Monday, October 6, 2008

Writers on rejection

These are some of the responses received to the WH Call Out on how writers deal with rejection. Strangely, no men wrote back, only women, which makes me wonder if male writers face less rejection, if they blow it off more easily than women, or they just don't want to talk about it—?

Nan K. Chase
Since I'm writing for money, not for deep self-expression necessarily, I don't take rejection personally. A rejection at the "pitching" stage is due to:
  • poor research about the market
  • poor query (weak lead, errors)
  • weak story idea
  • etc.
Rejection farther along is due to the same things, plus wrong word count and generally poor writing.

Analyse the mistakes, fix them, send it out again. And don't take it personally—it's important to always get over yourself.

Nan K. Chase's books include Asheville: A History (McFarland & Company, 2007) and Bark House Style: Sustainable Designs from Nature (Gibbs Smith, 2008) with co-author Chris McCurry. She lives in western North Carolina.

Kim Dana Kupperman
I file the rejections I receive (I have a thick file that corresponds to my ever-thickening skin). It has long been a dream of mine to wallpaper a bathroom with these rejection letters and notes. I don’t own my own home or bathroom so the project is stalled for the moment. However, the plan would consist of making a collage with the rejection slips for each piece next to the cover of the journal in which they finally appeared.

I’m now at a point where, if I receive a handwritten note from an editor, I consider that a “good” rejection. Only writers could come up with the notion of a “good” rejection! But seriously, those handwritten notes are an invitation to keep going and keep submitting. An editor (who penned such notes to me and then finally accepted my work) told me that authors who received such notes were called “legendary” amongst staff at the journal while writers whose work was accepted were welcomed as “family.” I really liked that distinction.

Rejection is a way of life in this adventure called writing. I use it to remind myself that what passes as “good” writing is a matter of individual taste. Today’s periodical literature is so exciting because it’s not being chosen by one or two editors, but by hundreds, all with a different aesthetic. What doesn’t work for one editor will for another. I learned a long time ago that being rejected doesn’t mean I am being rejected, it means my work—as I submitted it—doesn’t light up the heart of the particular reader or (as is the case at many journals) group of readers.

For more on Kim Dana Kupperman, see the Writing Home Writer Profile about her.

Angela Render
I used to keep the rejections in a file folder until I moved and decided they weren't worth hauling to the new house. Now rejection doesn't bother me at all. I think the key to dealing with it is to remember that the person did not reject YOU. They rejected a piece of writing that might not have been mature yet, or that hit them at an inappropriate time. Two weeks earlier or six months later and it might have been accepted. Since timing is so important to getting published, it's worthwhile to resubmit a piece to a place that's rejected you if:

1) The editor has moved on to another job.
2) A world event has suddenly made your piece timely.

Angela Render is a professional web developer who writes historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy and cross-genre romantica. For more information, visit her website:

Lalita Noronha
I treat rejections the way I do my weight. I go up and down with the process; I may slow down, but I never quit! First I read every word of the rejection letters, even the boiler-plate replies, wipe my tears (it’s true!) and then faithfully file those treasures. Then, I return to some of my favorite quotes:

"Anyone who cannot come to terms with his life while he is alive needs one hand to ward off a little his despair over his fate... but with his other hand he can note down what he sees among the ruins."
--Franz Kafka

"I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, 'To hell with you.'"
--Saul Bellow

"This girl doesn't, it seems, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level."
--From a rejection slip for "The Diary of Anne Frank" (as quoted on ).

Born in India, Lalita Noronha is a research scientist, teacher, poet, author and an editor for The Baltimore Review. Her literary work has appeared in over 40 journals, magazines and anthologies. Her short story collection is entitled Where Monsoons Cry (Black Words Press, 2004). Her website is

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