Saturday, April 9, 2011
The "ouch" factor in rejection...;-)
I went to a wonderful conference this weekend for writers in which we could sign up to pitch to agents. The first one I pitched was very kind. He's a new agent from the Midwest who doesn't do my genre, but was willing to have me send the first three chapters to take a look. So Friday was a high.
Today, the agent was from Los Angeles. I waited my turn and sat across the table from him. (It's set up a lot like a job interview.) I'd gotten one sentence into my pitch "A boy who travels in time to save the American Revolution" when he help up his hand and told me to stop right there. He doesn't "do" science fiction. Taken off guard and feeling lame -had I missed this on his website or conference blurb? I tried for another sentence to talk about the historical angle. Exasperated sigh on his end. Then a slowing down of his speaking pace (implication - can't talk too fast with dimwits;-) Finally, his reply, "You just don't get it, do you? Time travel is not reality. I deal with reality." Silence. End of pitch as he shuffled his papers for the next person. So I left two and a half minutes into my allotted eight minutes, pink faced and mortified in front of the fifteen others waiting in chairs. The timer, apparently thrown off, asked if I was done or what? "Um...Yes." A few tears later (I know, how pathetic to cry over this when there are true tragedies out there - blame it on hormones) I drove home and enjoyed seeing the fam.
Before the pitch, sweaty palms and nervous stomachs all around, a group of ten or more of us were milling around waiting for our time, it occurred to me I would not have what it takes to be in the entertainment business - singing, acting, comedy. You'd have to have such an enormously strong ego to take inevitable rejection. During our lunch yesterday, the speaker noted that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was turned down not 10, not 50, not 100, but over 120 times before it was published, so she said we need to thank all the creative types that don't give up and keep striving despite rejections, to get their work out there. Agreed!
Schuler Books Weblog had the lovely list of rejections (some of which I listed below), the perfect salve for the wounded writer's soul. 1. Stephen King
Mr. King received dozens of rejections for his first novel, Carrie; he kept them tidily nailed to a spike under a timber in his bedroom.
One of the publishers sent Mr. King’s rejection with these words:
We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.
2. William Golding
Mr. Golding’s Lord of the Flies was rejected by 20 publishers. One denounced the future classic with these words (which should be inscribed on the hapless publisher’s tomb):
an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.
5. Joseph Heller
In an act of almost unparalleled stupidity, one publisher wrote of Mr. Heller’s Catch-22:
I haven’t the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say…Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level.
6. J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (later Sorceror’s) Stone was rejected by a dozen publishers, including biggies like Penguin and HarperCollins. Bloomsbury, a small London publisher, only took it on at the behest of the CEO’s eight-year old daughter, who begged her father to print the book. God bless you, sweetheart.
Okay, a couple hours, an iced Diet Coke and few slices of pizza later, I realize the pettiness of this and have shaken off the angst;-).