Need a good kick in the butt?

A couple of this week’s blogs had a few messages of inspiration, and overcoming obstacles, which I hope helped the writer, the poet, the artist, the mother, the accountant and anyone who needed a dose of “can do.”

“Encouragement, keep plugging away, keep on keeping on, never give up, and perseverance” were a few of the affirmations that were offered in comments throughout the blog and I thank you for sharing.

Even when we’re scared or doubtful in our work, or trying to ignore the naysayers, we should remember that there will be bumps along the way. However, we need to harness our strength (because we know it’s inside us) to get over the hurdles and go after our dreams.

Writer Amy Tan did.

I wanted to share an article that I found about Ms.Tan, and the beginning of her illustrious writing career.

The Manager Who Couldn’t Write
By Gary Sledge
from Reader’s Digest | July 2005

What launched Amy Tan’s career was not a big break, but a kick in the butt.

Before the million-copy sales of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife and The Hundred Secret Senses, Amy Tan was a writer. A business writer. She and a partner ran a technical-writing business with lawyer-like “billable hours.”

Her role with clients was largely that of account management — but this daughter of immigrants wanted to do something more creative with words, English words.

So she made her pitch to her partner: “I want to do more writing.” He declared her strength was doing estimates, going after contractors and collecting bills. “It was horrible stuff.” The very stuff Tan hated and knew she wasn’t really good at. But her partner insisted that writing was her weakest skill.

“I thought, I can believe him and just keep doing this or make my demands.” So she argued and stood up for her rights.

He would not give in.

Shocked, Tan said, “I quit.”

And he said: “You can’t quit. You’re fired!” And added, “You’ll never make a dime writing.”

Tan set out to prove him wrong, taking on as many assignments as she could. Sometimes she worked 90 hours a week as a freelance technical writer. Being on her own was tough. But not letting others limit her or define her talents made it worthwhile. And on her own, she felt free to try fiction. And so The Joy Luck Club, featuring the bright, lonely daughter of Chinese immigrants, was born. And the manager who couldn’t write became one of America’s bestselling, best-loved authors.

I’ve been dragging my feet about finishing a current story. I owe my critiquing partner a 1,000 words. And trust me, he won’t let me get away with not handing it in. But after reading the short story on Amy Tan, I have a different frame of mind. I can hand in my words. I just got my kick in the butt.

It was a tough go for Ms.Tan, but she held on, preserved and didn’t run away from her dream. In fact, she ran toward it without fear and with dedication. We can too.

TGIF! Have a good weekend and run toward your dream.

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Rejection: So, does that REALLY mean it’s over?

No one wants to receive a Dear John, Dear Jane, or Dear Writer letter. Whether it’s from an ex-lover, an agent or an editor, rejection is rejection and it’s painful.

There are varying degrees of rejection. Some can actually inspire you, while others can be downright hurtful. Yet no matter how good or bad they are, our egos and confidence take a beating. Initially, we may want to:

• Scream and rip the manuscript to shreds
• Start revising the book–at that moment–from chapter one.
• Burn the rejection letter along with the other 50 stuffed in the desk drawer
• Become BFFs with Jose, Jack or the Captain.
• All of the above or a few of your own creative choices

Yes, I know. It hurts like hell.

But the next day, after the hangover and putting out the fire we started in the trashcan, we grab our manuscript, and tape it back together. Then we try to behave like the professionals we are, and take this rejection as a sign of getting closer to our dream. And remember, the most successful authors were rejected. I might add, some none too nicely.

I ran across an interesting blog, “One Hundred Famous Rejections,” complete with the blogger’s editorial comment(at the end in italics) that I thought could make any aspiring writer struggling with rejection, hopeful. (I only saw 78, listed. However, I’m sure they’ll have a complete list in no time.)

Here are a few from their list. I urge you to look at the rest.

Famous Rejection #1: F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald, considered to be one of the best American writers, wrote The Great Gatsby in 1922. While the book is now ranked #2 in Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century, he once received a rejection letter that read: “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.” I believe history would beg to differ.”

Famous Rejection #43: Nora Roberts

Bestselling romance novelist Nora Roberts has written over 209 novels! We think that deserves repeating. Two hundred and nine novels, which spent a combined 861 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. But, before all that, there was rejection.

[Nora Roberts] submitted her manuscripts to Harlequin, the leading publisher of romance novels, but was repeatedly rejected. Roberts says, “I got the standard rejection for the first couple of tries, then my favorite rejection of all time. I received my manuscript back with a nice little note which said that my work showed promise, and the story had been very entertaining and well done. But that they already had their American writer. That would have been Janet Dailey.” Nora found a home with Silhouette books, and since then romance has never been the same.

Famous Rejection #69: Louisa May Alcott

“Little Women” would never have seen the light of day if Louisa May Alcott let rejection hold her back.The editor of Boston’s The Atlantic magazine, James T. Fields, told Alcott’s father, “Tell Louisa to stick to her teaching; she can never succeed as a writer.” As far as rejection goes, that one is pretty harsh! Fortunately, Louisa May Alcott never took it to heart. Instead, she told her father: “Tell him I will succeed as a writer, and some day I shall write for the Atlantic!” Not long after, she did!”

Rejection #72: Jacqueline Susann

“Novelist Jacqueline Susann is famous for her book Valley of the Dolls, which sold over 30 million copies. She’s also known for a particularly nasty rejection letter. Editor Don Preston initially wrote this about Susann’s initial manuscript:

“…she is a painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene cries for the hand of a pro. She wastes endless pages on utter trivia, writes wide-eyed romantic scenes that would not make the pages of True Confessions, hauls out every terrible show biz cliché in all the books, lets every good scene fall apart in endless talk and allows her book to ramble aimlessly…. most of the first 200 pages are virtually worthless and dreadfully dull and practically every scene is dragged out flat and stomped on by her endless talk… I really don’t think there is a page of this manuscript that can stand in its present form. And after it is done, we will be left with a faster, slicker, more readable mediocrity.” Wow. Now that’s a rejection!”

Famous Rejection #76: Chinua Achebe

“Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” has been considered a milestone in modern African literature written in English, and is one of the first to receive global acclaim. It has sold over 8 million copies worldwide, been translated into over 50 languages, and was selected as Time Magazine’s 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. And, it too, was rejected: It was sent to several publishing houses; some rejected it immediately, claiming that fiction from African writers had no market potential. Finally it reached the office of Heinemann, where executives hesitated until an educational adviser, Donald MacRae – just back in England after a trip through west Africa read the book and forced the company’s hand with his succinct report: “This is the best novel I have read since the war”. In 1958, the publisher published 2,000 hardcover copies, and the rest is history.”

Lesson in all this?

If and when you get another disappointing ”Dear Writer” letter, take another glance at some of the most famous authors who had their work handed back to them. And remember, they prevailed. We will too.

And one more reminder. Stay true to you and your book. F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t take out Jay Gatsby, did he? If he had, we would have been reading “The Great Whathisname.”

Chin up and keep writing because it only takes one YES.

The Best Rejection Letter Ever …

200336717-001The two longest months of my life resulted in the best rejection letter I’ve ever received.

Originally, I had an appointment with an agent at Romance Writers of America Conference in July. However, they were unable to attend and allowed me to pitch via email.

Prior to pitching this agent, there was something I liked from the start. They were cordial and professional, and we’d established a bit of a rapport through email. It could have been when they said, “Sorry I won’t be able to meet you in person, but have fun at the conference.”

I was excited about the prospect of pitching via email, but wasn’t sure how one went about it. However, I did what I thought was normal, I sent my query.

To my utter amazement, the agent requested my full manuscript. Not only was my manuscript requested, but I was able to email it, which I found so much better. I was over-the-moon delirious.

After checking my manuscript for proper formatting for the tenth time, I clicked the send button, and then played the game all writers have experienced–the waiting game. I queried in June and received a response in September, which is very good considering how busy agents are.

As I mentioned, this was the best rejection letter I’ve ever received. It was an email specifically telling me what they liked about my book and why they couldn’t represent me. They explained that, “the chick lit voice” in my book really didn’t work for them.

Honesty, and constructive criticism? It doesn’t get better than that!

I continued to read my rejection letter and instead of the usual display of disappointment, I smiled. The agent ended by saying, “However, I do think it was well written and will find a place in the market I’m just not the right person to represent it. I wish you the very best in your literary career and I have no doubt you will sell.”

That sentence was golden. Not only did it confirm that I was on the right track, but it gave me a boost to forge ahead. Every day I get closer to having my baby on a shelf or two at Barnes and Noble, and on Amazon.

There’s an old adage my mother said often, “What doesn’t kill us, will make us strong.” Sound familiar?

It’s true. This particular rejection didn’t kill me. It made me stronger, as do ALL my rejection letters, especially the overly nasty rejections. (Unfortunately, I’ve had a couple.)

However, THIS rejection letter was unique because the agent spoke to me, the author. I almost felt as though I was told in person, as opposed to email.

I was impressed and would definitely query this agent again–sans the chick lit voice.