rejection #9

I don’t know if I should even share this stuff. I often find myself saying things out loud which, perhaps, savvier, smoother people would have kept tightly wrapped. I once had a friend who was extremely successful even in middle school when she hadn’t done much yet (you know the type) who would have been appalled to the bone by the way I talk about rejection publicly.  She believed you are what you project and, looking at her now, I have to wonder if it’s true.  I’m remembering my grandmother’s knuckle on my spine, tapping me straight and proud, or else.

But still, I persist. Here is the latest:

Many thanks for your letter of inquiry.  I’m sorry to say that your book just doesn’t sound right for me.  As I am sure you understand I have a fairly large number of submissions coming in each week so I cannot look at all of them.  Perhaps another agent will have more enthusiasm for your idea.  Do keep up the hard work of submitting, as you never know where you’ll make the connection that makes your book happen.
Best of luck,
Assistant to **

Did they read my letter or not? Hard to say. He said the “book” (does he know what kind?) doesn’t sound right for him, but he didn’t have time to read everything sent to him. A curious mix of excuse, dismissal, and amelioration here.

But still, at 85 words, this rejection letter is the longest I’ve received so far. I could cry or I could celebrate.

Which would you choose?

Do you hide your failure or do you wear it like a funny hat?

Do confessions make you uncomfortable?

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About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.

51 comments

  1. Your confession is a breath of fresh air.

  2. It is a fine balance. I often am open about my substance abuse with drugs and my 10 year sober recovery. It has been both a dark journey and an inspiring one. I think as artists we want to express the deeper and sometimes darker elements of our lives. But it does take a considerable amount of courage.

    • For me, writing is truth. I can’t write if I’m not being completely truthful. That doesn’t mean perfect, it just means seeing what’s real. Thanks for your honesty, Walter. I’m a big fan of honesty. Perfection (the standard definition of, that is) doesn’t interest me nearly as much.

  3. TheOthers1

    I store up too much self-pity so (in going against the grain of this post) I’ll not tell you which I’d do. Confessions make me uncomfortable. I look away from whomever I’m confessing too. Makes me feel less like a goon.

  4. failure is just part of the process, and talking about it certainly doesn’t make me uncomfortable. it’s comforting, in fact. i know all of us have times of doubt and great blackness. and there is no choice but to keep going.

  5. If I could actually choose not to cry, I’d celebrate.
    Half and half.
    No, because it helps to know that I’m not alone in having things to confess. When someone else is honest about the awful feeling stuff, it gives me hope that people won’t always turn away. You’re not only being generous enough to share, you’re writing pieces that show your skill and artistic sensibility. I appreciate your honesty.

    Doesn’t all rejection hurt? At least this one was polite and acknowledged the hard work a writer puts into getting so much of it. I’d been under the impression that “they” didn’t take the time to say no anymore. I thought we were just expected to deal with not knowing until we looked at the calendar and realized so much time had gone by that we were being silly to hope.

    • I wish optimism did not have a shelf life. That’s what I’m testing, now, the shelf-life of my hope, because I’m sure it varies person by person. Some rejection is an affirmation of what I know is right and good, but other rejection is just confusing, a dead(ending) end. Maybe that’s because I still have hope. (I am working furiously on a short story I want you to look at. When it’s done, I hope we can set up a time. xoox

  6. I opt for wearing failure like a funny hat and relish it. You’re doing something you love. Failure is part of the process. I know it does get tiresome to keep being positive, and sometimes you have to have that pity party, so throw one and wear the funny hat 🙂

  7. You can totally celebrate by making a drinking game out of this. Get a letter, take a shot. I never submit a thing without first making sure I have a bottle of tequila ready to go.

    XO

    • I just found this new drink called a paper airplane, the best drink I’ve ever tasted. It reminded me of a time when i lived in Shanghai, China, and met some faceless, unmemorable guy who was building the tallest buildings in the city and I was in his hotel room on the 30 somethingth floor and the windows of the room actually opened, for some freaky reason, and I was sitting on the floor wrapped in a sheet folding paper airplanes out of the hotel communications and sending them out, down, around, all over the city streets below, wondering what those paper airplanes looked like to the people below.

      Tequila is good, too.

      xoox

  8. Anna, I once wallpapered a bathroom with rejection letters. Filled the whole damn space. A part of me understood that I was projecting defeat, but another part loved the process…the carefully chosen words those “assistants to” managed to spew…the swollen meaning behind each defeat. I don’t know if it made me try harder because we moved right after I filled the powder room and I’m sure the new owners stripped those reject notices off immediately and painted it some mediocre shade of bland. You’re going to make it. Stick with the process…and I will too.

  9. holiday wrapping paper. You’re brave. Be proud. So many great artists have suffered through failures. Consider yourself in good company.

  10. When I was in college, Loyola Chicago–need I say Catholic? my English teacher, a Jesuit, asked to see me. As I waited in the hall I overheard him speaking to the appointment before me, a very young nun. He was telling her he did not want to fail her because they needed teaching nuns so badly. He didn’t exactly say she was dumber than that box of rocks, but I got the idea. It dawned on me, at 18, that those teachers I had feared and respected for so very long were, most of them, not as smart as I.. It was like an explosion in my brain explaining dozens of incidents. It was also very helpful when I had to go to parent teacher conferences in later years.

    I gave up sending out queries when I got the rejection letter full of errors and unfilled-in blanks. He’s going to tell me about my writing? I talk about lots of my failures, sometimes with a note of humor, sometimes with sadness, but, believe me, I don’t talk about the most of them–at all. (“Pound another nail in.”)

    • Virginia, you have just shed some light on my own all-girls-Catholic-boarding-school debacle. Sister Gerald in particular. (Shudder.)

      If I shared every failure, it would bore us all. (The problem is I’m finding that lit mags don’t want to see stories that have been seen anywhere online, including one’s personal blog, which means I shouldn’t post my stories any more, which doesn’t leave me with much else to talk about. This is a bummer because posting things used to be part of my writing process. Now I’m stymied.)

  11. I’m a wimpish, new-to-it-all writer who would probably be bowled over by each rejection and mourn for days. But I admire those who can wear it with pride, like a hat, and swan elegantly through the party and keep going.

  12. I think its cathartic to confess about rejection. you hope others will reciprocate, maybe one of those successful projection people. (But they never do!)

  13. Here is a tweet I received yesterday from agent Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency:
    in 2012: 36,000 queries, 1200ish sample pages, 98 fulls, 7 offers of rep.

    That’s one agency, and they’re in Denver, not NY, so the numbers there are probably higher. Consider: 3,000 queries a month; approximately 150 per 8-hour day in a 5-day week, which equates to 18+ an hour, or a query to be read every 3 minutes. And from all that, 7 offers of representation. True, of the 36,000, probably 35,500 of the letter writers queried every agent they could find, so the actual odds are more difficult to calculate, but still…

    This is what we face. The only thing you can take personally in a writing career is your writing. Everything else is a cold, heartless, unfair reality. If you can accept those odds and keep on writing and believing, you are a writer, no matter what anyone says or how many rejections you receive. When I receive a rejection I say, “You’re wrong!” (although sometimes the language is a little stronger), and then I send out another story or query.

    Sorry to be so blatant about it. Tear up his rejection. Curse him. Then send out another query.

    • The numbers are simultaneously nauseating and heartening. Where are all these rejected writers? My people. Maybe we should organize.
      I think I’ll go out and buy a lottery ticket.

      • Thanks for posting this, Anna. And I love jpon’s advice. The numbers are staggering, but they’re out of our control and the truth is, writers continue to find agents and get their work published. There’s no reason you can’t be one of them. Period.

        And I’m going to take this sentence and make it scroll continuously across my computer: “The only thing you can take personally in a writing career is your writing.”

  14. I guess I would say I’m the self-deprecating type. I never expect ‘success’ however that’s measured. I just keep doing what I do. BUT, I do love it when someone decides they like something I’ve made enough to actually pay money for it. And, maybe show it off at home, or even give it to a friend. I never think that reality is unfair. It is what it is. No one is under any obligation to ‘see’ what I see, or ‘feel’ what I feel. I did get an email from a woman who wants me to make some specific things “in your style” as she said. Of course, that ‘made my day’!

    A little self promotion– http://www.etsy.com/shop/destructivetesting

    Maybe you could write a book centered around your rejections and your reactions to them. ‘Write about what you know’. Nah, it’s probably been done, and more than once.

    For another blog from an artist who ‘lets it all out there’ see, http://thestifledartist.com/

    Mike

    • I love your etsy site, Mike. That little (what is it– a butter tureen?) fancy-legged silver thing with the lightbulb rockets is fabulous. I can’t believe anyone would buy a plain-old store bought nothing when they could own one of yours. (MAKE GREAT XMAS GIFTS, RIGHT?)

  15. These comments are great. The drinking game and the bathroom wallpaper are both incredible ideas… Beats the drawer full of crumpled letters I have in my desk. I gave up a whole drawer, and I don’t have space for anything in my office. (They don’t actually fill the drawer. I just can’t bear to keep anything else in there with them.)
    After my first rejection, I cried at my desk for two minutes and then sulked for half a day. After my most disappointing rejection, I cried on an airplane and made the guy next to me really uncomfortable. The rejections in between those two didn’t bother me at all.
    With my next batch… I might make a hundred paper swans :-).

  16. Todd

    Failure. Oh yeah failure, my old friend and nemesis. I know failure like the wrinkles on my craggy old pecker. “Morn’n Shorty, constitutional? …engh, me neither…” I don’t wear failure, it wears me. It schleps around town dragging two threads from a pant cuff that hasn’t seen soap since the dot-com bust. And I’m the card board cup extended in the gnarled paw. But sometimes that shiny dime plops in and the sun comes out. Now I’m happy and life’s Ok. Even shorty perks up a tad. Truth is what I’ve got. I can’t project cuz my bullshit bulb done broke. Don’t lose it, cuz it won’t come back. Don’t sell it, cuz they never pay what it’s worth. It’s all you’ve really got and it’s the source, the core. So good or bad, flaunt it. Lies are weakness and what’s out in front can’t stab you in the back.

    Having puked that out… I wonder, from jpon’s numbers, if the odds of success (selling a bunch of books for cash) are better with “self publishing”… as much as you can afford. Maybe if you move some books on Amazon you have a better chance of attracting a fancy agent? (wow, Amzn has lots of books on how to self-publish) It sure seems like a stifling bottle neck that ought to be smashed. All those writers getting funneled through a hand full of purse-lipped gate keepers. Even the word, “submit” makes me want to pick up a Katana and start hacking!

    • “My bullshit bulb done broke”? “Purse-lipped gate keepers”? HA! You crack me up.
      Honestly, if it comes to self-publishing, I think I might just as well continue putting all my stuff on this blog and call it a day. A blog is something I understand, I can put in my mouth and roll around. Plus I promised myself I would not spend another penny towards writing, that instead, I would just write. But I won’t say never. Who knows how I’ll feel when nobody bites the bait.

  17. Celebrate. This agent wouldn’t have been right for you and your project. Like he says. Keep on keeping on. Chin up. Back straight. Eyes forward. There’s a prize in the distance.

  18. Pull your hat down over your ears and laugh in humiliation’s face.

  19. I’m all for a healthy blog confession. In this case, I can only add that the rejection is entirely THEIR loss… and bid you drink to that.

  20. You’re a good writer. In my journey I went from humiliating form letters to form letters with handwritten comments to acceptance by an agent known for making 7 figure deals. From there it was back on the merry go round as I waited maybe nine months for all the editors at all the big houses I’d dreamed of to turn it down. Often they included handwritten replies, some of which invited the agent out for cocktails. They never sold the book. Ten years later I started self publishing.

  21. You know me, I’m all for sharing — and funny hats!

    I went to a wonderful Impressionist exhibition the other day. Monets, Renoirs, etc. Several of the paintings said “rejected by the Salon in such-and-such a year.” And there we were admiring them, having paid special admission at the Musée d’Orsay 150 years later just to see pieces like these. Maybe a rejection means something, maybe it doesn’t. You can’t know.

  22. by now, you’ve either celebrated…or not. either way, i’m retroactively with you (can i do that?? i’ve got to get better about keeping up with favorite writers)

    i’m like a confessional fountain that can’t stop spewing on anyone who gets within two feet of me.

    • Brandy! I’m feeling very happy and famous, thanks to you. I spent the whole day stimulating the economy (oh, the pain, the pain) and came home to find this, which is so much more fun. Thank you. xoox!

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