“Writing is a profession for talented, imaginative, sensitive Gila monsters (I say this because good writers don’t give up, and legend claims that when a Gila monster clamps its jaws on something it won’t let go.)”
— Mary Beth Parker, founder of the Dana Awards
So is that why my jaws are aching? I’ve clamped down pretty hard lately.
I have an email inbox full of rejections for various manuscripts. Because I’m a fanatical optimist, I’m determined to find the sweet in the sour (actually, sweet and sour is a GREAT combination, if you’ve ever been obsessed with sour gummy worms).
The sweet: in between ten rejections here, thirty there, I’ve had at least one publishing success every year for a while now.
The sour: the rejections still seem to pour in like lava.
In the sour moments, kind agents will speak with regret: “I regret to say that I don’t feel that I’m the most appropriate agent for your work. However, opinions vary considerably in this business…”
Ah! The sweet! Let me cling to “opinions vary considerably.” So, is Agent X saying she could be wrong?
The sour side of my brain says, “Ha, keep deluding yourself.”
More sour comes with Agent A’s fear: “We’re afraid your project does not seem right for our list.” I’m afraid, too: that my project ain’t right for anyone’s.
More regret: “…I regret I wouldn’t be the best match in this instance.” Oooh, flashbacks to online dating and Match.com. Ugh: fade to black. But wait, sweet: I met my fabulous husband online.
More on the fact that the agents could be wrong, which I’m not sure if is sweet or sour: “I regret to say that I don’t feel I am the most appropriate agent for your work. Considering the subjective nature of the business, I hope that you will find someone who feels differently, and I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.”
Form, form, form letters: I’ve given them out many times too as I turn away applicants for employment. How’s it feel now, Hawks, huh? Sour, sour, sour.
You’ve got to appreciate when agents get terse to the point of not even punctuating the final sentence:
“Not for us, thanks. Better luck elsewhere”
I could bemoan the fact I’m not worth an additional period, or, I could look at the sweet fact that a) I got an answer (many agents don’t answer at all) and b) The note is concisely kind.
After a certain amount of rejections, one starts seeing things. “This certainly sounds like an original and compelling premise for a novel, but I’m sorry to say it’s just not quite the right match for my list at this time.” Wow! He said “original”! He said “compelling”! Wow!
Hahahhahahaha. Lyn, everyone says that. You have, too–you’ve seen brilliant ideas in many a student manuscript while knowing the piece was many moons from completion.
“Please do not take this rejection as a comment on your writing ability.” This is said while also saying, “Given the large amount of submissions I receive, I can only properly represent material that greatly excites or interests me.”
No great excitement or interest, then. I do understand.
I can’t help but end on sweet. It’s my nature, to cling to the candy moments.
“You write very well, and I’m intrigued by the concept, but–is the entire work told through journal entries? I confess that’s not a format I connect with; that said, it sounds like you have a lot of good material, and I do think you should continue writing and sending
This one I will attach to my monitor.
Mary Beth Parker, Dana Awards founder, says in “How We Started”:
I’ve learned a heartening but frightening thing in managing the Dana Awards: that there are thousands of excellent writers out there…Which is heartening for the sake of literature, but frightening because of the sheer numbers of good writers looking for recognition–so much competition for each one of us, and so many people who deserve notice but aren’t getting it.
Now that’s a truth both sweet and sour. That’s my story for now, and I’m sticking to it.