"Let us not be ashamed to speak what we shame not to think."
-Michel de Montaigne

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rejections of Famous Authors

The other day I received an envelope in the mail with my own handwriting on the front.

I don't know why that fact didn't register, but I somehow glazed over this glitch in my thinking and went on to open the letter furiously, delighted that I should receive something in the mail other than a bill, and there it was: "We thank you for your interest in publishing with Autumn House Press, but..."

BUT. But. But. That evil little conjunction gets ya every time.

This is the third consecutive rejection slip I've gotten since I started to earnestly send my poetry out for publication. My favorite rejection slip came from The Paris Review a few years ago. I was so stoked to have anything mailed to me on PR stationary that I kept it. I wasn't mad at all that they'd rejected my meager little poems.

Admittedly, I had a minor pity party for myself after that last one though, because I'd gotten so idiotically excited hoping it was a letter, some good news, a how'ya'doin, and instead it was a 'thanks-but-no-thanks-loser.' The familiar cloud of self-doubt began to form over me until I was convinced that I was just some horrible little egotist who would die obscure, unknown, my writing the jumbled mess that I'd always feared it was. But then I remembered William Faulker, Nobel Laureate, who received a horrible rejection of his book Sanctuary: "Good God, I can't publish this!"

It made me wonder, who else got rejected? A short list of manuscripts/writers who were rejected SEVERAL times:

1) Animal Farm, George Orwell
2) On the Road, Jack Kerouac
3) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
4) Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
5) Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
6) Lord of the Flies, William Golding
7) Dr. Seuss
8) Emily Dickinson, who was told "[your poems] are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are quite defect of poetical qualities."
9) Torrents of Spring, Ernest Hemingway
10) The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
11) Catch 22, Joseph Heller

Publishing, may be a good-ol-boys club, but it is also a numbers game. I intend to keep playing, go for broke, because I don't have time for anything else.

I still believe in this glorious dream that is writing. Even if the rejections pile in, and they will. Even if my friends and coworkers and lookers-on think I am a nut-job without the luxury of a new car or a disciplined retirement savings.


  1. wow! I bet the idiots that rejected Twilight and Harry Potter have been FIRED!

  2. Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind Too? I know it was long but I loved it! You're in good "reject" company. Anything you write I'm sure I will love.

  3. You are sooo ahead of me. Number one you are actively and regularly writing. Number two you are engaging in a writing community. Number three you are submitting your works. How awesome is all of that?
    When you are published you will be in good reject company!