Rejected but not dejected

One good thing about getting enough rejections from agents and publishers is that after a while they don’t really hurt. Each new one is just another paper cut. I haven’t lost enough blood yet to swoon.

I swear, if an agent or publisher ever accepts one of my submissions I think I won’t even notice. I’ll just assume it’s another no. Gotta watch out for those kinds of expectations.

But anyway, I just wanted to talk a bit today about how we writers (and other creative types) deal with with rejection. I may not speak for us all, but I’m pretty sure how I react isn’t that unusual.

In the beginning I was shocked, incredulous that I got a rejection because I was so sure my work was way too fabulous for anyone to not love it and want it immediately.

So I had to get over that.

Then I got to where when I got a rejection I thought it was because my writing was no good.  That I was a crummy writer. This required a bit of mental judo, as I had to ignore the nearly two decades of being paid well to write non-fiction. I had to make myself believe that my fiction work was inferior — because if an agent or a publisher sent a rejection that’s what it must mean, right?  Even though that’s not logical thinking, that’s where I went.

That wore off after a while, sometimes within minutes, sometimes much longer.  Then I’d get pissed off about getting a rejection. It doesn’t take a mental giant to see that a lot of what gets published is pretty awful. My work was definitely better than that schlock. And I’d show those publishers.  Someday I would get published, and then those dummies who passed on my work would be really, really sorry.

Maintaining a perfect state of pissed-offness is energy intensive and depressing so inevitably I”d move on to vowing to never write again. As if that were possible. Okay, maybe I just wouldn’t write fiction anymore. Maybe I’d go back to working under contracts to write for others. I’m pretty sure that road’s still open to me.  But I don’t want to write what other people want me to write anymore. Nope. Not happening.

Inevitably after a bunch of moping around and self-flagellation, during which time I’d torture myself with visions of a life empty of purpose and passion, a brilliant idea would smack me between the eyes, an idea that would not be denied. I’d drop everything to capture it, scribble on a pad holding a flashlight in my teeth in the middle of the night, sit in front of the computer all day long till my eyes wouldn’t focus and my fingers were about worn off. Taking what I learned from the rejections and fixing…

Whoa there. Wait a minute. That last bit… the learn from part. NO! That’s not how it goes. You know why? Because getting rejected doesn’t teach a writer anything. Rejections aren’t necessarily about the writing at all.  IMO they are all too often about the fact that a whole bunch of agents and publishers only think they know what they’re doing.

Yup. That’s not just sour grapes on my part (well, maybe a little sour). You don’t have to take my word for it. You can prove it for yourself. Meanwhile, consider my reasoning.

First of all, let’s start with the fact that agents and publishers all have slightly different query requirements. Why is this? After all, it’s a time sucker and a real drag for writers who want to get on with writing the sequel to their novel.  Writing summaries of a book requires special skills. Writing query letters to successfully sell a novel to an agent or publisher is made nearly impossible because that special skill requires being able to read minds.

What? Yes, that’s right, reading minds. I’m sticking my neck out here, but seems to me that much of the blame for unsuccessful queries is on the people who supposedly are the experts, the ones who’re going to market those books, the agents and publishers who don’t bother telling authors exactly what they want to market. So when a writer (me, for instance) hunts for an agent or publisher to query, we have to intuit, or guess, or consult a Ouija board, to figure out whether the manuscript is a fit for that agent or publisher. Or just send out query after query, racking up the rejections.

Check it out for yourself by reading your rejections, which no doubt you’ve saved. Don’t they all say the same thing basically? Don’t they use phrases like not quite what we’re looking for right now and the fit was wrong?

Excuse me?  Not quite what you’re looking forHow could that be? I’m sure I’m not the only writer who obsesses over what agents and publishers are looking for. I don’t need waste my time querying anybody who isn’t looking for what I’ve written. And yet in the end, isn’t that what I’m doing? Spending valuable time querying when I could be writing a book?

Only to get rejected?

Could it be… the [gasp]  [drum roll] “Rowling Syndrome”?

You probably know that the author of the wildly popular Harry Potter series received 12 or so rejections for The Sorcerer’s Stone. That’s no record. Many famous authors have received more.

Rowling gets to have the syndrome named after her (by me, I just dreamed it up) because when she sought to publish the first book of her Cormoran Strike series under the pen name, Robert Galbraith – after selling millions of copies in her Harry Potter series — one rejection letter actually recommended that she take a writing course. And even more amazingly, the publisher who first turned down Harry Potter also rejected Cormoran Strike — and did so rudely.

Wait — how could this be? Why would anyone have rejected a manuscript that must have been clearly marketable?

To be fair, publishers and agents get overwhelmed by the queries. There’s an art to prognosticating best-sellers. The public is fickle, tastes change quickly these days, and it’s a long process getting a book from agent query through to hitting the shelves (or Amazon!). What everyone wanted to read then might not be what they want to read now. I get it that’s it’s not easy. Particularly when the author is new.

So sad, too bad. Letting a best-seller slip away is still an agent’s own fault.

This is a rule of life: If you can’t articulate your desires accurately then the odds are high that you won’t get what you want. If the queries an agent or publisher receives are not quite what they’re looking for, perhaps they are the ones who haven’t made it clear what they want. If you’re a writer you’ve probably been as frustrated as I am at how some agents (particularly the new ones) ask for such a broad range of genres that they’re obviously just chumming for a best seller.

So okay, no point in getting dejected that I haven’t found my agent or publisher yet. I have to believe I will find them and they’ll be way better than the ones who’ve rejected my work so far. But still.  If I was more into burning my bridges, I’d send replies to those rejections, suggesting that perhaps taking a writing course would help. I’d thank them for reviewing my query and tell them I was sorry they didn’t fit my novel’s needs.  And that maybe if they wrote better descriptions of what they want on their #MSWL Manuscript Wishlist they’d get better queries and have more successful sellers.

But I won’t, of course. I’ve still got to cross the bridges and it’s stupid to scorch my own feet.  Where is that confounded bridge anyway?

#amwriting

Lori and Jimmy and sex, oh my

Author and journalist George Case has written an interesting blog post, Sick Again, which I felt I had to reply to.  I decided that because my thoughts are really way too long for a comment, I’d post them here.  Please read George’s article so you’ll have the context for what I’ve written below.

Jimmy Page & Lori Mattix

You ask: What would a fourteen-year-old and a twenty-eight-year old see in each other, and who around them could have imagined their liaison was a healthy one?

The answer: The two would see opportunity for friendship. Companionship. Excitement. Stimulation. Fun. Love. Sex. Great food and drink. Great drugs. Travel. New experiences. Interesting conversation. Comfort. Great parties.

The people around them would see two people who are attracted to each other, just like any other two people, give or take a bit of fame and fortune. Why would anyone think it was unhealthy?  If two people experience these things together, then they are lucky.  They might be envied, even.

But okay, maybe a few would see sexual exploitation in the relationship.  Um.  Which one would be the exploiter?

Remember, back then there was also this going on: The burning desire for freedom to think for oneself, to each forge our own way, to toss off the shackles of establishment that had only led the world to racism, war, and repression.

Back in the days of flower power, many of us believed strongly in a world vision of freedom and peace. It was a sexual, moral, and ethical revolution created by living it. We pushed the envelope, we lived that pushing.

Excess? That is a view from outside, not inside.

Back then we resented the establishment that tried to impose a morality on us that we didn’t believe in. Who cared what the law was when it was so clearly outdated and wrong.

I still feel that way. Many of us of a certain age still do.

All of the young women the establishment said back then (and are still saying now) were too young were in fact quite old enough, thank you very much. We knew what we were doing. We knew a lot more than many who were a decade or two older than us. Young women like Lori were not being exploited, they were taking advantage of the only avenues open to them at that age to climb the ladder to where they wanted to go. They were having an incredible time doing it, too.

They aren’t the ones who were wounded and scarred by sexual predators.

Young women are not children just because they are under some arbitrary legal age according to criminal law. Women who are 14 years old do not need protecting from using their bodies to get what they want in life. Women of all ages should have the unquestioned right to make decisions about their own bodies and their own lives.

Women of all ages should have the unquestioned right to say NO for themselves, not permission from others to say yes to what they want in life.

The first

It’s hard to be an innovator, a creator, the first person to do something.  It’s easy to copy what others have done and go where others have already broken trail.  It’s also easy to forget how tough it is to be the first, the one to break through to the new.

This is true of so many things.  Of pretty much everything, in fact.  It’s hard work to be the first and it’s sometimes downright risky.  You know this to be true even if you’ve never dared to break out of the fold.  Or maybe you have dreamed but haven’t dared to act, because you innately understand how tough it would be.

If being the first was easy, everybody would be doing it.
Sailor tattoos

Tattoos used to be a way of signifying identification with and belonging to groups that outsiders couldn’t hope to be part of.  Sailors and Hell’s Angels and tribes.  The tattoos were meant to show that those so marked were special, with powers that others couldn’t have. In turn, people who flaunted tattoos were looked down on or feared.

Now everybody’s grandmother — and great grandmother and great grandfather and the next door neighbor’s new-born — has tattoos.  Now a tattoo shows you’re part of a group — the one that’s become the norm rather than of outliers.

Even so.  Even in the 21st century.Megan Fox tattoo

Being the first is still to be the one who breaks the barrier of conformity, a place that is safe and comfortable.  And that means that it still isn’t so easy.  Many try, many fail.  Those who persevere have a hard time daring to go where no man — or woman — has gone before.

Touchers, gropers, and rapists

Which brings me to the accusations of sexual misconduct.  First it was a trickle, then it became a streamlet. If you think it’s starting to look like a flood now, let me tell you pretty soon it’s going to become a tsunami.  People may believe that this is a sudden thing that men are doing (because it’s mostly men who are being accused), but that’s not the case.  What is the case is that women (because it’s mostly women who do the accusing) have been groped and worse by men probably since Adam.

Then what’s happening now?

Being the first to complain about sexual misconduct….  oh forget that.  It’s not “misconduct”, it’s wrong, it’s bad, it is evil , abusive, crappy behavior.  Anyway, complaining has never been a good idea for women.  Here we are in 2017 when presumably women have “equal rights” but even now a woman’s accusations are doubted .  Even now a woman is blamed for the inappropriate behavior for men.  Even now it just isn’t considered something a woman should complain about in the first place.

And yet you ask any woman and the high probability is that sometime during her life, no matter how old — or young — she is, she will have been the recipient of unwanted advances by men.

That’s just plain crap.

Understand: this isn’t a diatribe about men.  This is about being the first, and how hard it is to do that.  Humans mistrust people who step outside area of The Way Things Have Always Been Done.  Safety is in numbers.  But…

The first women have spoken.  More will speak up.  Suddenly it will happen that the complainers aren’t outliers.  Maybe finally those who  have always had their way will find themselves in the minority, not the majority, and things will change.

 

Lif C Strand

Quemado NM USA

Dear USFS

Smoke from AZ forest fires spreading into New Mexico

Dear Forest Service: I have a few questions for you. They arise from my state of confusion about what the purpose of a Forest Service actually is. I thought you were a federal agency that managed our forests for multiple uses. But I seem to be mistaken. Nowadays people are being blocked from using forest resources as they traditionally have plus all you do is encourage fires so even wildlife doesn’t get the use of our forests. So rather than speculate, I thought I’d ask and maybe you could clear a few things up for me.

1) When did “management” and “burning” become synonymous? I get the concept of the occasional naturally started fire being allowed to burn, because that clears brush and adds nutrients to the soil, but I also understand that trick only works in a healthy forest.

But we don’t have healthy forests. The forests are bug-ridden, drought stressed, and overgrown.  So why are you not only burning, burning, burning, but you’re also igniting fires in the name of management?

How come you’ve got the budget to pay firefighters to manage all that burning, but you never have the budget to pay for NEPA studies that would allow logging, forest restoration, and mechanical hazardous fuels reduction? You know, stuff that would not only benefit the forests, but benefit local economies?

Sorry, that was more than one question, but let’s move on.

2) When you burn all the brush and grass in the fall, what does the wildlife that browses and grazes, or lives on plant seeds, etc. eat during the winter, before there’s any growth in the spring?

3) When you burn, how many small animals that can’t flee the fires do you kill? How many large animals that than can run get burned by your fires and are crippled or die slow deaths?

4) What impact does all this smoke have on tourism, I wonder?

5) Just how much carbon and particulates gets added to our polluted atmosphere by all this burning? How does breathing the smoke day after day impact human health, and the health of any critter that has lungs? How does the smoke you generate with all your burning contribute to global warming or climate change?

6) Do we ever get a break? Or are you planning to just burn, burn, burn all year long?

Thanks for any answers that you could provide. I am sure everything I’m asking is public information you have made available somewhere, but darned if I can find it.

Sincerely,
Lif Strand

PS: I’d appreciate it if you didn’t just give me the party line, but for once just answered the questions.
PS: Sorry for my bad attitude. But month after month of headache, burning eyes, sore throat, and congested lungs from YOUR FIRES tends to make me crabby.

@USFSSouthwest