five essential steps for first responders

Helen Leitch prints

Helen Leitch prints

As a writer, wouldn’t you love to have your own “first response team” when rejection strikes and your emotions are on high alert? Many of us do. We have fellow creative folk, our kindred spirits, who know what to say—and what not to say—when our mental state is its most delicate.

But what happens when your first response team isn’t available? Maybe they’re out of town, offline or marinating in their own tar pit of despair. That means (gulp), you must turn to the rookies. Often these well-meaning individuals are ill-equipped for such literary-related emergencies. Poor things. They feel insecure, inept, and as a result, they say or do some really, really, really stupid stuff.

Instead of feeling frustrated, why not offer these good-hearted bumblers a prompt so they’ll know what to do until real help arrives. Think it like those Heimlich maneuver posters you see in cafeterias.

Fill in the information below.

Pocket a copy in case you lapse into a post-rejection funk and are unable to speak for yourself.


My name is: _________________________________________________________
(I suggest using your real name here, not your pen name. Make it easy on the first responder.)

Emergency contact: __________________________________________________
(e.g., Agent; Nearest Living Author Friend; Ben and/or Jerry)

Genre type: (PB, MG, YA)

While you are waiting for the Emergency Contact to arrive, follow these five simple steps:

Step 1 Check to make sure I’m breathing.
This step is especially if you found me face down in the area rug. Wave a Lindt truffle next to my nose to revive me.

Step 2 Do NOT apply logic.
Even small doses of logic have been known to be toxic at this point.

For example, these seemingly sensible words will NOT help:
“You’ve only tried two editors, right? You can try more.”
“Maybe it’s not you. Maybe the editor was just having an off day.”
“There’s always next year.”
“It’s not the end of the world.” Yes. Yes, it is the end of the world. The sun will not come up
tomorrow, no matter what that Annie girl says.

Step 3 Do NOT offer compliments, such as, “Well, I really liked your story.”
I don’t care. Your opinion doesn’t count right now. It will tomorrow (provided there is a tomorrow), but not now.

Step 4 If I look like I’m trying to put on a brave front, induce tears.
Force me to re-read the rejection letter out loud in front of a mirror so I can see how pitiful I look. Offer generous amounts of Kleenex.

Step 5 Apply ice cream to the site of the babbling in liberal doses.

To the rejected writer: Be sure to write your kind first responder a thank you note. That is, when you feel like writing again.

11 responses »

  1. HAhahahaha! Printing out this card and laminating it now… Maybe a neck lanyard would be a good idea. Definitely referencing it on my MedAlert bracelet.


  2. Whoa – Only Writers are identified in the subject line???

    Do the Illustrators lurking around here have to draw a picture – like of “The Scream” to be allowed in this group?


    • Oh, my dear Virginia, you are most certainly welcome. I’m focusing on writers simply because I “is” one. Your perspective and insights as an illustrator are always welcome here. Hop on over any time! Thank you!


  3. I say woe to the novice first responders. Or actually, Whoa! If you see a despondent writer (I mean more despondent than usual) turn tail and get out of there.

    If you’re already in the desperate clutches of a babbling wordsmith, then woe it is: Wisdom, common sense, optimism: none of these has a use for the newly-rejected writer. So, help them wallow in self-pity, indulge in their vices and generally be a miserable wretch. You’re saving their lives, and someday they thank you for it by making you the the spiteful, unsympathetic villain in their bestselling MG novel.


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