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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's Not Me, It's You

Rejection sucks, plain and simple.  Whether it’s a dating scenario, job interview, audition, or—in the case of a writer—submission, no one likes to be told that they’re just not good enough.
So, what about when it’s true?  Does that soften the blow?  Not really…at least, not at first…but it often results in a product of higher quality in the long run.
I’ve queried—and been rejected by—almost a dozen literary agents or publishers.  Each time that I’ve sent off one of these submissions, I’ve believed my manuscript HEIR TO THE LAMP worthy of publication; and each time that I’ve received a rejection letter in response, I’ve realized, after some stomping and wailing like a three-year-old in Target who’s been refused a $20 toy two weeks before her birthday, that there was validity in the rejection.  Then I’ve revisited my work and commenced polishing and perfecting for the next go-round.
Last week, after receiving my latest rejection—this time from the publisher who’d answered my first query with a “maybe” when their acquisitions editor asked me to re-work the first three chapters—I responded differently.  The answer I’d waited five long months for read:  “Sorry.  Still not hooked.  Good luck with future endeavors.”
Ouch!  It hurt—more than all of the form letters from the others put together.  I was seriously depressed for a couple of days.  In the past, I’d jumped right back into editing, but this time I felt like I’d been punched in the gut, my very desire for publication gone in a whoosh with all the air in my body.
In a bid for sympathy, I texted my cheerleaders:  my younger but-only-by-ten-months-and-twenty-seven-days sister, our aunt GDR, and our mother.
“[The publisher] said no.  I’m a loser!”
Within seconds my phone chirped, alerting me that I’d received a response.  Wiping tears from my eyes and hoping for much needed words of encouragement, I read my sister’s answer:
“Yeah, pretty much.”
It was revenge for a text I’d sent her just two days earlier in response to a picture of the beautiful ivory gown for her upcoming wedding which read: 
 “Lovely…but I thought green was the appropriate color for a bride’s fourth walk down the aisle.  Bwahahahaha!” 
We give each other huge amounts of grief and it’s insanely entertaining.  Her quip was just what I needed to get over the self-pity.  I’m not a loser—I know that.  Mother and GDR sent long texts extolling my virtues, talents and overall awesomeness and my friend and fellow writer Jeremy Hicks was able to help me put things into even better perspective by saying, “Your piece may land in front of an editor who hates first person point-of-view…hates dream sequences…has had a bad day and decides to take it out on your submission.  You can’t let that get to you.”
So, I’m back at it—editing and revising…and dreaming of publication—and my manuscript continues to get better, to shine a little more, every day.  There has been something constructive to each of the rejections I’ve received—even all of those that included the generic “Thank you for your submission, unfortunately your work does not meet our needs at this time”—because they’ve forced me to take a second, third, twenty-fifth look at my manuscript and find room for improvement.
Rejection sucks, but it does make one better—especially if she has a snarky sister.