There are always two ways to look at things. Always. Some of my favorite authors were rejected multiple times by publishers and agents before getting a break. And my writing mentor in graduate school in New York, Barbara Probst Solomon , told me years ago to hang every rejection letter from every agent and every publisher on my bedroom wall. She insisted that I should be proud of trying. She also had to read, edit and approve my first novel, Lucifer’s Laughter, in order for me to graduate from the writing program. I’m not sure if the novel was her speed, but I’ll never forget her words of encouragement. It was a murder mystery/suicide plot with a southern main character in a little town of Maine. In short, it was nothing she would likely pick up on her own. But she said to me: “You’ve done this before haven’t you? You can tell a story well and move it along. Keep at it.”
In a world that is hyper critical and loud, like New York, that was the kindest encouragement I had ever received during my four years there.
So, I’m sharing my rejection story with you in honor of my thesis advisor, Barbara. In short, a lot of life and a lot of fear occurred in between that time when I was in New York penning my first novel and now. Journalism jobs, marriage, international life, divorce… Four years ago I began writing fiction again in earnest. My second novel has only been read by one agent and one top editor at a publishing house. Barbara, if she still advised me, would likely say I haven’t tried hard enough. I was lucky to have an introduction to an agent right away. It didn’t pan out, but then I reached out to the top editor of a major publishing house directly, and to my amazement, she said yes she’d love to read my book! It took five months to hear back, but this kind soul wrote a very thorough letter to me last Wed. It was like a soft break-up with someone you really like, but just aren’t in love with. She told me I was a good writer and lyrical and careful with word choice, but that Southern main characters have to be so engaging that she falls madly in love. She wasn’t in love with the main character and I have too many characters. She wants a more simple novel to publish right now. Uriel’s Mask has a lot of action and goes from the end of slavery (inspired by a true story) to the 1980s, so it is more plot driven and reads like a movie. I learned about the type of novel she’s looking for and it’s not as large in scope.
So, this week was hard and I was working such long hours and juggling a lot that I didn’t have time to digest this news properly. I’m sharing it with all of you because I want my fellow writers to realize that it’s just the process. If I am too scared to hear these honest dialogues from those in the industry, I will never grow. Maybe the book just wasn’t a fit for this particular publisher? Maybe she’ll read my next one, which is drastically different and not southern AT ALL.
Maybe I need to do what most do, and mail 15 to 20 copies to agents all over the country? Maybe I need to consider self-publishing if it costs the same amount as spamming agents? All I know is that I can’t give up and neither should you if you receive one rejection letter. All I know is that I’ve been writing and publishing work since I was 18 years old as a journalist with the Red & Black newspaper. Writing is what I do. Yoga helps me do it better and live longer and healthier. In my Yoga for Writers Workshop that I’m leading, I will bring in my rejection letter, as well as all the drafts of the query letter that I created to finally send to the one agent and the one editor who responded positively and requested a copy of my novel. It’s a process. It’s a business. And the best part is telling the stories. I’ll keep writing Between Thoughts of You, my 3rd novel, but also squeak in time each month to mail out one query letter or two for my previous novel. I think baby steps and practice will make it all a little easier. Have a beautiful week. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep focused and out of drama. And keep striving. Laura x
Here are some more posts on writing that I hope inspires you!
– Want to be a great writer? How you live matters.
– First creative writing conference with kids in tow!
– Boldness has no expiration date
– How yoga helps you create
– Breaking through resistance