Monday, August 8, 2011

The Sting of an Early Rejection

Every writer has horror stories about rejections.  Stories about how they had a shoe box full of rejections, or they had 200, or 50, or some other unbelievable number of rejections before they finally hit it big.  Here is my story:

When I was in first grade, there was a book series that was extremely popular in my school. It was comprised of your typical animal based characters running around learning life lessons and such, nothing really groundbreaking, ya know? However, I was a fan. Not a raving fan, but I enjoyed them. One day, the authors announced they’d be coming to our school. It’s funny how you can be a mediocre, luke-warm-at-best fan of someone until the authors are come to someplace nearby. Then you’re a ravaging fan. Or at least, that’s how it worked with me.

To sweeten the deal, the authors were running a contest. All of the students in the school were to write a story. The authors would read them and the best story would be published AS A REAL BOOK! Mind you, it wouldn’t be distributed across the country, but you’d always have a real, hard copy to have for yourself for the rest of your life.

Now that I think about it, those authors had to have been local authors published from a local press, because my town was waaaaay too small to have anyone of note show up. In addition, it wouldn’t be possible to publish just one book like that. A publisher wouldn’t go for it. But to a kid that dreamed of becoming an author? That was the greatest thing you could promise. Visions of the prestige and honor that this would get me danced through my head. I imagined I’d write a story so amazing, the authors would beg me to join their writing team.

I set to work, thinking up a story. I wrote stories all the time. You could probably call them flash fiction today. I would fold paper into quarters like a homemade card, and then I would write a story on one page, illustrate the other, and create a cover. My usual works wouldn’t cut it; I had to go all out on this one.

First, I thought about stories. When I had a good one, I wrote my little heart out. I had probably twice what was expected of us. When I turned it in, I was bursting with pride. I expected the teacher to rave about how good my illustrations were, how poignant my descriptions were. Instead, it was simply tossed onto a pile.

I wasn’t deterred. When the authors read my story, they’d be overcome with the sheer awesome of it. The day of the visit came. We had a big assembly in the cafeteria for the announcement. The authors came on stage, and I could barely sit still with the anticipation.

I couldn’t believe it! As they read the story out loud, I was horrified. Her illustrations were terrible—just stick figures! And she hadn’t even bothered to color them! She just drew the pictures with different crayons!!! And her story was so boring!

“A monkey had a banana. He liked the banana. He found a pineapple. He did not like the pineapple. A fox found the pineapple. He loved the pineapple. And so the monkey had his banana, and the fox had his pineapple, and everyone was happy.”

I mean, seriously! Where’s the drama? Where’s the action? The suspense?

[I was not pleased.]

I still thought I had a chance because there was a signing session after the assembly. I bought one of their books and got in line to have it signed. I thought when they saw me and I introduced myself, they’d realize who I was and say they’d left the biggest prize for me—a book deal!!! That was not the case.

So that was it. No book deal. No bound book. Not even a pat on the shoulder and a “good job, kid.”

We were told that those of us that didn’t get our story published would have them laminated, which seemed almost as good until I realized that laminated just meant plastic covered paper. When I got it back, I reread it. My finely crafted prose, my lovingly detailed illustrations, all taken for granted!

[Seriously! Look at this quality!!!]

It’s been almost fifteen years, and I still remember that feeling. I still remember how my story about a ghost that drove a motorcycle around a city stopping crime at night was beaten out by a monkey who had a thing for bananas, but not pineapples.

I guess all this rambling should have a point, and I think I have one. Sometimes you’re going to get rejected. Sometimes your amazing story is going to be cast aside in favor of something else that you may feel is not as good. Don’t let it get to you. Perseverance is the only way you’ll make it in the writing business. Don’t give up on your dreams.

Have you had any rejections?  How did you deal with them?  If you haven't, how do you plan on dealing with them?  Share in the comments!

P.S. Funny thing about my story: a ghost that haunts a motorcycle and drives around at night scaring hooligans and stopping crime? Does that sound familiar? My story was called The Ghost Rider. When the Nicholas Cage movie came out over a decade later, I felt robbed. We don’t have comic shops in my hometown, nor arcades, nor any fun things. Just Wal-Mart. So I had no idea that my idea already existed.


  1. Your mouth was abnormally large as a young child.

  2. Hmm...that explains why I could never shake the nickname "Big Mouth."


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