I will never submit entries to the Boise Weekly Fiction 101 contest. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King won’t, either.
Personal coaches and self-help advocates often encourage people to take risks so they can face their fears, calm their critics, and win the adoration of friends and associates. That works – unless you’re a writer. Then the smallest rejection letter can cause a wave of insecurity so powerful that you’re tempted to tie your computer to your legs and jump into the nearest river of despair. Your fear of rejection becomes a bigger fear that no one will care. Ever.
Well, that might be a bit dramatic. But those who scatter words into sentences that evolve into paragraphs want readers to share the same passion that inspires writers to write. An author can devote years of arduous work to produce a manuscript that only languishes at the bottom of a slush pile. Then the form rejection letter arrives. Your talent is not good enough. Baby, you’re no good. (Sing along.)
My first national publication came fifty years ago when I was in elementary school. I’ve been fortunate to use my writing skills in career opportunities that included corporate communications, publishing, and writing for television, newspapers, and magazines. Every story, every news release, every report was an assignment written on a deadline, packaged, and presented for someone, everyone, to read. In return, I received a paycheck for validation and sometimes a writing award. Then I wrote books, and I held them like babies.
My rambling today was prompted by two recent rejections. I wrote a charming short story for a collection that celebrated Boise’s 150th anniversary. My story titled “The Gregarious Ghost of the Greenbelt” featured a sassy ghost that lived under the bridge on Capitol Blvd. I loved the story. The judges did not. My second rejection came from the Boise Weekly 101 Fiction Contest. I submitted two stories I thought were creative, clever, and mimicked the quirky samples of previous winners. Again, as in previous years, my stories weren’t chosen. But some of my friends won. That fact presents an entire new set of insecurities. They must be better writers. They know I lost. Will we still be friends?
Writers can find comfort by knowing about famous authors who also faced numerous rejections. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell was rejected 38 times before it was published. One of my favorite children’s books, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, was rejected 26 times. Beatrix Potter received so many denial letters that she successfully self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Other rejected writers include Stephen King, Rudyard Kipling, J.K. Rowling, George Orwell, Agatha Christie, Louisa May Alcott, and William Faulkner. I am not in the same league with the talent of those famous authors, but I can honestly say we share something in common: rejection. Then we get up again and write more stories.
Today’s blog was fueled by a 1998 Cattiglone Falleto Terre del Barolo. If you can find this wine, buy it and drink it. It’s only $17 – but one sip will send you to a quaint sidewalk café outside Florence, Italy where you’ll dine al fresco while a charming man plays the mandolin and sings “O Sole Mio.” Ciao.