Wednesday, January 16, 2013

So Many Rejections. So Many Ways to Be Grateful for Them. By Jody Casella



Jan Blazanin's post on being thankful for rejections got me thinking about my own writing rejections. Like Jan, I had many along the way, some more crushing and nauseating than others. I was not one of those writers who papered my walls with them. (Geez. How depressing would THAT be?) but I do have a nice bulging file in a drawer, and later, when rejections zoomed my way via email, I started keeping a virtual file.

Over time I could group them into categories, each with their own fun attributes:

The Never Get a Response/Disappear into a Black Hole category. Did the editor ever receive the manuscript? Did she tack it up above her desk and throw darts at it? Or is it still sitting there in a slushy stack waiting to be read? You will never know, and therefore you will always have a splinter of torturous hope...

The Curt Form Letter. Someone took the time to respond! It does not fit their needs at this time! Oh, joy!

The Curt Form Letter with a Scribbled Note on the Bottom. Now we are getting somewhere... The first one I got in that category said simply: "Nice story." I am embarrassed to say how many times I unfolded this letter and read those two words.

The Personal, Detailed Rejection. So close, and yet, so far away. And so excruciating in the details. We writers say we like to know what's wrong with a manuscript. This is a lie. What we really want is for the editor to LOVE it. As is. Do we honestly want to hear that "the story is depressing" that "it has no teen appeal" that "it ended just as it was getting started"?

It's weird to look back now and see all of my rejections as a necessary and beneficial part of my writing journey. But they were. They kept me writing. They helped me grow a thicker skin. They forced me to tuck my early (weak) manuscripts away, and write other things. Better things.

I wish I could time travel back to my old despairing self and tell her not to despair.

Probably my worst rejection came from an agent. She'd read a story of mine in Cicada magazine and wrote me a fan letter. She asked if I had a book in me and told me to call her so we could discuss my career. The letter shook in my hands. Ha ha. A book in me! At that point I had written FIVE! The agent and I had a lovely chat. I told her about my books. She requested all of them. This was it, I knew. My dream was about to come true.

Then, nothing for a while. Then, a short email. She didn't like any of the books. The end.



That rejection was probably the closest I ever came to quitting. I sobbed. I ranted and raved to everyone I knew. That woman had come to ME, lifted up my hopes, and dashed them to bits.

The twist is that several years later, I wrote to tell that agent about a new manuscript I'd written. She requested it and after a few nail biting weeks, she called me. We had another lovely chat and...she rejected it. She was really nice about it. She loved the book. Loved the characters. It had a similar topic to another book she was representing though. Mine was better, she said. She apologized. It was a weird conversation, to put it mildly. She referred me to another agent. That woman requested it and asked me to make some changes. I did.

And...

She rejected it.

Crushing news, and yet now I feel nothing but gratitude for both of those agents. The first, for rejecting stuff that truly should've been rejected. Which led me to write a sixth book. The second, for urging me to revise it. My revision (for her) snagged the attention of another agent and eventually led to my first publishing deal.

You can win a copy of that book THIN SPACE (along with many other books and awesome prizes) by clicking here to enter our January Giveaway.


14 comments:

  1. Sometimes I think the difference between writers that make it and writers that don't is simply this-- the way they respond to rejection. Of course, we are ALL discouraged by rejection, but do we try to hear something in it? Do we try to learn something from it without changing our entire book to suit that one person? There's a fine line there between never giving up no matter what someone says and never giving up but considering what someone says and being open to learning from it.

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    1. You're so right. The tide turned for me when I stopped resisting criticism and opened myself up to it. I didn't know what I was doing. I still don't. And anyone who wants to tell me--then, great!!!

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  2. And I also see us learning from our mistakes through the rejection. When I think about my greatest writing fears (dang if I don't have a whole parcel of them), one of the number one is that someone will publish me when I shouldn't get published. Here's a video I used with my students with a flashy super sports hero that reminds me to fail.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45mMioJ5szc
    And I'm glad you kept going, Jody. Your perseverance through rejection inspires me every bit as much as your success.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for sharing the video. It's awesome! What a cool commercial to use in the classroom.

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  3. Great post! I've had some similar experiences, so this was a good read. Congrats on the book!

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  4. I SO relate to this! The most crushing rejection I ever received was when one of my books went to an acquisitions meeting at a literary agency (after I'd emailed and spoken to a VERY excited agent), and was ultimately turned down...I've since learned how important it is to have an agent / agency that believes in your work 100%. You don't want anyone repping you who isn't as excited about your work as you are...I love the agent I eventually signed with; wouldn't have it any other way.

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    1. Hey. We have the same agent, don't we? It does feel good to have that kind of support.

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  5. Thanks for sharing! Funny how, when a lot of us look back, we realize we probably weren't very ready yet at all! Unlike most writers, I actually liked the black hole most... (maybe because putting it in a "no response/closed" folder made me still feel in control?) Your post goes well with my last blog post--none of us know how we are going to "make" it. Doors open differently for everyone. The key is to learn from each rejection and move on and CONTINUE WRITING. Rejection pangs don't last forever--we just have to remind ourselves that everyone's timeline in this journey is unique! :)

    Jessica

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    1. That's for sure. Sometimes I feel like the slowest learner of all time. I kept writing, though, because it's the only thing I know how to do. I am also extremely stubborn. I figured, statistically, it had to happen eventually, and even if it didn't, what else was I going to do with my time?

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  6. The first time I got a rejection letter I was disappointed, of course, but at the same time it made me feel like a real writer because I'd finally put my work out there rather than keep it hidden away in my notebooks and my computer. It's great that you kept going in spite of the rejections, because it shows how devoted you are to writing.

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    1. I felt the same way! They don't excite me as much now, but at first it was a thrill to have someone look at my work and reject me just like all those writers I admire:)

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  7. Putting your work out there feels so risky, though! But you're right. At some point you've got to do it. I read this post yesterday on this very topic. Very helpful:
    http://writerunboxed.com/2013/01/11/embrace-the-naked/

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  8. I laughed when you admitted what we all want to hear--not criticism of our novel, but rather I LOVE IT. Though criticism hurts like crazy, but spurs me on, too. I'm glad you stuck it out!

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