I received my first rejection letter this week, for some poems I’d sent to a Canadian literary magazine. I don’t feel disappointed as much as relieved that I have reached another writing milestone.
I’m proud of the fact that I had the courage to send the poems off to be judged. And someone read them, a female editor, who took the time to include some words of encouragement in the letter:
“There are some lovely moments in these poems- I especially liked your description of the birches.”
I can live with that; it’s a start. I am inspired, not discouraged.
Every writer has experienced rejection. There is a website, www.litrejections.com, where you can sit and read rejection letters from famous authors. On another site, writer Emma Bowd has posted a piece, “How to deal with rejection letters.” She says her agent told her that “the book will end up where it’s meant to be,” and “each rejection brings [you] closer to publication.”
Author Louise Brown says:
“I could write an entertaining novel about rejection slips, but I fear it would be overly long.”
My fighting spirit had already been making itself known before I received the rejection and now I am doubly committed to giving voice to stories that I think need to be told. And I want to support the many talented women who are writing through the good times and the tough times.
I had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion on Women Writers and the Novella where four authors – Carole Giangrande, Here Comes the Dreamer; Showey Lazdanian, Loopholes; Gail Benick, The Girl Who Was Born That Way;Anita Kushwaha, The Escape Artist- read from their works. Two small Canadian presses, Quattro Books and Inanna Publications have published these four titles. The reps who were there were encouraging and supportive and basically said they were committed to getting good writing out there. And what a talented, funny, engaging quartet of writers on the panel. I was so glad I was there. They had some interesting observations to share about the novella. The size, 80-150 pages, lends itself to intense, focused writing that can centre around a few characters; there is no room or need for complicated subplots. The backstory need not be fully fleshed out, so you can zero in on the story at hand. For the reader, there can be great satisfaction in being able to swallow the whole book in one sitting, on an airplane for instance.
Why were we talking about women and the novella? Is there something about the form that is more appealing to a female author? The consensus that night was that women, more than men, write about subjects that adapt well to this compact storytelling. For instance, The Girl Who Was Born That Way is about a Jewish family who survive the holocaust and settle in the US, only to face another battle when their third daughter develops anorexia. Gail Benick, the author, felt strongly that she wanted to write about a marginalized character- this anorexic young girl, whose family is baffled by their daughter’s illness.
The voice that is heard in this novella is unique and not often heard from. What hidden voices lie within each of us that if tapped into, would tell riveting stories? I have been thinking about this lately. To uncover our unique voice (s), we need to strip away all the artifice; let go of all the things that are getting in the way of writing from the heart in the present moment. Natalie Goldberg suggests that we need to let go of everything, including- our gender, age, country of origin, occupation, history,
need, appearance, expectations, fear, relationships, hope, money- drop it, take a deep breath and “fall down through it all to just being.”
This is not an easy concept to wrap your mind around. You can start slowly, by sitting in a quiet place, closing your eyes and practicing emptying your mind. Try it for seven minutes. I think you will be amazed how calm you feel. Then, in this state of calm, free write for ten minutes. See where you go.
I have also been thinking about my relatives, back beyond my immediate family and wondering how much of their wisdom and experience and vision, I carry inside of me. If I can let go enough and toss the clutter from my mind, will I be attuned to these voices from the past? My maternal grandmother enjoyed writing. I have some of her notes and a haunting poem that she wrote about the Lodge and Sparrow Lake. Our voices are eerily similar. I do think that somehow she is encouraging me.
I started this post talking about rejection but it seems to have spurred me on rather than discouraged me. Don’t let anything dissuade you from writing. Believe in yourself and pay attention to the voices inside of you that are clamouring to be heard. And get to as many writing events as you can. Check the NOW listings under “Readings;” most are free. It’s good to be with other writers and hear their work and share their journey.
Here are three writing prompts to keep you inspired. Try closing your eyes and letting go for seven minutes ( see above) and then picking up your pen to write for ten:
- Who from your past do you wish was still around?
- What do you NOT want to change about your life?
- Write about an experience that made you happy?
Til next time, keep writing.