Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sometimes "No" is NOT the Final Word

Thought for the Day:

"Beware of allowing a tactless word, a rebuttal, a rejection to obliterate the whole sky."

---Anais Nin, The Diary of Anais Nin, January 1944

An encouraging anecdote for writers:

Irving Stone's first book was about Van Gogh. Stone took it to Alfred Knopf, and "they never opened it---the package with the manuscript got home before I did." After fifteen more rejections the book, Lust for Life, was finally accepted and published in 1934. It has now sold about twenty-five million copies.
(from Rotten Rejections, edited by Andre Bernard for Pushcart Press, 1990)
Not to mention the book was the basis for a major motion picture starring Kirk Douglas.

In one of the 16 rejections Stone received, an editor described the work as "a long, dull novel about an artist." Moral of this story: everybody gets rejections; in fact, many of the best-known and best-loved books of the past 200 years were initially rejected. Obviously, the authors of these works did not take the rejections (however numerous) as the final word. They persevered until they found good homes for their literary children.

Manuscripts get rejected for a number of reasons: sometimes the reason is poor writing, murky plot, or lack of originality. Certainly we need to be honest with ourselves when it comes to our own work: it may need polishing, we may need polishing. But many times a rejection simply means "not here, try another market." Oh, and it's the writing that's being rejected---not the writer!!

My story "Lightning Rod" was rejected a few times before All Hallows accepted it. One of the rejections turned out to be extremely ironic, and I'll explain this in a later entry. The heartening news is that this summer the story will be reprinted in Horror: The Best of the Year, 2008. Glad I kept sending the story out.

I'll share about other famous books that were initially rejected, over the next few days. I feel these anecdotes help take out some of the sting of our own rejections. Chat with you later.
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