I hate the mail. Nothing good ever comes. Well ok, sometimes there’s a nice surprise. As email takes the place of snail mail, it’s beginning to be the same. Bills, obligations, and bad news.
Sometimes I check my email as it comes in, others, especially in the summer, I only check it once a day or so. Last night it occurred to me I hadn’t checked it all day, so I decided to throw off any chance of a decent night’s sleep by opening the inbox.
Boring back story that would be eliminated or cleverly worked in if this was a piece of fiction: I have one connection in the writing/publishing world. Perhaps it’s more of a connection to a connection, but still. This is a brilliant, well respected, well established writer. One evening we were chatting, and she offered to look at some of my work. Sure there might have been a glass or two of wine involved, but it was an offer I took her up on. I know there are many unpublished writers who work every hint of a connection like a cat working over a cockroach, but I’m not one of them. Not because of any sense of decorum, probably from fear and not wanting to ruin the original relationship in the first place.
There was a time in my life when I diligently pursued a writing career. I woke up and did some editing every morning of the previous day’s work, then wrote for at least a few hours, then spent time crafting and mailing query letters, partial submissions, etc. I belonged to a writer’s association, a critique group, and attended a few conferences. Rejection is part of writing. A big part. If you take each rejection to heart, stop now and give up. Some people find journaling is more their speed, perhaps even blogging.
I didn’t develop the courage to take myself seriously enough to take these steps until I was well into adulthood. Some might say middle aged. I had three children and a husband when it occurred to me my dreams of being a writer were never going to happen if I didn’t DO it. Writers write. And they submit. I was lucky. Many writers submit for years before seeing more than a form rejection–and if you aren’t familiar with the business, there are nuances to rejection (though not as many as new writers believe). There are form letters, form letters with an encouraging handwritten note written across the bottom, personal rejections, rejections with an “invitation” to submit other work; then there is interest, requests for partial manuscripts, hopefully followed by requests for full manuscripts, hopefully followed by an acceptance.
I received encouraging handwritten notes, personal rejections, invitations to submit other work (does everyone assume every unpublished writer has 12 other manuscripts under their bed?), requests for partials, and even requests for fulls. No acceptances, but I felt like I was getting somewhere, had some encouraging exchanges with a few agents. These were in response to a stand alone romance I had written. Definitely a romance, but off the beaten path. Publishing is a business, very, very difficult to get an agent to take a chance on one of the unwashed and unpublished. Besides the romances, I also write short stories. Not romantic at all, more gritty slice of life type things. Some might call them literary fiction, but in my head that term is linked with being a writ-aaaah. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a forty thousand year old gal from Brooklyn (and not the new, artsy Brooklyn), these are not terms I would use for myself. I submitted a few of my shorts, but no bites. I’ve heard the odds of getting published in a respected literary magazine are smaller than the odds of winning the lottery. I have no BFA, MFA, or known and respected literary workshops in my credits. I just write.
Cue the violins. I was continuing submissions and had begun work on a new manuscript. Not a romance, but a full length piece that followed the style of my short stories. Husband had surgery that didn’t go as expected, rocked my world and my confidence. My parents’ voices rang in my head, how nice, you’re writing, get a union job! Then Flower Child got sick. I was devastated. The day she was released from her first PICU stay, I found a rejection letter for a full in my mailbox. How could I care? How could I have faith in myself, my writing, and the publishing world–yanno, good-writing-trumps-all, if I couldn’t have blind faith that my daughter was going to continue breathing? I stopped submitting, and the work of writing became sporadic.
So here was this potential opportunity in front of me, and a younger, tougher me was knocking on my brain, “Remember when you used to be a person?” My friend liked and respected my work, we even had a meeting like grown ups–oh, how wonderful that felt. She passed one of my stories on to the fiction editor at a well known, high brow magazine. What if???? Friendship only goes so far, and she wouldn’t have risked her own reputation facilitating the submission if she didn’t believe the work was quality. After many months, I received a reply yesterday, seen last night.
Rejection. A nice, personal rejection that praised the writing and the story itself, but alas, she didn’t see the piece as right for the magazine.