Every day I hear the mail SLAM through my mail slot and onto my living room floor. I nearly always stop what I'm doing and go to check it out. This daily routine is my thermometer, my gauge of progress, my occupational hazard, perhaps. I always do it the same way. I sit on the floor with all the mail in front of me, face down. (Note, I am not face down, the mail is face down) I turn them over one at a time, and my heart either stops, speeds up or slows down at every turn. I'm looking for rejection letters.
They're easy to spot because I fold the SASE into thirds and place it in the envelope with the manuscript, so when it's returned, you can still see the two folds in the envelope. I can spot them from way down the hall.
I always hope, always believe, always anticipate...but good news usually (not always) comes by e-mail, so the rejection letters are generally, well, rejection.
I have an entire drawer full of rejection letters. An actual entire drawer. It is so full that I can barely close it. I will probably have to start another drawer. Some of you know that these letters are just part of the deal, part of the business, part of the whole process. Does that make it easier? Maybe a little, but mostly not.
At least once a week I receive some kind of 'reverse communication' in the mail. These rejection letters are either for magazine work or one of the two picture books that I am shopping. Sometimes the letters are from editors, sometimes they're from agents and sometimes, aarrgghh, from college student interns hired to help an editor or agent 'catch up'. You can spot those a mile away.
At any rate, there are a number of different kinds of rejection letters. For example, the worst is the FORM REJECTION. That is a xeroxed letter (sometimes not even a full sheet of paper) with a generic message that basically says "not for us." Sometimes the editor might sign it personally or include a perky little "Good Luck". It never says, "You suck." Or "Stop sending this garbage to us." It's usually very nicely worded, but it means the same thing.
Another kind of rejection letter that I just received for the first time this week is the 'Return to Sender' unopened submission letter with an attached message--no longer accepting submissions from unagented authors. Hmmmm...not a personal rejection because clearly that didn't read it, but still...'
Today I received the best kind of rejection letter. Without disclosing any details, I received a lovely personal letter (these are few and far between, believe me, although they've been picking up lately...) that complimented my project, said it didn't fit her list, but that she liked it and hoped to see someone else pick it up. Sounds crazy, but a rejection letter like this one is almost not a rejection at all.
So tonight, I'm feeling encouraged, which is depressing in itself, right? That I would be so encouraged by a letter of rejection? But no matter, I am encouraged all the same. Because I know for sure that each rejection letter is simply one letter closer to the real deal.
I'm shopping two picture books, and I'm about a week away from finishing my middle grade novel. Soon my 'reverse communication' will be kicking up big time. So forgive me if I look a little green in the afternoon. It'll soon segue into fuel for the next day's writing.
So those of you who know and love writers, now you have a little insight into the excruciating thing called "getting the mail". Be kind, and send us a little nice mail sometime. Have a great Friday.
My Mission Statement
I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.