Category Archives: Handling Rejection

Think you’re not a bully? Take the “Am I a Bully?” Quiz

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Are you a bully? You’re mostly likely saying no. Well, um, prepare yourself for an awkward moment of self-revelation served cold with a side of I Did Not See that Coming. You’re still skeptical, aren’t you. That’s okay. I’m not going to bully you. I’ll let this quiz do my convincing for me. Please go ahead.  Take this quick, eight-question test. We’ll talk when you’re done.

Pencils ready? Please respond with a T for True and an F for False.

The “Am I a Bully?” Quiz

  1. _____ I encourage my writing friend to invest hours trolling Facebook, especially when I know awards or “best of” lists are being announced so she can look for her name and not see it there.
  2. _____ When a rejection letter arrives, I help my friend dissect it, looking for any nuance that suggests this was a personal rejection and a comment on her chances of ever selling this manuscript in any form, both existing and those yet to be created, anywhere in the known universe.
  3. _____ I help my friend do side-by-side comparisons of her writing journey with that of someone else, all the while posing questions like “How old was he when he sold his first book?” “You know you should be a lot further along by now, right?” “Did you know he writes 9,000 words a day?”
  4. _____ If my friend says she’ll never be published, I affirm her in her fears with a hearty, “You betcha!”
  5. _____ If I suspect my friend may be hoarding Rubbermaid® tubs of jealousy under her chocolate hamper, I am swift to shift into shame mode and toss out words like immature, sophomoric and baby doodoo head.
  6. _____ When my agent-less friend learns one of her friends got an agent, I read and re-read the announcement aloud to her using a fancy British accent. Once it’s tattooed on her gray matter, we move on to making a list of the reasons an agent will never-ever-ever want to represent someone like her.
  7. _____ When my friend complains that all of her ideas are lame, I protest and correct her by saying, I see them as derivative, tired and utterly unappealing.
  8. _____ When my friend compares her rough draft with the edited/polished/published work of her favorite author, I fail to point out the unfair comparison while we drive to the store for more Cherry Garcia.

You answered F on every one, didn’t you.

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

But, my dearest buttered English muffin with apricot preserves, you are a bully. Every time you belittle yourself, blame yourself for having human emotions like jealousy or sadness, or torture yourself by comparing your unique journey to that of someone else, you are bullying you. Are you seein’ what I’m sayin’?

For the love of ampersands, stop.

Oh, I know it’s not that easy. It’s not easy at all. But if you can’t be your own defender, who can be? Start today by being mindful of the words you say to yourself. Instead of damning jabs, try using the sweet, consoling, empathetic words you give to others. Seek the company of encouraging people. Go on a 48-hour Facebook fast. Be BIG and send a worthy someone a note of congratulations. Be real about your disappointments. Celebrate even small victories.

And remember, my little former self-bully, even now, you are making some people sick with jealousy just by being you. Now, doesn’t that make you feel better? You betcha!

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. ~ Desmond Tutu

 

 

 

48 of the most important hours in a writer’s life

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Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

There are a plethora of important days in a writer’s life. (Pardon my use of plethora, but it’s such a keen word.) But, in my book, there are 48 hours that stand out from the rest. They are far from the most fun, but a lot hinges on how we choose to handle them.

Day 1 – The First 24 Hours at Ground Zero

You receive a rejection letter or slam into a serious setback. I know there are some who say it’s best to roll with it. Rejection is knit into a writer’s life and there’s no point becoming unraveled by it. I commend you for your ability to be cavalier, but I can’t manage it myself. The times I’ve tried only came back to chomp me. Stuffing the sadness caused tears to erupt at the oh-so-wrong times, so I’m better off taking 24 hours to wallow and be a wreck.

I say, allow yourself to free-fall into the velvet bean bag chair of despair. Lie on your back and let the tears collect in your ears until it sounds like the ocean. Ask a musical friend to set that sadistic, frozen-hearted rejection letter to music–in a minor key. Eat your weight in whatever sweet or salty concoction delights you. Imagine the source of your angst tethered to a termite colony wearing only plywood underpants. Get those toes curled deep in the Quicksand of Certaindoom. Hand your friends and family this form too:

I AM AN AUTHOR. I AM IN NEED OF IMMEDIATE INTERVENTION.

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

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

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.” Liar.
“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.

Day 2 – The Next 24 Hours at Resurrection Central

Today is the day you get on with it. Attitude follows action, so act like you’re bouncing back and you may actually believe it. (Besides, if you spent the first 24 hours wisely, you won’t want to curl back into the fetal position.) You’re now ready to stretch and stand up straight. Breathe. Wash your tear-streaked, Hershey’s Kiss encrusted mug. Pull on a fresh pair of big girl panties. Put on real I-can-be-seen-in-public clothes. Open your laptop. Pop open a file filled with half-finished projects. See what’s going on in there. It’s likely there’s something you like. Maybe even love. Type. Type again. Type some more. You see there, my little Puffalump? You’re going to be okay. I will too.

If your heart is broken, make art with the pieces. ~ Shane Koyczan

the importance of living dangerously

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

I am not a risk-taker, generally speaking. I wear my seat belt, hand sanitizer and sunscreen. Brush twice a day. Eat my burgers fully cooked and avoid stepping on sidewalk cracks.

Yes, I’ve been on the back of a motorcycle (once). I floated in the gondola of a hot air balloon, sat in the front seat of a whirling helicopter, cuddled with a Burmese python, sang an original song to hundreds while wearing a helmet with horns and even walked the streets of Chicago’s north side, but those were exceptions to my usual play-it-safe life. Oh, and once, I even used a public restroom without putting one of those paper doilies on the seat first. So, yep, I guess you could say I’ve sauntered on the wild side a time or two. (I saw you roll your eyes, by the way!)

But here’s what I know: you get what you risk for (or at the very least, you up your chances exponentially).

This spring, comedian Jim Carrey addressed the graduating class of Maharishi School of Management in Iowa. In a rare moment of transparency, Carrey shared how his father had the potential to be professional comedian, but opted to become an accountant because he thought it was the safer choice. It was not. He lost his job.

“So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality,” Carrey said. “I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which, was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

Is there a polished manuscript that’s “circling the airport” because you’re afraid of rejection? Submit it.
Is there an agent you want to query? Do it.

Feel the fear, but do what you want to do anyway. You can do this. (And I will join you.)

A ship is always safe at the shore, but that is not what it is built for. ~ Albert Einstein

an open letter to all of the editors who have ever rejected my work

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Dear Editors:

Please don’t wince. You may expect a briny, venom-drenched letter layered with defensive, caustic, cussy language. What I intend to do is thank you. Oh, sure, some of your letters made me full body hug the berber (the carpet, not the peoples of North Africa). And yes, Kleenex and Ghirardelli stock spikes in direct correspondence to your correspondence, but when I awake from my chocolate-induced coma, I am genuinely grateful for the work you do. Honest.

Thank you for telling me no when I sent you a manuscript that was greener than Kermit’s backside. I cross-my-heart thought it was perfect when I sent it to you. I was anxious and naïve.

Thank you for the times you took a few moments to offer feedback, an explanation or an invitation to submit again. I know you’re the definition of busy, so your extra effort meant a lot, especially when it probably caused you to shortchange your lunch break, or worse, your sleep.

Thank you for looking out for your readers. I know you have to be ultra selective. Children deserve the best. That’s what I want to give them, but if what I sent falls short, thanks for being honest instead of settling.

Thank you for upholding high standards and expecting writers like me to rise to them. You make us wrestle with our words, use our noodles, elongate our imaginations and demand more from ourselves.

Unflappably yours,

Vicky

In the end, what makes a book valuable is not the paper it’s printed on, but the thousands of hours of work by dozens of people who are dedicated to creating the best possible reading experience for you. ~ John Green

the one thing I never think about when I’m editing

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Maybe you didn’t know it (and maybe it doesn’t show), but in addition to being a writer, I’m an editor. Part of my job as a Communication Specialist is to edit other people’s work. I think about a lot of things when I’m editing, but I guarantee you there’s one thing I never think about . . .

Let me backtrack a sec. Just so you know, there are a lot of things I do think about when I’m editing a piece of non-fiction. For my job, I pour over articles, letters, brochures, ads, scripts and the like. Here are the kinds of questions I ask myself during the editing process:

Who’s the audience for this piece?
What’s the bottom line—the message—to be conveyed?
Does this truly communicate the message or is it a lot of pretty words strung together?
Is there a simpler way to say it?
Could this be tighter? Is there fluff or useless repetition or verbosity . . . (oops, now I’m doing it!)
Is this the best format for this piece? Would subheads help, for example?
Is there a flow and connection throughout?
Is the tone and language appropriate to the message and the audience?
Is there proper use of grammar and punctuation?

Quite a list, isn’t it? So, what “don’t” I think about? I do not think about the author. Hold on. I should be more specific. Maybe it sounds heartless, but I don’t think about the author’s feelings. Sure, when I’m editing, I do try to keep the author’s intent and style in mind. I don’t want to edit to the point that the piece no longer sounds like the author. But as I’m editing, the last thing I care about is the author’s feelings. It’s not even part of the equation.

Here’s what I care about: answering my list of questions above to the best of my ability so that the end product is a clean, eloquent, effective piece of communication. That’s it. I never once ask myself if it would hurt the author’s feelings if I take out an entire paragraph or reorder the piece or change silly things like utilization to a perfectly fine, simpler word like use. And even though that might sound cold, it’s truly a marvelous thing. Think about it–would you rather have your byline attached to a solid piece of writing or a so-so piece? C’mon. Let me hear you say it. Mm-hmm. I thought so.

Why am I telling on myself? I want you to remember this the next time your work is edited or you’re swirling in a vortex of editor comments. Your editor isn’t heartless. Your editor wants to make your work shine. And sometimes that means hauling out the sandblaster and pick ax. It can be painful at the time. But, baby, it’s for your own good. So, try not to take it personally. It really isn’t about you. It’s about making your work better. And what’s not to like about that?

Just don’t touch “my” work!

Editing should be, especially in the case of old writers, a counselling rather than a collaborating task. The tendency of the writer-editor to collaborate is natural, but he should say to himself, ‘How can I help this writer to say it better in his own style?’ and avoid ‘How can I show him how I would write it, if it were my piece?’ – James Thurber

what about bob wisdom

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russian-frogI love the movie “What About Bob?” I do. I love it. I love it for lots of reasons–the humor, the acting, and surprise, surprise, I love the writing.

And despite being a needy, multiphobic, albeit lovable, mess, the comedy’s main character Bob has some real wisdom to share when it comes to dealing with rejection. Oh, what? You’ve never been rejected? Well, that just means you’re not submitting anything to editors. (Bob would tell you to take “baby steps” and get yourself out there, but we’ll save that for another blog.)

There’s a scene in the movie where Bob is riding in a car, chatting with Anna, the daughter of his psychiatrist. The pair is comparing notes on what their lives are like. Anna mentions her fear of rejection. Bob offers this advise:

“You know what I do? I treat people like they’re telephones. If I meet somebody who I don’t think likes me, I just say to myself ‘Bob, this one’s temporarily out-of-order. Don’t break the connection. Just hang up and try again.'”

Is that super lightening brilliant or what?

I suggest framing the submission process using Bob’s sage wisdom. Treat editors like they’re telephones. If an editor doesn’t like your work, don’t break the connection, just try again. You might be able to try again with the same editor or maybe you’d be better off sending your work to someone new. The point is, you don’t roll yourself into a little ball of sniveling dough (like I sometimes do) if you are rejected, you simply try again. And again. And again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. You know the drill.

If it will give you some perverse pleasure/make you feel better, read the rejection stories of the work of some doing-“okay”-for-themselves authors like Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King and George Orwell. As you know, despite some editors being “temporarily out-of-order” when it came to their work, these authors kept trying again. And, I think it’s safe to say, it paid off for them.

So, why not you?

What about you?

This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.
~ Barbara Kingsolver

let’s talk about “the J word”

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green with jealousy

green with jealousy

Up until recently I believed I had green eyes. (Even my driver’s license says so.) But then, my redheaded, hazel-eyed daughter insisted my eyes are blue. So, at my last optometrist appointment, I asked my doctor to confirm once and for all that my eyes are indeed green. (You know, just to set the matter to rest with an expert opinion.) Turns out, my eyes are . . . blue. Truly green eyes, according to my doctor, are rare.

Of course, there’s another kind of green eyes that isn’t so rare–the green eyes of that monster called jealousy. Now, I know I’m poking around in a touchy topic. Jealousy is, well, it’s embarrassing. It makes us feel small, immature and vulnerable. Nothing pretty about that.

Jealousy is an especially sensitive issue among children’s writers. It’s been my experience that we are an exceptionally supportive bunch. We’re not “supposed” to be jealous of one another. But if we’re honest with each other and ourselves, jealousy happens to all of us, me included.

I can’t for a second claim I’ve got a permanent muzzle on my own green-eyed monster, but maybe some of these observations will be helpful to you. Well, I mean, not you, but maybe that jealous, less mature “friend” who needs this advise.

It’s not that you want the other authors to be unsuccessful. It’s just that you want to be successful too. Isn’t that it? Other authors have worked hard and deserve to be recognized. And you darn well know it. The miserable part is waiting and believing your turn is coming, the same way those other (blankity-blank) people believed, and worked and waited.

I used to think that it was only unpublished writers who felt jealous–you know, jealous of those who were being published. But I’ve since learned that’s not the case. Published authors can still be jealous of other authors for having higher Amazon rankings, better book deals, more agent attention, cooler awards or accolades and on and on. The lesson? If you opt to stay on the jealousy train, it’s gonna be a long ride.

Cut yourself some slack if you feel jealous of celebrity authors. I consider this a kind of jealousy loophole. While there are a thimbleful of celebs who can truly write for children, it’s clear that most are relying on their name to sell books. Instead of feeling jealous, I try to console myself with the idea that celebs help to keep publishers afloat, and if those publishers have a healthier bottom line, maybe they’ll have a little extra cash to take chances with lesser knowns like me. (That’s my theory anyway.)

Try to avoid the “why not me?” sink hole. A brain wrapped in layers of green goo can spit out some pretty skewed thinking. For example, we want to attribute someone else’s success to nothing more than luck. Now, luck may have played a role, but it’s likely the object of your jealousy had been working for years so that when fate/luck/happenstance happened, they were ready to take advantage of the opportunity. (Hmm. That was pretty smart of them, wasn’t it?)

Let me challenge you to churn that jealousy into motivation. Rather than let your jealousy sap your creative energy, let it ramp up your focus, drive and productivity. C’mon kid. Dig deep, quit whimpering and create something to provoke jealousy in someone else.

And hey, wait up. I’ll join you!

You can be the moon and still be jealous of the stars. ~ Gary Allan