Lay the Favorite is the true story of Beth Raymer’s years in the high-stakes, high-anxiety world of sports betting—a period that saw the fall of the local bookie and the birth of the freewheeling, unregulated offshore sports book, and with it the elevation of sports betting in popular culture. As the business exploded, Beth emerged with her integrity intact—wiser, sharper, and nobody’s fool. A keen and compassionate observer of the adrenaline-addicted roguish types who become her mentors, her enemies, and her family, Beth depicts her insanely colorful world teeming with pathos and ecstasy. In this letter to readers, Beth shares some of the emotions she went through in putting her very personal history in writing.
Following the publication of my memoir, Lay the Favorite, I gave a reading at a bookstore in Pittsburgh. I stood behind a podium and shared stories of my journey from stripper to managing (and modeling for) adult websites, to working for gamblers and bookies. When the evening was over, I packed up my belongings. A young woman approached me. By the tension in her smile, I could tell she was nervous. After some small talk, she came clean.
“When I was twenty-three, I was a total stripper, too!” She whispered.
The woman, who was now married and living in the suburbs, was a voracious reader and had recently signed up for a writing class. She desperately wanted to tell her story but was paranoid of what others would think of her. She couldn’t bring herself to save her writing “to cloud… or even junk drive!”
Her question to me was: “How do you deal with being judged?”
Though I had a lot of fun, and made a lot of money, working in the subcultures that attracted me, I was never particularly proud of the ways I made a living. I certainly never told my family about it (they only found out about my “back-story” when they read my book). However, the shame I felt never stopped me from writing about my personal experience. I wanted to be a writer and the only way to be a writer is to make oneself vulnerable. If anything, my shame fueled my desire to put my most intimate thoughts and experiences on the page. It was the only way I knew to connect with the reader. After all, from their perspective, what’s the purpose in spending 240 pages with a character if she doesn’t let you in on her mistakes, her shortcomings, and the secrets she holds so dear?
I was raised Catholic. I am from a small town in Ohio. Was I judged? Yes.
This is something I’ve come to understand: with memoirs, more so than with novels, readers and reviewers tend to judge the writer’s personality, which somehow takes precedence over the story and the writing. Therefore, there’s something very high-stakes about giving a first-person account.
But as the old saying goes: fortune favors the bold. The way I felt the first time I held my book and, later, saw my life portrayed on the big screen, was worth all the sneers and personal attacks that came my way.
So, dear reader, I ask you this: What’s your secret? What keeps you from sharing it? Would you be willing to confess, if you got a book deal?
I hope that you will enjoy Lay the Favorite and find much to discuss in your book club. I can be in touch via e-mail or Skype.