Confronting the Tornadic Winds of Rejection: How to Keep the Faith

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Photo courtesy of NSSL

Yep. It’s spring. Today it snowed, rained, cleared up and then hailed. I’m waiting for the dark of night so I can claim I’m a postman.

Spring is like that, a clash of two forces: winter and summer. The metaphor reflects the hardships of writing as well: a winter of rejection versus the summer of a sale.

In ancient times, the peak of starvation occurred during early spring before the newly plowed fields could produce and after the winter stores ran out. And this is precisely where new writers find themselves, right smack in the middle of early spring. They have written their pieces, and like seeds, they have planted them. Now, they wait for one to flower. Until then, how do they keep from succumbing to an emotional starvation, laying down their pens, unplugging their computers and quitting? They seek out their fellow writers, and we
all share our meager rations.

The Art of War for Writers, James Scott Bell explains how to tell the difference between a hero and a fool. “A hero gets knocked down and quietly regroups to write again; a fool gets knocked down and whines about it ever after.”

Bell suggests that writers are like a pyramid. The base is huge and is made up of wannabes. The next level is smaller and is made up of people learning to be writers such as those who take classes or participate in critique circles. Further up is the level of writers with a finished piece. This is the level where real writers start. Higher up still are those with multiple finished works and then finally, perched on the apex, is a Wheel of Fortune. It spins, and quite randomly, some author wins the prize of publication.

Wheel of Fortune Tarot Card

All the way up to published, a writer has control. After that, he or she does not. Addressing directly the new writer Bell adds, “Your job is to keep moving up that pyramid. That’s it. If you write, work your craft and keep submitting; some day, the wheel will land on your number.”

If you are a new writer, or an old hand having run through a harsh winter, hang in there. Just as the tilt of the earth inevitably brings summer, honing your craft and sending out your pieces will eventually bring you to a sale.

Betsy James Master Class and Homework

I’m taking a master class on speculative fiction for eight weeks with Betsy James via SouthWest Writers. I am having such a great time and have produced two short stories in just four weeks of class. I just wanted to tell everyone that if you get a chance to take one of her courses do so.

I was going to post a sample but it looks like I may have sold it! Woohoo!

Rejection Letters, Sexism and Women's Exodus from Science Fiction

I recently received an interesting rejection letter. It was nearly longer than my submission but that was not the most unusual thing about it. The short story I sent in was from the perspective of a 13-year old girl. The rejection letter waxed on about how tight the writing was, how it kept the editor’s interest, etc. BUT... and there is always one of those in a rejection letter, he couldn’t buy it because the story was about a 13-year old girl and he felt his readers would not identify with her. Could I make her a 17-year old boy?

After I stopped laughing hysterically, I responded, “No.” That was it. I decided I didn’t want to burn this editorial bridge. The rejection letter was really, one long pitiful rationalization for sexism. Obviously, the editor realized he was succumbing to a sexist view or he wouldn’t have blathered on for nearly three printed pages in his email. At least he understood that he was wrong.

I don’t know whether Mr. Sexist Pig Dog was looking for my forgiveness or absolution or just wanting to make himself feel better. But by droning on about how great my piece was and not buying it for such a terrible reason made me mad. If he had just said, “You suck” or employed the cowardly “this does not meet our needs at this time,” I wouldn’t feel as disheartened. But to attempt to defend a sexist decision with three pages of weak-minded, self-serving whining? You’re having a tough time keeping up your numbers? Really? I just checked my calendar to be sure. It does state 2011.

If I really wanted to get even, I would send a copy of his email to his wife. Then, I’d send copies to his daughters and daughters-in-law. It’s only fair that they know that he is part of the problem and not the solution.