Specifically you spoke of being rejected so many times you stepped away from writing for a number of years. Let's talk about that dirty word: REJECTION. Next to 'we'd like to offer a contract' it's every writer's favorite word.
With that in mind, tell us a bit about when you first began writing.
I was in my mid-20’s with three small children. With some encouragement from some wonderful people, I began attending a community college with the goal of becoming a nurse. It didn’t take long, however, to discover that was the last thing I was meant to do. As I studied and became engrossed in English and Literature classes, the old dream of becoming a writer resurfaced from my childhood. I gave it a try and started sending stories out to the confession magazines – mostly because no one would know who I was if I sold one. The very first one sold, and I thought, “Well, this is easy.” No, it wasn’t. After I’d sold three of them I was ready to fry bigger fish, however, the fish kept throwing me back.
Did it inspire you to keep at it [writing we mean]? Knowing that I could do it kept me going for a very long time. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t crack the bigger markets. I wanted so badly to sell a book, so I kept writing them. I have a huge stockpile of manuscripts now, thanks to all those years of no one wanting them.
Did you have a specific genre you wrote in or did you travel about several worlds? I mostly stay in the romance and mystery genres. I have done some ghost writing for an autobiography and also a community collection about the veterans in our county. Of course, I did end up working in journalism for a long time, too.
How many times were you rejected? I’m not one of those people who keeps those nasty little buggers hanging around. I don’t want my walls papered with them, and frankly I don’t want to look at them after they’ve told me no. If I had to estimate, I’d guess about 200+ times.
Tell us your 'favorite' [ie best or most encouraging letter] rejection and your 'ugliest [meaning the nastiest one ever]'. My favorite rejection came from a venue that handled serializations for coffee cans. I’ve always loved the old use of serialization, so it seemed a fun thing to do. They wrote this tremendously long letter explaining why I should never give up, they liked my story, but it just wasn’t right for a coffee can. I still laugh over that one.
The most heinous, ugly, and mean rejection I received was from a large publisher who shall remain nameless, but it went something like: Perhaps it’s time for you to stop submitting these little stories of yours. You cannot write, you have no talent, and I prefer not to be bothered anymore.
Why did it make you stay away and for how long? That sort of thing is crushing to someone who wants nothing more than for someone to love her book. I took her advice and just stopped.
What brought you back? Two years ago I left my job and came home. I live in a very rural area and jobs are hard to come by, so I worked out of town. I was depressed and getting worse by the day. During that time, a woman who had once been my best friend passed away in another country. I was devastated. I went into a downward spiral that became rather sticky – I felt I had nothing left to offer and I had no usefulness at all. That’s a dangerous place to find oneself. One night my oldest son came to me and said he was worried about me. “You need to start writing again, Mom.” At first I tried to argue, but then he made a good point. “All you’re doing is sitting and staring at a computer anyway. You might as well get some of the stuff out of your head.” And so I did.
Are you glad you came back? Oh, yes. This is the realization of my lifelong dream. This has made me “real” much like the Velveteen Rabbit.
What is it like to work with an editor who cares about you as a writer and the effort you put forth? I cannot say enough good things about Nicole D'Arienzio and The Wild Rose Press. She is so patient and kind, and nothing like I heard a book editor would be like. When I was working on my first round edits for “Somewhere Down the Road” I somehow lost the file. Nowhere to be found. I was frantic, so I sent her an email. When she had said for me to leave the tracking on, I thought it would be like Team Viewer or something. I’m still laughing over this. I write Nic and beg her to help me find it. Although she could have called me an idiot, and rightly so, she gently and kindly explained she didn’t have that power. To say I’ve learned a lot under her guidance is just not vast enough to explain it.
Considering where you are now, what advice do you have for new writers? Listen to me, new writers, and listen carefully. Repeat after me: I will not give up. I can take a break. I can change the genre. I can even go on vacation. But I will not give up! Repeat that to yourself daily.
Yes, you will get rejections. Wad them up and throw them away after you read what it says. By the way, any time you get something personal, pay attention to that. It’s important to remember that what a person six states away, who is most likely overworked and just as stressed as you are, thinks or says isn’t necessarily accurate. If you need to hone your skills, do it. If you need ideas then pay attention to the world around you.
And if you want to be a writer, then write. You can do it. I know you can, because I’m doing it. Nothing will ever make you more fulfilled than the words, “We want to make an offer.”
Thanks, Mary Eleanor.
This was terrific.