• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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You Just Might Find You Get What You Need

I recently cleaned out my desk at work and came upon a file I started when I became an agent 16 or so years ago titled “Asshole File.” Yes, the subtlety is overwhelming. I had never been on the rejection end of things and found it a bit hard to take. Don’t love it, not right for our list, not our cup of tea, not our cut of brisket. Thanks for sending your big fat stupid novel which we would never publish even if it were the last manuscript on earth. And your kid is ugly. I put the letters in the asshole file. Thus filed, they couldn’t hurt me. I’m rubber, you’re glue. Eventually, I found I could take it. Selling lots of books didn’t hurt. But in some ways those rejections made me more resolute in my beliefs. I’m not saying what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’ve always believed that what doesn’t kill you usually hobbles you.

How do you handle rejection?

14 Responses

  1. I just discovered Brash Books, last night, and I actually woke up to pee in the middle of the to find myself, once again, LAUGHING OUT LOUD as I remembered their l-o-n-g statement about all the reasons why they’d reject you. It was so damn refreshing.

    I find I deal with rejection far better if it’s honest. If my writing is lousy, or the idea half-baked, or whatever, I’d like to know that. If it’s because my last three books sold poorly enough (!!!) that my track record is hopeless (see the delightful Janet Reid’s recent blog post, who is also wonderfully frank), then I’d also like to know that.

    I take full responsibility for the poor choices I’ve made. It’s frustrating to finally figure it all out, only to realize there are no longer opportunities galore as there once were, but THAT’S LIFE. I goofed.

    I do well with honesty. Doesn’t help the situation I face, of course. I’ve got a good 20 years of writing ahead of me, and Lord only knows how I’ll handle this. I’m looking for back doors, side doors, hatch doors dropping down from the attic crawl space, even cellar doors.

    So, despite the fact that my very first novel, a young adult, had the title NO REGRETS …. I got plenty. Of regrets, that is.

  2. OMG please tell me I’m not in the Asshole File, even though I know I probably am. It was a weak moment, really it was. I felt bruised and lashed out. I’m not like that anymore (probably worse) but Ive changed, really I have. I’m no longer an asshole, now I’m a ef-ing asshole, but I’m a loyal ef-ing asshole, really I am.

  3. I can handle rejection pretty good. I have found the longer I have to dwell on one, the less it hurts. My pain of choice is in the form of reviews, so, all I gotta do is read a few of those. Of course I get whiplash doing that too, with the profoundly different viewpoints.🙄

    What isn’t helpful are tepid responses like some you list above. “Not right for our list.” (cop out/canned reply – with little thought) “Not our cup of tea.” (It’s not tea, it’s coffee, couldn’t you TELL???)

    Those responses are how I look at 3 star reviews which I call fence riders. They are the “I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it crowd.” It means “Meh. I could take it or leave it.”

    Nothing worse than to slice yourself up on the page, and send it in dripping, and they hand you a band-aid.

  4. Rejection? Pfft. Dealing with rejection has been an absolute breeze for me! Because I haven’t submitted a thing in eons. 🙃

    I will finish and submit my current ms soon though, damn it. And then I will have to put on my big girl panties, learn from any constructive criticism, and persevere.

    With a few screams, sniffs, and sobs along the way.

  5. Rejection? It’s one of my middle names, I think. While I’d rather not advertise my other failings, I’ve no shame in snipping sections of my rejection letters, fashioning them into a sort-of boutonniere and wearing it to various events.

  6. Rejection is just another step in the process. The first ones hurt, but over the years, I’ve learned to leave my feelings at the door, not take things too personally:

    When this world turns its back on you
    Hang in and do that sweet thing you do
    You just roll with it, baby
    You just roll with it, baby
    Come on and just roll with it, baby

    You gotta kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. Next…

  7. “How do you handle rejection?”

    It’s just another part of the business. I log it in the submissions tracking database and move on to the next victi– I mean, potential market.

    If it’s a rejection with love, I note the language of the love note, to remind myself that a market might dismiss my work in a more than casual manner and I might have a better chance at scoring a date next time I ask, and to soothe my bruised feelings.

    It’s all professional, this acceptance and rejection stuff. Luck of the draw. Had a piece rejected a few years back, the editor said, “We really like this, but we just published something sorta mebbe like it an issue or a few issues or a few years ago, y’know? Covered the ground, wanna keep it fresh.”

    Two minor annoyances — the rejection that says, “We really like this but we can’t use it” (What. You only use stuff you don’t really like?), and the ubiquitous plague, the current pandemic of rejections, “We wish you the best of luck placing this somewhere else” (the implication being, “You’re gonna need it, buddy”).

    Hey, here’s some good news: A piece of mine was accepted last week and is slated to appear next week, probably next Wednesday, in Queen Mob’s Teahouse. They’ve published me before, and now they get to do it again. And the turn-around was so tight this time. They accepted it the day after I submitted it.

    But wait — there’s more! A shout-out for stick-to-it-iveness. The piece is one I first drafted about 25 years ago. I was hesitant about it and reworked it till I got it to be either good enough or I was fed up — hard to tell the difference sometimes. It’s been out to 19 markets over the past dozen years, till at last, on number 20, the acceptance.

    Don’t give up. Never give up.

  8. Okay, now that I’ve calmed down, rejection if aimed honestly, is very helpful. In the beginning, before hundreds of essays, op-eds and articles dubbed me a minnow in a mud-puddle, rejection became my teacher. I learned to cull replies, seek the valuable, and move on.

    That was then, now, fiction is another story. (Ha sort of a pun).

    It doesn’t come as easily but it sure is fun. Yes, fun. I’m writing what I want to read. Reaching outside my genre is a kick. Researching subjects previously unknown is healthy for a writer. Rejection is simply part of the process.

    Just don’t be an asshole. And that’s from someone with experience who has worn that badge from time to time.

  9. Rejection is one of my oldest companions. Usually I can take it and move on. Except for the time I got a reader’s note saying they could find all this info on Wikipedia. (“But did you??”) that was an asshole rejection.

  10. Rejection? Hurts, so I scratch the rejector from the submit list, never to bother them again. It’s business, right… just business. Trouble is the submit list is getting short.

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