Monday, March 8, 2010

Remember: A rejection isn't a death knell

I have a very close relative who is a wonderful writer. She's written a book - no, she's poured her heart and soul into writing a book. And it's good. I've read it.

Yesterday, it was rejected by a publisher. Again. We all know how that feels. Well, maybe not all of us, but a lot of us. It's frustrating, maddening. We feel helpless, useless, like Sisyphus charged with our own personal, impossible task.

We know the publishing industry is in chaos. We know there's a glut of writers out there. But reading that rejection letter, none of it matters. It still hurts like hell.

Yes, I know, we're writers, and writers need to have thick skins. We need to square our shoulders and toss our heads and know we're better than all that. We need to remember there's a lot of dreck out there, and publishers have to wade through it every day. We know it's a tough industry, and we chose it.

But some days, it's hard not to take it personally. Sooooo . .. .

There is a book by Andre Bernard titled Rotten Rejections: A Literary Companion . I found a few excerpts on a variety of places on the Web, including a nifty little Web site,, which offers a lot more than solace.

But still, a little bit never hurts. This book shows that publishers aren't always right. They've made a few mistakes, passed on some pretty big hits. And they haven't always been terribly polite about it.

So here are a few favorites for those of us - including my relative - who may still be licking our wounds. Remember, a rejection isn't a death knell. It isn't a fact. It's one person's opinion.

Someday, she'll be famous. And then they'll be sorry:

Jack Kerouac: "His frenetic and scrambled prose perfectly expresses the feverish travels of the Beat Generation. But is that enough? I don't think so."

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame: "An irresponsible holiday story."

Lord of the Flies by William Golding: "An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull."

Watership Down by Richard Adams: "Older children wouldn't like it because its language is too difficult."

The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman: "If you insist on rewriting this, get rid of all that Indian stuff."

Animal Farm by George Orwell: "It's impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A."

The Diary of Anne Frank: "The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level."

Carrie by Stephen King: "We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell."

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: "I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say… Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level … From your long publishing experience you will know that it is less disastrous to turn down a work of genius than to turn down talented mediocrities."

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