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An Occasional Post

It's been a while: writing and rejection

Some quick thoughts:

Every children’s book writer gets rejections—or at least that’s what I believe. Maybe there are some among you who haven’t. If so, I am filled with envy, annoyance, and revenge fantasies. I cannot tell a lie.

We all have heard the stories: that A Wrinkle In Time was rejected at least 26 times; that Kate DiCamillo accumulated hundreds, etc. (Roughly a decade, before the public knew her name, DiCamillo worked odd jobs, submitted manuscripts, and collected nearly 400 rejection letters. "I decided a long time ago," DiCamillo says, "that I didn't have to be talented. I just had to be persistent." http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/dicamillo)

Even Jane Yolen gets rejections, and she has 300 books published.

Still, rejections are hard to take. Very hard. I have a lot of them, so I know. Probably hundreds, so Kate and I are as one (ha). Here’s the thing: you can’t get rejections unless you send stuff out. I have sent a lot of stuff out. So that’s good. I am doing the work.

But many of us—I speak for myself—are already quite neurotic enough without adding piles of “this just isn’t right for our list” notes, or “we’d love to work with Leda, but we already have a book about dogs.” (Okay, I’ve never gotten exactly that note. How can there be too many books about dogs?)

There are days when I am overwhelmed and want to quit. Is there a strategy for coping? My current approach is wallow for a while (which involves chocolate) and then resolve to try again.

For decades, I worked full-time for other people—mostly connected with children and books. I was competent (I think), involved, and earned a salary. Then I began to do what I had really wanted to do all my life: write children’s books. I knew it would be hard.

I didn’t know how much harder it would become. There were no ebooks, no cutbacks in picture books, no catastrophic recession. Also, there’s the question of brain cells, but I’ll save that for another post. For a few years (of reviewing almost everything in print), I even thought too many picture books were being published. Be careful what you wish for.

So I continue to write and to submit, though I both love and hate writing. I never dreamed I’d actually get anything published, and as of today (barring further disasters) I have or will have 8 picture books I am proud of. I thought one would be enough, but it turns out I can’t stop.

Can you? If so, do. If not, be prepared. Read rejection letters to famous authors (one such collection is Rotten Rejections.). Sometimes I take ridiculous solace from the weather forecasts, which seem to be always wrong, and yet the meteorologists never apologize.

And let me know how you deal with that email or note you wish had never come…

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