REJECTED!

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Rejects. No. Pass. Whatever you call them, you’ll get lots.  That’s all part of being a writer.  Every writer has a file of their rejections. Well, at least I do.  I have a real one, for physical rejections, and a virtual one, for e-mail rejections.  Plus another one on Submittable.  I guess that’s a double up on the virtual rejections.

How do you handle them? That’s personal. Not as in, “I’m not telling you!” But as in how we handle the experience. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had three. Not just rejections, but three different reactions to the 1,256 MSs I’d sent out in early August. Hear they are, in order of preference:

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1. NO!  YOUR WORK SUCKS!  WHY ARE YOU EVEN DOING THIS ANYMORE!

I had this reaction after my mentor had recommended a small publishing house for my picture book manuscript, I sent it out, and got a rejection.  I’d even included the proper postage to get the MS back, and they didn’t send it back. Just the rejection form in an envelope with three stamps (I only used two to sent it out with the SASE).  This one hurt.  A lot. But you have to move on, and I did after some sulking and pondering why I’m even doing this.  Rationalizing it helped: they accept 40/20,000 titles a year. Odds are not in your favor. 

2. Okay, I have it out with a few other agents I carefully research, this just wasn’t the right agent.

This is my reaction for most of my rejections.  I have two strong stories, one of which I’ve sent out to nine agents, and I have seven or eight others waiting to send it to if it gets passed on by all of them.  I’m still waiting to hear from six (I think...).

3. HAH!

I had this on Saturday.  I sent it out around 9:30 A.M., and got a form rejection around 7:30 P.M. ‘after careful consideration.’  Very careful. What could you do?  I laughed. We were definitely not meant to work together!

There are others, too.  A couple times I’ve gotten a non format rejection, and once I got a rewrite and submit.  And, one I haven’t gotten yet, which is an ‘I’d like to see more work’ or ‘I love your work, please call me!’ Yet.

Did I miss any? Let me know!

What Now? GOALS!

Did someone say goals?

 Okay, it’s not a goal- it’s Alyssa Naeher, Team USA Keeper making a diving save- my daughter’s a Keeper, so this is in here for her! 

Okay, it’s not a goal- it’s Alyssa Naeher, Team USA Keeper making a diving save- my daughter’s a Keeper, so this is in here for her! 

So, what now? My break is over, I’m back at it- whatever it is.

I printed out a couple stories to edit, and have another story I’m working on for an anthology submission. But what are my priorities? Well, I guess those are my goals...

 1. Getting a third manuscript submission ready. That mean I have two! I used to send out stuff as soon as I wrote it and looked it over once or twice (YIKES!).  I thought my stuff was awesome!  Now, I cringe at the thought.  To think that I have two I know are ready to go is hard to fathom.  Hopefully, though, no one remembers my name from the stuff I used to send.

2. Wait. That’s the next goal. I have the manuscript out with seven agents (already got two no responses) and a list of nine other agents to go.  I will search for more agents to send to as well. So, I guess this ‘wait’ goal means to research more agents to send out to, while waiting.

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3. Write. What? Seriously? Isn’t that what I’ve been doing the past five years???? Ok, I guess. Write more.  I’ve got that file of ideas, so, why not look for the next story or two to write? Practice, practice, practice (Yes, A.I., I’m talkin’ ‘bout practice).

4. Wait.  Wait you just said that. I know and now you’re talking to yourself and people will think you’re nuts. I’m not nuts, you’re nuts! Fine, whatever. Just wait.  Fine.

So, I guess, outside of that bit of insanity, that’s my short and long list of goals, mixed with a lot of waiting. 

What’re your goals?

Break Over!

Time to get back to work! My break’s over.  I don’t feel like going a full month, I’ve spent enough time sittin’ on my butt playing video games and watching Netflix and Hulu. I guess I cheated a bit, too.  I did look over a couple stories, though I didn’t change anything major. Tomorrow, I’ll write a list of things I’d like to accomplish over the next couple weeks/ months and tackle that thing-and yes, the first thing on my list will be: 1. Write a to do list. Why? Cuz I can cross it right off since i accomplished it! Now get to work!

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Breaks

No, not the fun kind where you fall and break 17 bones because, like me, you’re old (no, that didn’t really happen).

I’m talking about the Creative Break, where you break all your pens, pencils, brushes, canvases, brains...no? Not that kind either?

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Well, what kind of break are you talking about?

I’m talking about the kind where you take a Break from your creative endeavors (okay, and maybe break a pen or two).

A couple years ago, I was listening to an episode of the podcast Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert.  In it, she helped a fellow author who was stuck.

 

You know stuck, right? Where you stare at a blank screen, a blank journal, a blank canvas, and you get a strong desire to smash it, quit, never do it again, but you don’t because you were told to just paint, write, create whatever comes to your mind because that’s what you’re supposed to do since everyone in the history of the world did that and it’s easy so why isn’t it easy for you.

So you decide you need to quit. 

Yeah, that kind of stuck. 

How did Elizabeth Gilbert help? Well, she told her to take ONE MONTH OFF. 

<gasp> 

NO!  You can’t!  You HAVE to stare at a blank space and create...something...eventually! 

Yeah, take a month off. Then, use a timer and sit, and write for one hour.  When the timer goes off STOP! No matter what- okay, maybe finish that sentence, BUT THAT’S IT! 

That part of the podcast ended there, and she interviewed Neil Gaiman (MY WRITING IDOL!!!), then interviewed the author at the end of that month. 

At that point in my writing, I was stuck.  I didn’t want to write! I wanted to give up before I ever really got started. 

So, what did I do? 

I took September off. 

I’m a teacher, so I figured September would be a good month off.  I had plenty to do early on in the school year.  But, I still had to fill that time at night when I’d sit, and write.  Or stare at a blank screen. 

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It was hard, especially towards the end of the month, as I was chomping at the bit to write.  I had ideas flowing, things I wanted to edit.  The ideas I did write down (can’t lose them!), but I held off on EVERYTHING else until October 1st. 

Did it help?  Yes! Tons! That next calendar year was my most productive EVER.

I did it again in September of 2017, even though I didn’t feel I needed it, and had another productive year.

This year?  Well, I took off part of August already, and will take off the next two weeks, to complete a month, but I’m ready to go already. 

Do I feel like I want to quit? Nope! Did I feel frustrated when I started? A bit, but nothing major.  I’m just taking the month off to refresh. 

Try a break from creativity when you’ve hit a prolonged slump, you never know what might come of it. 

Have you ever taken a regular break from creativity? Let me know about it! 

 Take that break, and come out swinging!

Take that break, and come out swinging!

Highlights Foundation Summer Camp

I really don’t know where to begin with this, so I’ll start with this sentence telling you I don’t know where to start.

Summer Camp at the Highlights Foundation is a week long mentorship at, well, Highlights Foundation in the Poconos, PA.  You get matched up with a mentor, to whom you mail your chosen manuscript to work on, and, during your time there, they rip it apart and and make you do it over, again, and again.  By the end, you love them, like some evil older brother or sister.  By the end, you see progress, maybe even a finished manuscript, a gem pulled from the rock pile you sent in. You do get to meet with your mentor one on one four times, for about a half hour each time.

There’s also a speaker or two each day for the whole group, and a couple breakout sessions a day, for each of the days there, every single one of which was FABULOUS!

Then, there’s the people.

Other authors, and future authors, like you, who have a piece they love, love so much they want it ripped apart, and gently molded back together. I think I ended up with 574 different versions of the same story.

They’re your people.

The relationships made will hopefully last a long time.  Maybe we’ll even catch up at another Highlights event.

For me, it was about a three hour drive, so getting there wasn’t that bad at all.  Others came from all over the country, as well as New Zealand and Australia.  So, that three hour drive really was a luxury. It sounded like some airport waits were that long...

I’d been to Highlights before.  Three times for the EPA SCBWI yearly gathering, and once for an Unworkshop.

As with those events, there’s food, food, and more food.  Everything is fresh made, sourced locally.  Three meals a day, and unlimited snacks and drinks.  Those snacks and drinks are out 24/7, too.  You got a cabin, or room all to yourself.  This way you can cry over your manuscript, and contemplate never writing again (But most of us still do).

But the people are the best part of it.  From George, the executive director, to Amanda, who, along with her amazing staff, cooked meals for us. Alison, who kept us all in line and going to do the things at the right times, and checked up on us to see how we were doing, to Shadra Strickland, my amazing mentor, and all the authors who mentored and presented (Shadra, Linda Sue Park, Mitali Perkins, Lamar Giles, Peter Jacoby, Anna-Marie McLemore, Jillian Sullivan, Lyndsay Barrett George- I hope I named them all!!).

Then there’s the other Mentees.  They were an incredible, dedicated, fun loving bunch!  There were definitely tears shed together, gallons of wine and been downed, tons of food and coffee eaten and drank together.  We edited together, commiserated together, and even read a story in front of everyone ‘together’.  I hope they had as much as a fabulous time as I did.

The Summer Camp was such an amazing experience,and I came away with so much, including finding my voice, that I will be going back next summer.

 Here’s the amazing Summer Camp crew!

Here’s the amazing Summer Camp crew!

Looking For Agents

Are you in the “I need an agent” mode?  That’s where I’m at.  I’ve been looking for about four years, now.  When I was first sending stuff out, it was the best crap EVER! I wrote it, edited it once or twice, thought, “How can anyone say no?” And, when they did, “OMG!  They don’t know what they’re missing!!”  

Oh how wrong I was.  Now, I just hope they don’t remember me as the person who sent them that manuscript, one that was so bad, they shared it with each other and laughed their butts off.


I’m finally at the point where I believe, along with my critique group, and a mentor I had, that I have two picture book manuscripts that are ready.  Really ready.  Like, actually edited and revised carefully over a couple years ready.  One I’ve been working on for four years, and may have been one I sent out before I knew what the heck I was doing!  

So, how do you search for agents? I used to belong to Julie Hedlund’s 12x12, and have a list of agents from my four years there, plus going through sites like agentquery.com.

Look through the sites carefully, make sure you read everything about them, look for comps they represent, or, if not (and you should!!!) make sure it fits the genre and style they’re looking for (do’t be like me and send out “the best thing EVER” with no idea what they want!).

You loved it, they didn’t.

You wrote, revised, had critique  partner(s) look at it, revised again, and again, and you loved it!  But someone didn’t.

How dare they :)

 

 

A severe criticism (given politely, with helpful suggestions) can hurt.  Does hurt.  Even if you say it didn’t, and they’re wrong anyway, it still hurts.  Maybe even enough to make you want to quit.

But you can’t.

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                  Do I have to keep going??? 

Writing is a journey with no real ending. And it really is!  I’ve talked to and listened to many authors, agents and editors.  If you want more than just one book, or one poem, published, there is no ending.  Sure, there are stopping points.  But, there’s always another hill to climb- or the same one, depending on how you look at this journey we’re on.

 This is a journey with many bumps and bruises, raging rivers to cross when the bridge is out, and thunderstorms to take cover from (anyone annoyed by that preposition at the end?  It’s truly okay to be there. It’s nothing to be afraid of...).

But, you can begin a sentence with a conjunction, and you must also get up, dust yourself off, dry off from the raging river, recover from that lightning strike, put your backpack on (or get back in the RV), and continue on your way.

If you write, you are a writer.  There truly is no end to your journey.  Just stopping points.  Some good, some bad.  Okay, many bad, but the good ones make it worthwhile.  Whether the good ones are extrinsic, or intrinsic (and THOSE are the ones that matter the most), they over power  the bad, and they keep us going.

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