Tuesday, March 24, 2015

REJECTION

Good morning, Mary Eleanor. A few weeks ago you made a short visit to our blog. Some of the things you said were so intriguing we wanted to have you back for a longer visit. We're glad you could accommodate our schedule.
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.
Not.
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.

20 comments:

  1. Writers have to write. It's as simple and as complicated as that. So glad you found someone who understands your talent. Keep at it!

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  2. Ah rejection. Gut wrenching, dream killing rejection. I know we have to go through that particular torture before we come out on the other side, but it sure hurts when someone tells you the equivalent of "your baby is ugly." Fortunately neither of us quit. Bravo

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  3. I can relate, Mary Eleanor, to most all of your post. Especially the part about finding a special editor. Mine was the incomparable Kathy Cottrell. She made my original dream to be published come true. Never, never give up. Best advice ever.

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  4. These words of encouragement couldn't be more timely. I just sent out several submissions. Looking forward to more inspirational discussions on rejection to prepare me for the worst. Of course, I'm hoping for the best!

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  5. Wonderful, inspiring post, Mary Eleanor! I just love your observation that all the sadness and difficulty made you real, like the Velveteen Rabbit, a story I have treasured from a very early age. All the best with your books! --katie o'boyle

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  6. I cringed when I read your worst rejection story. That was more than harsh - it was just cruel. Congratulations for finding your way back to writing and to yourself.

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  7. Wonderful post. I also cringed at the ugly rejection. What kind of human, let alone editor, speaks to someone that way in a professional setting? And, not to mention, ridiculously harsh! I can attest to Nic's being wonderful. She was my editor on my short story, End of Lonely Street, and it was a true joy to work with her. I'm so glad you didn't give up. Yes, TWRP is a wonderful publisher!

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  8. Kat and Mary Eleanor, thanks so much for sharing this. And while I appreciate and love what you have to say about me, I have to say I can't think of one of my colleagues at TWRP who would have treated Mary Eleanor any differently.

    I'm glad your son saw what you needed and was able to get through to you, Mary Eleanor. I am convinced that as writers, we have to write or we lose our mind. How else do we get those people out of our head if not onto the pages??? If we didn't they'd drive us mad.

    I leave you with a favorite quote I found years ago and I hope you'll keep it nearby in case you ever feel like quitting again. (You can read it, btw, but then back to work, young lady, I need more stories!)

    "The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create -- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating."
    -Pearl S. Buck

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  9. I'm going to respond in reverse order.
    Nicole: lovely comments terrific quote from Ms. Buck who certainly knew how to describe adversity.
    Ali: thanks for your support of TWRP editors and as a publisher. You're a doll.
    Jana: how nice to hear from you--thanks for the supportive comments to Mary Eleanor.
    Katie: thanks for stopping by and your thoughts for Mary Eleanor.
    Maria: hope you'll stop by again this week because tomorrow we'll be talking about the BEST rejection letter people ever received.
    MJ: I think your first editor found your work to be a jewel in the rough, needing some polishing, but in you found the essential gem maker!!
    Kathye: yup, we've all been down Rejection Road but learned the shortcuts--eventually. Thanks so much for your kind words.
    Kat and Veronica

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  10. Mary Eleanor, thank you for sharing your rejections stories. How wonderful that you got back to where you needed to be and have had success.

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  11. Great, inspiring post! Thank you for sharing your story. You end with good words of wisdom. Never giving up is the key. Best wishes on your book.

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  12. Mary Eleanor, sorry I'm late in replying--just catching up a bit. I too thank you for sharing what most of us, if not all of us, authors have experienced. (I too almost gave up uears ago and finally got up enough nerve to restart again--and I'm so happy I did). I can only hope that a number of other writers/upcoming authors read this post and will be able to catch their breath, regroup as you did(and I did) and benefit from your tale and encouragement. And as for that editor who wrote such a nasty and ugly reply, I feel sorry for her that she's such a mean, sour old goat. There is no reason on earth for any professional to respond in such a hateful way. She almost--and she did for some time--stop you in your tracks. Shame on her. And I'm so very tickled your son had the knowhow to encourage you to again start writing again. Great post. Thanks.

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  13. I'm trying to see rejection as a necessary evil. Some deliver it better than others,but either way it's an endurance test. Congrats on eduring and keep up the good fight!

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  14. I'm so glad you didn't give up. Rejection is part of the process. Some is kind and some cruel but, as the old saying goes, that which does not kill us makes us strong.

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  15. Thanks to all who stopped by today. Mary Eleanor and I appreciate the time you took to visit us.
    Kat and Veronica

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  16. I agree with everyone here. That rejection letter was both unprofessional and clearly written by a very unhappy person. My favorite rejection was the one I received 16 minutes after I submitted. 16 minutes! At least PRETEND to consider my work! ;) And I love the comparison to The Velveteen Rabbit, too. Right on the mark! Thanks for sharing this!

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  17. I've been trying to figure out how to answer as "Mary Eleanor" but I can't, so you get the real me instead. LOL! I really appreciate all your kind posts. Traveling down this road we walk as writers is often a bumpy one full of potholes and flat tires, but it's the road we choose to travel. And it goes where only we can be happy. This was a great experience, and I extend my thanks and appreciation to all of you! Now, let's get writing!

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  18. The editor who was so cruel is probably very unhappy herself and using her position of power to drag others down to her level. Most editors reject the _work_, not the writer. And, once you hit a professional level, rejections are A MATTER OF EDITORIAL TASTE. That's all. Really. I get tons of rejections that say it is well written, but not what they are looking for. Lots of authors tell stories of shopping a work around for years (me included) before it finds the right author. They often go on to win awards and accolades. You find yourself in a tough situation in a tough industry, and you've had some really hard blows. You can lay on the floor and moan for as long as you want. But do get up, dust yourself off, and sit back down at the computer, and go to work. Hugs from a community of artists that understand exactly how you feel and commiserate with your downs and celebrates your highs!

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  19. I want to paraphrase parts of this blog post in my own blog post for a writing organization and I'd like to include a link directly to this post (not the blog itself as I presume you'll have a new interview next week). What link should I use? Thanks.

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