors know what happened, so that they can consider these facts before submitting their work to this magazine.

I met the editor of this brand new magazine at GRUB street’s Muse and the Marketplace conference.  I have been a member of GRUB street for ten years, and have always found them to be a great writer’s community, concerned and helpful towards writers and their work.  Naturally, then, I assumed Pangyrus was probably a reputable concern if it was allowed a booth at the conference.  I sent them a story.   Pretty quickly, I received an E-mail saying that the editor liked the story, but thought it needed some rewrites and it was completely up to me if I wanted to make changes.  I wrote back, saying that I was open to suggestions, and if I agreed with them, would make changes.  My only condition was that, he would state that if I made the changes, the story would appear in his magazine.  I was unwilling to rewrite on a maybe.  He assured me if I could fix what he saw as some problems with the story, it would appear.

            There followed a period of nine months in which I made changes(they seemed like mostly good ideas to me, they didn’t change the story in any way that bothered me,) sent them, and then badgered the editor for a response. Since he didn’t answer my E-mails, (which should have been a tip off, right away, but I figured he was so busy…) I found a phone number for him at his office and called until I reached him.  He then sent the story back with some needed smaller changes.  I rewrote, and went through the business of trying to get feedback again, and again. Somewhere in there, he invited me to a party for the magazine.  There, I was introduced as “someone who was putting a story in the next issue,” which was nice. This all went on for almost a year. I was patient.  Several times I asked to be reassured about my story’s eventual publication in the magazine, and was reassured.

            You have undoubtedly guessed the end.  When the story finally satisfied him, he submitted it to another reader…months passed…then he wrote to tell me that- oops, sorry, she hadn’t liked it and so the magazine would not publish the story.  Mind you, I didn’t even get a phone call, just an E Mail to tell me this and apologize for his “mistake”.  He guessed he hadn’t really understood the process, he was new, etc.  A year was wasted not sending this story to other magazines, hours and hours were spent on writing changes most of which would now not be used. 

I guess I learned something, though. I think it is important that we ask for assurances of publication to be made in writing before agreeing to spend our time and effort on rewrites or changes. And I know I am going to stay away from this particular magazine in future.

(Letter published in The Review Review, 1/10/2-17)


So glad the Memorial Service for my mother is over: Something I wrote for it.

by Amy Bernstein

This summer, when I arrived at the beach that we used to call “Frank MacDonald’s” beach and then just “Frank’s Beach,” and later “The Climb Down Beach,” but which should have rightly been called “Margery’s Beach,” because she loved it so much more than anyone else, I told the cliffs and the sand and the ocean that she had died.  I had to tell them. How could such wild things know about a death that had taken place within the confines of the machine that is New York City? When I shouted this dry fact from below, the red clay cliffs did not fold heavily inward, tumbling to the sea, the grey granite did not burst apart, exploding from within, the white limestone didn’t collapse, or crumble to powder bringing the green grasses which clashed as always with the blue sky down into the grey sea and onto the white sand beach.

 The cliffs and the beach and the green kept on standing.  They remained beautiful and wild. How?  How can that be?  How can that place continue to be and to be beautiful without her love?  Even when she was far away, her love sustained it.

            Every day I ask myself, how can I do it?  Live and love and read and write and sleep and work and cry and laugh without her love to sustain me?  Even while I am asking, life goes on, the beach goes on.  I don’t understand. 

The problem with rescue organizations, like Save a Dog, and Friends of Homeless Animals

by Amy Bernstein

The problem with rescue organizations, like Save a Dog, and Friends of Homeless Animals


Having adopted four rescue dogs in my life, and being ready for another I proceeded unprepared into the minefield that is animal rescue these days. I moseyed casually over to my local humane society, planning to walk between rows of dogs, play with some and pet them and see if one was the dog for me.  In case one was, I expected to sign some papers, pay a low fee, and walk out with my new best friend.


No such luck. I didn’t know that in the last many years people in New England and other areas up north, had gotten so good about adopting mutts, rather than buying pedigrees that now the mutts were at a premium. No longer does one stroll the rows of needy dogs.  Now, in many places, you must make an appointment to “meet and greet,” the dog of choice that you have already selected on the Internet. If this sounds like computer dating to you, it does to me also.  Except that I am too old to have ever done any of that and don’t really know what it is like. But I have always pictured that you read a description of both the appearance and the personality of the available dates, choose on that basis and hope for the best. This is the process for picking out a dog now. 


I cannot see how you can know anything about a dog (or person for that matter,) in this way, but I was game to give it a try. So, on the site of one of these places, I picked out a likely looking dog and asked to meet him. Oh, no, I was informed.  First I had to be approved.  I had, it appears, to audition for the part of that dog’s owner.  Well, I used to be an actor, I knew about auditions… so “ok,” I said, “bring it on.”  I filled out an application that included… really… the name and age of everyone in my household, the name and age of every animal in the household, the name and number of my vet so that they could make sure I had taken proper care of said animals (They didn’t ask for the name of my children or husband’s doctor to see how I had taken care of them, I don’t know why,) the names and numbers of three references, (presumably people who had never seen me beat up the turtle,) and my reason for wanting this particular dog, or any dog.  At this point, it began to remind me of applying to college.  I should have just sent them my standard “why I want to attend your school, essay.”


I filled it all out, like a good girl, sent it in, (they actually did call all those people, in case you are wondering.) Then I was told that they needed to do a “home visit.”  When I reacted to this with “You’re kidding me?” no one laughed.  In fact, a sense of humor seems to be singularly lacking in the people who guard the gateway of dog ownership these days.  What they’re doing is undoubtedly good and kind, helping these animals find good home, but it is not such a serious matter as, say famine relief, or curing cancer, and even the people who work in those jobs seem more open to laughter than this bunch. 


Okay, someone came to my house.  It looked to them like a house should look, I guess. No beaten, starving animals were on display, so I was approved.   Or I thought I was approved…I passed inspection, didn’t I?  Of course, the original dog I had asked about had been long gone to another home by now.  A few weeks later, I saw another sweet looking critter, and gave them a call.  I was told that 4 people had already called about this pooch.  “That’s okay,” I said, “I am already approved.”  That was great!  It gave me first dibs, I guess, ahead of those other people.  “Could I meet the dog?”  I asked. Oh, I was told.  “She’s in Texas. She will be here next week. Then we have to get her checked out and all.  But” she said, “I don’t see anywhere it says you are approved.  Did you pay?” she asked.  “No,” I said, “I haven’t even met a dog yet.”  Oh, she said.  Then you are not approved. “ You have to put down a deposit on a particular dog to be approved. You are person #5 for this dog.”


If this story was about one loony shelter, and there were plenty of others around that were normal, I would probably have just gone somewhere else and forgotten the whole thing right there.  But I soon discovered that many shelters are like this now.  In fact, one told me they wouldn’t even bring the dog here until I had officially adopted her sight unseen. Very like buying a pig in a poke, no? Or, they said, I could Skype with the dog.  I kid you not.


I have to wonder about younger people who have full-time jobs, or parents who work, do they have the time and energy to go through all this?  Is rescue dog adoption becoming something that only people with leisure time on their hands can do? An option open only to the wealthy? When one shelter asked to interview my husband, who doesn’t even like dogs, and was doing all this as a favor to me, and then said I had to bring in my 13 year old present dog who vomits every time he rides in a car, to meet the prospective dog, I gave up.


It really is enough to send me to a breeder or a puppy mill, much as that is against my values. They don’t even cost much more.  I know the people who are involved in these rescue operations mean well.  They want to help the animals and make sure they are treated in a humane way.  But I think they run the risk of forgetting that we people are also animals, and we also have feelings.  Getting to go to a shelter and pick out a dog used to be one of the most joyous experiences a dog lover could have.  Now it has become a miserable trial by fire.


Amy Bernstein

59 Gilbert Street

Framingham, Ma 01702