Monday, April 23, 2018

Row Your Boat By Christine Gunderson

People who’ve lost a loved one say grief is a process. Rejection is like that, too. When one of those bad news emails lands in my inbox, I work my way through the writer’s stages of grief.

First, I turn to my good friends Godiva, Lindt, and Hershey. I tell my husband and one kind friend. Then I turn to my writing buddies. 

My writing buddies have also been rejected more times than they can count. And they know rejection doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer with a bad book. It means my book wasn’t right for that person at that particular time. 

They need to remind me of this, because after the chocolate wears off, I start to tell myself I was rejected because I’m saddled with a dream I don’t have the talent to make come true.

People tell us dreams are good. You’ve seen the cards and t-shirts. 

Believe in your Dreams!
Dream Big!
Make all your Dreams Come True!

Whatever, Oprah.

Strip away the unicorns and glitter hearts, and you’ll notice that dreams have a dark side, and it’s called rejection. 

Maybe it’s your dream to be a president, or a prime minister. But if you run and lose, you have to live with the knowledge that you’ve been rejected by an entire country.  That’s harsh. 

Like so many of us, I didn’t want this dream. I didn’t ask for it. But there it is inside me anyway, kind of like a flu virus. Or a really bad cold. 

Because our dreams live deep inside us, with their roots entwined around our hearts and minds, we can’t remove them. Cut them out and we excise our passions and ideas. And who wants to live like that? The only thing worse than having a dream is not having a dream.

In the end, dreams are sort of like bad roommates who leave dirty dishes in the sink and don’t pay their rent on time. They’re difficult, but we have to find a way to live with them anyway. 

In my case, that means doing everything in my power to make my dream come true. It means not giving up.

When the chocolate is gone, I go to and remind myself that Gone with the Wind was rejected 38 times. I re-read the inspirational quotes hanging all over my office. 

They range from the profane: 
“Be prepared to fail over and over again. Embrace the suck. Talent is good, but tenacity is better.”

To the divine:
“For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. 
Plans to give you hope and a future.” 
Jeremiah 29:11

And I remind myself that it takes an average of ten years for a first-time author to be published. The debut novel you see in the bookstore may be the fifth or sixth or seventh manuscript that author wrote. You don’t see those other attempts because they were rejected long before they got anywhere near Barnes and Noble.

I started this adventure about four years ago. So, if I’m average, I only have six years of rejection left!!! But it could take longer. Or I could get an offer tomorrow. I don’t know, and I can’t control it. I can only take classes and constructive criticism, keep growing and learning and most importantly, keep writing.

A wise friend once told me, “God doesn’t row.” She explained that the higher power running the universe steers the boat and controls the direction and the destination of the journey. But I have to row the boat and do the work. Only I can propel my boat forward. 

So that’s what I’m doing now. Pulling the oars. Plugging away. One word in front of the other. Doing what I love because I love it. And because for whatever reason, this is my dream. 


Christine Gunderson is a former television anchor and former House and Senate aide who lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband, three children and Star, the Wonder Dog.  When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasion or unloading the dishwasher. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Fact of Life by Patty Blount

Rejection comes in many forms.

  • a romantic interest is unrequited
  • a job or promotion goes to someone else
  • a family member writes you off
  • friends disappear
  • and yes...a book you pour your soul into doesn't get picked up

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was when I was a child and my grandmother told me that not everyone is going to like you. Some people will simply despise you for no fault of your own. And others will love you. 

At the time, those words struck me like bullets. I mean who doesn't want to be universally loved? 

But as I got older, proof of her words struck me just as hard... I was not popular in school. I have had people take one look at me and simply not like me on sight. I've had jobs go to others and I've had dear friends fade away with no explanation, including one whose life I saved with a Heimlich maneuver. An entire branch of my family doesn't speak to me. And yes, I've had a book (more than 1) not sell. 

How do you deal? How do you cope? How do you move on? 

For me, the secret is to Act As If. 

I allow myself to feel the sting. And it always stings. 


(Especially that friend I mentioned who almost died.) But then, I force myself to move on. 

In 2015, I finaled in RWA's Rita Award contest with Some Boys. I signed a new 2-book deal and was supposed to write a new family-drama series called Nothing Left. Book 1 was Nothing Left to Burn. Book 2 was Nothing Left to Lose. Book 3 was Nothing Left to Say. 

I happily wrote Burn, a novel about teen volunteer firefighters. It um...well, it crashed and burned. It did so badly, Lose was outright rejected by the publisher, even though I wrote the whole thing. Lose was about teen race car drivers. 

Both of these stories remain among my favorites. 

And poor Say got retitled as The Way It Hurts, my rock and roll release from last summer. 

Before that, I'd pitched and written book 1 in a horror trilogy that my agent said "Nope. Not selling right now. Shelve it." 

Those 3 books are 250,000 words I sweated and lost sleep over. Does it hurt? You bet it hurts. After my pity party, I FORCE myself to start the next project, or hang with the people who DO like and/or love me. I act as if nothing's wrong, that I'm not the Worst Person / Writer/ Friend in the World. 

Oddly enough, it works. I manage to feel better. In fact, it hasn't failed me yet. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018


I started writing full-time in 2001. Seven and a half years, multiple manuscripts (I honestly lost count of how many books I wrote), and more than 1,000 rejection letters later, I sold my first book.

Back in my pre-published days, rejection was awful. I remember keeping track of my requests for full manuscripts on a calendar, getting more and more excited as the days and weeks piled up. (Because if it was taking that long for them to get back then SURELY it must be good, right? They must have been sooo excited about the book, they were right at that moment getting ready to send me a contract, right, right, right?????) And then, I’d get my SASE back (yep, when I first started subbing, it was paper queries sent via snail mail), and with my heart in my tonsils, I’d slowly peel the envelope open, hold my breath, and work up the courage to peek inside.

And it was always a no.

It hurt and at certain markers (usually in the spring, which indicated that yet another year of full-time writing had come to a close), it would send me into something of a tailspin.

Now, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s not that I love writing any less or dream any less or want to grow my readership any less or see my books on bookstore or library shelves any less or…

You get the point.

It’s that I know for a fact that a “No” is not the end of the road. Ten “No”s are not the end of the road. One thousand “No”s are still not the end of the road.

It also helps that I’ve branched out, and now release work on my own, independently. Sometimes, books don’t fit with traditional publishing. Take ALL ROADS, which I released last fall (not in any way meant to be a pun, considering that “end of the road” business in the previous paragraph). It’s very short (around 20K words), and it features five narrators, one of which is an animal. No traditional publisher would touch that book. But it is quickly becoming one of my most-read independent works, has been the featured book in reading groups, etc.

The point is, what would have once been a drawer manuscript is now out in the world. As authors, we have so many options. Far more than we had when I started in 2001. Don’t fear the “No.” Listen, revise, learn your craft. Never stop improving. Never stop dreaming. If you want to write, write. Period. If you want to publish, publish.

It’s never the end of the road.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Rejection Taboo (Alissa Grosso)

We've all heard the stories of now famous books that were initially rejected by publishers. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was rejected by 12 publishers, Dune was rejected by 20, A Wrinkle in Time by 25 and Gone with the Wind by a whopping 40. These are the feel-good stories that help to boost the morale of aspiring writers dealing with the sting of rejection. But there are a lot more stories of rejection that we don't hear.

It's not only aspiring writers who must face rejection. Because having a book published, winning literary awards or landing on the bestseller lists does not guarantee that the books you write will be accepted by publishers. Publishing is a fickle business. Books get rejected for a host of reasons. Maybe the author's last book didn't sell as many copies as the publisher hoped, maybe the book they are trying to sell has a similar theme to another book the publisher has coming out, maybe the publisher is concerned that the genre or trope of the work is no longer in vogue. Maybe it's too much of a departure from the author's previous work--Madeleine L'Engle had published numerous books before A Wrinkle in Time, but they were all realistic, contemporary titles.

In the publishing world, there is a taboo in talking about rejection or really any bad news. If you follow authors you like on social media, you will likely see them happily crowing about their latest success, but what you're less likely to see is any news about setbacks they are facing in their careers. It's all about public relations and it's tied into the notion that success breeds success. Talking about rejection of an unpublished project is taboo because there's the not-unfounded fear that this could detract from an author's current book sales or even hurt their chances of selling another book to a publisher.

If you follow an author on Twitter or Facebook, and it seems like a long time since they've said anything about a new book coming out, you might assume that they are simply taking a long time to write their next book or maybe that they've gotten too distracted by other things and aren't writing at all. That could be the case, or it could be that they wrote a book or perhaps a few books that have not yet been accepted for publication.

I know this for a fact, because I've been in this position. Talking about books that have been rejected and remain unpublished is simply not something that's done. It's why for years I could provide nothing but vague answers on social media to friends and followers who asked about my next book. The only reason I'm even talking about it now is because that book has finally been published.

Authors have different options for their unpublished books. They can tuck these manuscripts away and try to sell them again at a later date, they can banish them to the dark depths of their filing cabinet never again to see the light of day or they can take it upon themselves to bring those books to the world through non-traditional means. I have chosen this third option for my book Unnamed Roads, and earlier this month I published this rejected book myself.

Here I am proudly showing off a copy of my newly published book.

Publishers don't usually share with authors the reason a book is rejected, so I can't give a definitive answer as to why Unnamed Roads was turned down. I think there might have been a couple of reasons. The first is that my previous two books, published by a small press didn't sell like gangbusters. There wasn't much of a marketing effort by the publisher for either book and sales were slow for both. Publishers are in the business of making money, after all, and so this sales data would have been considered when Unnamed Roads was being pitched to editors.

The second reason might have been the quiet nature of the book. It's contemporary YA fiction, which tends not to be too flashy. It doesn't center on any hot, controversial topics. It's a simple, coming of age story about a teenage girl who goes on a road trip with her somewhat eccentric grandmother and a boy from her class to track down the mother she's never known. It's not shocking or scintillating, but it's a book I've believed in for awhile, which is why I decided to take it upon myself to share it with the world.

It's been nearly six years since my last traditionally published book came out, so what you might be wondering is, is this all I've managed to write in that time? Well, the short answer is no. The longer answer is: I can't tell you any more about that at this time because of publishing taboos and such, but maybe one of these days I can share with you some good news and I can gleefully tell you my own story of publishers that rejected a book that ultimately went on to become an enduring classic. Well, a writer can dream, and all writers should dream.

So, if you are an aspiring writer and frustrated and disheartened by rejections you have received, just know that it happens to pretty much all writers at all stages in their career and that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Alissa Grosso is the author of the books Unnamed Roads, Popular, Ferocity Summer and Shallow Pond. She makes vlogs and podcasts about her Awkward Author life. Find out more and get a free book at

Saturday, April 14, 2018

#PERSEVERE (by Nancy Ohlin)

I was watching Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC the other night, as I do pretty much every weeknight these days.  I didn’t used to be such a news junkie, but such are the times. 

It happened to be a very bad news day in what has been a year-plus of bad news days.  At some point during her commentary, after describing the drama and the chaos and the axes (and skies) about to fall, Maddow looked squarely at the camera and addressed her viewers with what may have been tears in her eyes and an expression of exquisite determination. 

She said:

“Drink more water than usual.  Eat your Wheaties, take your vitamins, get some good sleep, talk to your friends …”

Okay, so what does this have to do with the subject of rejection?


Rejection is awful.  I probably don’t need to back up that statement.  But I know what it feels like to spend months, years, writing a book through your blood and sweat and tears, a book you really believe in, a book you set aside the rest of your life to finish … only to have it rejected by every single agent and/or editor who reads it.

The best advice I ever received on how to deal with this awfulness is to persevere.  

Here’s how that works:  As soon as you send out a dozen queries to a dozen agents, immediately prepare queries for twelve more agents; that way, when the rejections start coming, you can fill up those dark spaces with new queries, new hope, new possibilities.  Repeat as necessary.

If you’re on submission, then as soon as your agent begins pitching your book to editors, you must begin writing a new book.  Or a new short story.  Or a new magazine article.  Anything to keep moving and creating … once again, it’s all about hope and possibilities.  This is infinitely better and healthier than biting your nails down to the bone and binge-watching Netflix while not hearing from your agent and not hearing from your agent and then finally hearing from your agent that all the editors have passed for various vague and unsatisfying and your-career-as-a-writer-is-over reasons. 

And here’s the most important part of this advice package (which BTW applies to other potential naysayers like readers, reviewers, and book award committees):  Do not set aside the rest of your life.  Drink plenty of water, eat well, take vitamins, sleep, socialize.  Spend quality time with your partners and children and pets.  Read good books.  Get a massage.  Take care of yourself. 

Because the rejections may keep coming, but they don’t have the power to gut you or immobilize you or define you.  You are not the sum of your rejections.  You are you, shining and spectacular as you put one foot in front of the other, tears in your eyes and wearing an expression of exquisite determination … and no agent or editor or other human being can ever take that away from you. 


Nancy Ohlin’s new YA series B*witch, with co-author Paige McKenzie, launches in Fall of 2019 from Disney.  Learn more at

Friday, April 13, 2018

Don't Listen to the 'NO'-It-Alls by Jodi Moore

"Don't listen to the 'no'-it-alls."

I’m not sure how many times my husband and I repeated this to our boys as they grew up. As they worked hard to pursue their own dreams. As they chanced…rejection.

“If it were easy,” we’d say, “everyone would do it.”

Of course, dealing with rejection itself is easier said than done.

It never ceases to shock me how critical and disparaging some adults can be to children – even other peoples’ children! Our first-born decided he wanted to study video game design from the day Santa brought his first Nintendo game system. I can’t even tell you how many tried to discourage him, saying, “Programmers are a dime a dozen.”

Thankfully, he didn’t care what anyone else thought then. He still doesn’t.

Our younger son began performing at the tender age of 4, first with magic, then branching out into theater, dance, acting, choreography and direction. When he was only 9, he designed and performed a one-man 45-minute magic show for the school district. As he came off stage after a benefit performance, he was greeted by a crowd of appreciative “fans”. 

However, one father asked, in a rather loud and snarky voice, “What? Do you think you’re going to be the next David Copperfield?”

Admittedly, my mama lion claws came out. 

But before I could even respond, my sweet little guy looked up at that tall man, smiled politely and said (in a rather loud and strong voice), “No. I plan on being the first Steven Moore.”

(I may have fist pumped from the sidelines.)

It was then I knew both of our boys would be okay in a rather difficult world.

As for me, well…

I spent most of my life writing, but never really considered turning my passion into a career until my boys were toddlers. It was then I rekindled my love for picture books. I began to craft stories. To submit.

And to get rejected.

Instead of rising above, I let it pull me down.

When our boys left for college, my husband encouraged me to get back to “what I was meant to do.”

Oh, how I wanted to…but the rejections! Was I tough enough?

“I’m not sure I can,” I answered. “It’s too hard.”

“What?” my boys asked me. “Have you been lying to us all these years?”

(Don’t you love it when your words come back to haunt you?)

You see, the thing is, I hadn’t. Not one little bit.

So, with their support and love, I moved forward. I wrote. I subbed. I got rejected.

With their support and hugs (lots of hugs!), I was able to deflect the “no-it-all”s.

And with their support – as well as the encouragement of so many in the kidlit world, I published my first book. Then my second. Then my third!

Yep, they’re my superheroes in every way. 

I still get rejections. And they still hurt. But they don’t stop me.

Because if it were easy, everyone would do it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Other Side of Rejection -- Maryanne Fantalis

This month we’re talking about rejection, and rather than reiterate how much it sucks to be rejected, I'd like to talk about the other side: doing the rejecting. As a reader, we get to say, "No way," to a book we don't like, but we don't think of it as rejection. For the space of this blog post, let's think about it that way.

Once, with a romance novel, the so-called hero made me extremely uncomfortable. Like so many romance novel leading men, he was muscle-bound and arrogant. Two strikes already, as far as I’m concerned. I mean, why would you want a guy like that?

Then, one morning, the heroine goes out into a field to look at some horses in her nightgown and robe (just go with it). He goes out of the house too, coming up behind her and touching her. He never speaks, never asks if he can. I’m not talking about putting his hands lightly on her shoulders or hips, or sliding a cozy arm around her in the old, “Hey, you must be cold” maneuver. That might have been a little romantic (or not; he is an arrogant jerk). No, he goes right for sexy-time. He has that “I-am-doing-this-and-you’ll-like-it” attitude. He never asks permission, just takes, because he's the man and he knows what she wants. And the heroine, timid and unsure, lets him.

No way, author. No way.

I dropped that book like an anvil.

More recently, I picked up one of those heart-warming books about healing and the power of love. I’m heading into the stressful last weeks of the semester, and I wanted something comfortable and easy. Plus, it was set in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, near the Continental Divide. How could I go wrong, right?


Clearly, this author had never set foot in Colorado, much less ever lived here like her characters supposedly did.

How could I tell? Well, let’s start with the fact that the main character – I’ll call her MC – complains early in the book about how they had just endured a solid week of rain. In March.

Now, let me tell you, if it’s precipitating in March in Denver, it’s snowing.

Here’s a picture from the building my office is in, on the campus of the University of Colorado in Boulder, on April 6th, last Friday.
This morning, April 9th, I woke up to snow. Couldn't see across the street. By the time I got to work, it was sunny. That’s just how it works here.

If it ever rains for a week – in fact, if it rains for more than a day – we’re probably talking 100-year floods like we had in 2013. That’s the last time they closed the schools here along the Front Range, by the way. Not for snow, but for rain.

Then, when MC gets to her dad’s place up in the mountains – yes, still in March – she’s not wearing boots and slogging through the snow. No. She’s all excited about how she’s going to help dad plant his garden. In March. In the mountains.

Okay, again. Do you see that picture? That’s Boulder in April. We’re not even in the mountains. If it weren't for the snow, you'd see mountains in that picture. We’re in the foothills, at about 5600 feet. MC and her dad are supposed to live near the Continental Divide, up around 14,000 feet. For comparison, Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the highest paved roads in the United States, is completely closed from at least September to May every year because of the snow.

This is my kids on April 12, 2008, almost exactly the same day this blog post is being published. We were in Rocky Mountain National Park at the Alluvial Fan, approximately 8600 feet of elevation. Does this look like garden planting conditions to you? (Note the shorts in the snow. That's Colorado.)

There’s no way you’re planting a garden in March, not in Boulder, and certainly not in the mountains near the Continental Divide. 

The old adage around here is that you don’t plant until Mother’s Day. We can easily get a frost in May and snow in June. 

This author did not understand the Rocky Mountains except as a stereotype.

The book wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t badly written. I didn’t hate it. But its lack of authentic, realistic detail killed it for me. If I lived anywhere else, I’m sure I wouldn't have noticed these issues. It would have served its purpose as a comfy read.


When an agent sends you a form rejection, when you get that email saying “your work just isn’t right for my list,” you crumple inside. You take it so personally. You think, “This agent hates me. My writing sucks. I am the worst writer ever.”

That’s not true.

Sometimes, it's not about your writing at all. Maybe you wrote about something that made the reader uncomfortable. Maybe you reminded them of a bad incident from when they were young (#MeToo). Maybe you got all the details wrong about a place they live, a place love with all their heart. Or maybe you just caught them on a bad day.

Sometimes it’s not you. It’s them.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Paralyzing Fear of Rejection (Jenny O'Connell)

There are people who are energized by rejection, the ones who look rejection in the face and become even more determined to succeed and prove people wrong. Rejection  becomes the fuel that keeps them moving forward, the catalyst needed to be even more determined to succeed and flip naysayers the bird.

Yeah, I'm not one of those people. I'm more like the other type of person. The one who avoids rejection (and the unsettling doubt and confirmation of fear of failure that accompanies it). It's a fear of rejection that has made my latest project a loooooooonnnnnnggggg time coming. Because I'm writing a sequel, and that means that it will no doubt be compared to the book that came before it. Why is that so bad? Well, let's look at some of the blog comments I've received from readers in the past (gulp) three years since announcing that there would be a sequel:

  • Please upload another excerpt…you’ve kept fans waiting for ages for this book that i think one is LONG OVERDUE!
  • It’s 2017 and once again no update and no book, #hopeless #reallyannoyed #dissapointed
  • So, when the date of launch this book? Please let me know.
And those are the kind ones (not the ones that pretty much say "WTF! Where's the sequel, you lazy, untalented, useless writer who can't even finish a freaking book!" - at least that's what I hear).

I've been so afraid of disappointing readers who enjoyed the first book, the ones who want to know what happens next to the characters, that it paralyzed me. I couldn't type a word without questioning if it was good or not. Because the thing is, rejection happens every day in life. There are the BIG rejections (not being admitted to a college, for example) and the not so big (you think someone is going to let you merge into their lane and they nudge you out without so much as an apologetic wave). But as writers who publish books, our rejections are BIG and PUBLIC and THERE FOR THE WHOLE WORLD TO SEE FOREVER! For the elation of every 5 star reader review on Amazon there's the self doubt and mortification that comes from a 3 star "meh" from a reader. And it never goes away! Years later everyone can still see how you failed just by googling your name.

The thing is, I know that not everyone loves every book, and that doesn't mean the book sucks. I have read books that are best sellers, critical darlings, favorites of my best friends, and I couldn't make it past chapter three. To each his own, I always tell myself - except when it hits too close to home. Then it's personal. It's one of the reasons I don't review books on public sites anymore unless I love them. I just don't think the world needs more critics, and writers who put their heart and soul into pouring words on a page certainly don't need my two cents. I have my opinion and I'll share it if asked, but I don't need to have my indelible words out there to make a writer feel bad about their effort. I'm just one person.

So, back to rejection. At some point, you have a choice. You can let rejection paralyze you, or can... try really hard to accept that rejection is a part of the process and hopefully you take its lessons and move on. I've pushed through my fear and the sequel to The Book of Luke will be out in May. I'm still fearful of disappointing readers, of having them feel like the sequel doesn't do the first book justice and it is a waste of their reading time. I'm even afraid it will taint their positive experience of the first book. But I wrote it anyway. And I hope that the experience has taught me that rejection will be a part of life, and if people don't like it, there's always another book to write and another opportunity to get it right. I'll always wonder if I could have done it better if I spent more time on it, but I think three years is my limit. Time to get it out there and move on. Time to reject my fear of rejection.

The sequel to The Book of Luke, The Next Chapter of Luke, will be available in May. Please be nice :)

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Captain Select Reject--By Kimberly Sabatini

One day, not so long ago, I was discussing one of my many writerly rejections with a friend and their comment to me was something along the lines of...

"Wow, you are so good with rejection."

I laughed pretty hard at that one. It's SO NOT TRUE.
But it got me thinking. 
I DO handle rejection in my field pretty darn well. 
But that isn't always the case in my "real life." 

In fact, dealing with life's rejections has been a major struggle for me. I've often reinvented myself to make other people happy and avoid feeling rejected by them. I even let my old neighbors make me cry on a regular basis (for three years) before I got up the courage to call out their behavior and then move. 
I can go on. I have have a long list, but I'll spare you. Just know, I feel confident when I tell you that dealing with rejection has NEVER been my thing.


Somewhere along the way, I felt an ironic gravitational pull towards rejection. Which feels so counterintuitive. Rejection getting you down? Want to avoid rejection? 

Become a writer. 


 But maybe that's not what happened. Perhaps I'd become tired of living the way I was. And when my level of discontent reached a breaking point, something had to change. So, I did the opposite of what WASN'T working for me. I gravitated to the very thing that is was my nemesis. 

 I put myself square in the path of some of my biggest fears BY becoming a writer. 

Now don't get me wrong, I still have moments when the rejection is at best daunting, and at it's worst, it's crushing. But I've been able to do some really healthy things to grow in this area. And I think it's been because of the separation of art and craft. In the back of my mind, I believe that my art is different than my craft. My craft is business and my art is personal. Publishing is my work, but my art is my heart and soul--it's ME. And this mindset has allowed me to build up my resistance to rejection. 

I don't know why I can more easily accept rejection in this one corner of my life. But, I've thought about it long and often, and I've decided on the most logical explanation I can think of...

it's my super power.

I'm Captain Defies Rejection When It's Craft Related. Captain Select Reject for short?

Do I wish I had a better super power?


I'd even settle for the ability to defy ALL rejection in a single bound.

But that's not in the cards for me. 

I'm always going to be worried about my place in the world. But, no matter how much my stomach might twist into knots about navigating life's obstacles, its nice to know I'll always have my writing. Because, no matter how many times you reject my art--I promise--to stand back up again. And bonus plan...
the next time you see me, the writing will be better and my future keynote speech will be even more inspiring. Da-da-da-da!

When it comes to your own writing, be sure to use your cape as your shield to protect your art and your heart. And when you give your craft room to be rejected, sometimes you grow in areas you never expected. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Unfortunately, Despite Our Best Efforts ( Joy Preble)

Rejection sucks. It hurts. It makes you sad. It makes you feel small and pointless and angry and bitter and less than.

We also know it's mostly not personal, just the nature of the business, except it usually feels really personal, doesn't it? And it's got its own special language, publishing rejection. All these polite phrases that still sting.

  • Unfortunately, despite our best efforts...
  • I just couldn't connect with the characters.
  • Writing a book is hard and highly competitive.
  • Unfortunately, there is no budget for...
  • It isn't right for my list
I bet you can add a few of your own 'favorites.'

And yet. Rejection comes with the territory. If you're going to make art, you are going to get rejected and that my friends is why, as I've said before, Goodreads is for readers and not for you. Or unless you really want to know that someone thinks your novel is the 7th worst book they've read this year or possibly ever. (That's an actual rejection I received once for Dreaming Anastasia, and it's so hyper-specific that I kinda really love it.)

If you make art you need to be ready for the fact that people will love your work and they will hate your work and they will feel apathetic toward your work. They will totally get what you're doing and they will completely fail to see what you're doing and that is because no two people read the same book in the same way, which is what you were trying to tell your 10th grade English teacher when she told you that your essay on The Great Gatsby sucked.

If you write YA, you will also receive rejection from adult readers who don't quite remember what it's like to be a teenager. 'Why didn't she tell someone?' they'll rail about a character. Or 'I hate that her mother is so awful.'  And so it goes, friends.

And another truth? It's hard for a mid list title that fewer people have heard of to find its full readership. It is hard to compete with say, the huge machine that is books in Scholastic Book Clubs. I see it as a bookseller. Those are the titles that kids come into the store knowing and having a very clear expectation about because they've been fed advertising and a video. So don't let sales numbers feel like rejection. (Okay, you do have to look at them. But shhh, don't tell anyone: Most books sell far fewer than you'd ever imagine!)

Publishers rejection hurts more. You know it's not all going to be totally equal. You KNOW that. But still, when you're at a book festival or whatever and a publishing mate is putting expenses on the publisher's expense account and you're not, or there's a dinner to which you are not invited, it feels bad. And there's a longer conversation to be had here about the decision making process that goes into those choices. Some of it's pretty simple, though. It's about money and about which book they planned to promote in a larger way because that's the one they expect to break out and be a huge hit.

I have had break out books despite this. Dreaming Anastasia broke out and sold hugely because of sheer will and word of mouth and being the right book at the right time, despite having lost its editor before it went to final edits.

And as I tweeted the other day, please remind yourself: It is entirely possible to have a solid writing career without being a NYT bestseller, front listed, or having movie deals, twenty foreign rights deals and only starred reviews.  It is  harder, but it is totally possible. So keep writing.

Because at the end of the day, rejection means this: You are IN THE GAME. You are creating art. You are writing books. And you are going to keep at it.

What are your thoughts about rejection?

Friday, April 6, 2018

REEE-jected! (Mary Strand)

This month’s theme is dealing with rejection ... and how that changes over time.

I hope we’re not talking about my love life.

Ironically, I’m writing this blog on the evening of March 21, more than two weeks early, since (knock on wood) I should be in Oslo, Norway, on April 6 when this is scheduled to be published.  I say ironically because Romance Writers of America’s RITA and Golden Heart finalists were announced today, and I wasn’t one of them.


(As a basketball player, I always think of words like “rejected” or “rejection” in the context of a blocked shot, when the crowd shouts REEE-JECTED, emphasis on the drawn-out first syllable.)

The day they announce RITA and Golden Heart finalists is a craptastic day of rejection for almost everyone.  I am no exception.

Many years ago, soon after I started writing, I finaled in the Golden Heart contest for my very first manuscript.  The next year, when the finalist call didn’t come and didn’t come, I finally made a huge pan of mac and cheese around 4:30 p.m. and inhaled the whole thing in record time.  My finalist call came 15 minutes later.  Ooops.  I was probably the only finalist who was equal parts elated and horribly sick to my stomach.

I’d like to say that I’ve changed and become a better, more Zen-like person in the intervening years, but I just finished eating chocolate babka and a huge Cadbury Dairy Milk bar.  (They were delicious, thanks.)  So, I still feel the sting of rejection.
For the record, Hugh Jackman has never caused me to eat a pan of mac and cheese.

Actually, though, I have changed over the years.  Around the long-ago time I ate that pan of mac and cheese, a wise friend gave me some fabulous advice.  She said it’s okay to wallow, pout, eat ghastly amounts of comfort food, and scream at the Universe over bad news, but only on two conditions:  (1) do it privately, not in front of others and especially not in an oh-so-public venue like Facebook or Twitter, and (2) quit wallowing after 24 hours, period.  I still follow this advice faithfully.

As a result, today I had lunch with a nonwriter friend and told her about today’s REEE-JECTION but didn’t say a word to anyone else (until writing this blog; lol), and I did eat that chocolate babka and Cadbury bar (again, delicious), but when I wake up tomorrow I won’t give it another thought. New day, fresh start, yadda yadda yadda.

Agent rejections?  Same.

Editor rejections?  Same.

Major life losses and other calamities?  Same.

I can wallow with the best of them — although you’d be a rare person if you ever saw me do it — and I endured a crisis last summer so massive that I fried my cell phone just by holding it in my freaked-out state, but I wallow silently and for no more than 24 hours, tops.  As time goes by, in fact, I now get over most rejections, disappointments, and calamities within an hour.  As a practical matter, I’ve also come to realize that I can no longer physically afford to eat a pan of mac and cheese in a crisis.  (I am not 16.  Who knew?)  Today, wise beyond my years, I console myself instead at Five Guys.  Or with chocolate babka.  Or a Cadbury bar.

So maybe I’m not quite perfect at this yet.  Give me another 20 years, okay?

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at