Rejections: Badges of Honor

Every time I receive a rejection from a literary journal I tell myself  “It’s a badge of honor. ”  Sometimes I even do a happy dance and shout out a little whoot whoot, you know, as if it were something to celebrate.  And in a way it really is.  When my work is rejected, that means I have submitted my work; I’ve tried to get it out there in the world.  For someone who in the past spent a lot of time not just not doing, but not even trying, it’s important for me to give myself credit for trying.

I tell myself that rejection is not personal, it may just be the editor or slush pile reader has a different aesthetic than I do.

When I worked at Blue Mesa Review (as managing editor one semester, and often as a volunteer reader of slush, currently as web editor which reminds me I have some work to do on the site) we rejected a lot of good work.  Sometimes a piece just didn’t get enough “yes” votes to make it to the discussion round.  Sometimes a good piece would make it to discussion and it wouldn’t have enough support to make it into print.  Sometimes a piece was too long, or too short, or not deep enough or too experimental, and even if we loved the prose style and the character and setting maybe the character didn’t change enough.  Sometimes the piece just didn’t fit in with what we’d already selected.  It’s hard to say, it’s like some secret algorithm that no one can decipher.

I tell myself a lot of things that are cliche:

  • That I should pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again
  • If at first I don’t succeed I must try try again
  • Rejection is the opportunity to start over
  • Success come to those who persist
  • It’s like the lottery, I gotta play to win

 

I remind myself that many other authors have been rejected many times, relishing tales of now famous writers and the rejections they received– writers like Stephen King,  William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Ursula LeGuin, Gertrude Stein, to name a few.  I remember a reading by Elizabeth Gilbert; she said it was not her job to pre-reject herself, she figured that  someone at the New Yorker was paid to do the rejecting.  It’s not that I celebrate the failure of others, it’s that it encourages to me to know that rejection didn’t  mean failure, it didn’t mean their writing wasn’t/isn’t good.  And maybe the same is true for me.

I know all this when I send out my work. I understand that it’s part of the deal, it’s what I signed up for when I decided to call myself writer.  And still, sometimes it stings to get a rejection.

But when all is said and done, what I cling to is the knowledge that:

I write for myself first, because even if sometimes I cry or grumble or get angry when I write, I enjoy it, I need it.

What I have to say is important.

 

My first official foray into fiction

I have been quite remiss in updating this blog, but rest assured it is NOT because I’m not writing (though truth be told I could be writing more).

Last semester I took a Fiction workshop.  And I grumbled and groused the whole way through.  I found writing fiction to be difficult, overwhelming, kind of like shopping in a big box store:  shelves filled with product, no one to help you reach the stuff way up high, too many choices.  With creative non-fiction you’re limited by “the truth” (however you define that).

GdadThe first story I submitted to workshop was not completely embarrassing. I had one character (very loosely based on a friend’s ex-husband) who was obsessed with Thomas Kinkaide paintings and villages.  An interesting character, but I never could figure out how to create an authentic confrontation and make something happen in the story…
The next story I tried to write was strongly based in setting, a place I love dearly, Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego County.  Specifically a part that a friend and I used to call The Hill of Truth–  the mile walk from the far end of the parking lot to the top, 3/4 of it up hill.

An excerpt:

About half way up The Hill is a small landing with a big torrey pine leaning out as if to catch a glimpse of the landscape below. This is my rest spot, my tree.  I don’t really need a break– I’d been hiking The Hill at a more leisurely pace– but I stop anyway.  From here, the coast highway swirls into the village of Del Mar along the beach, and if I’m lucky I’ll see a train roll through, skimming the top of the lagoon before ducking under the highway to hug the cliff heading north.

….

This road is narrow, and cuts into the hill revealing the earth’s strata and geological upheavals. As I take the next switchback, I see a history displayed in rich warm colors, layers of eons, some nearly vertical, some displaced by tectonic shifts and earthquakes.

….

The earth still shifts here, chunks of cliff falling with some frequency. And some days if I am paying attention, I see new pieces on the side of the road, new bits of history on display….

But every scene I wrote started to sound like a bad YA novel: betrayal, boys and bad dialog. I didn’t turn it in.

Morning CoffeeAnd then I heard a story about a woman that wouldn’t stop crying.  And so I wrote what I called “Morning Coffee,”  (I wanted to call it “Mourning Coffee” but restrained myself).

Dan Mueller insisted should be called “Our House is Like Switzerland.”

Dan had also said that my story reminded him of Bartleby the Schrivner by Herman Mellville, a story that I had never read.

The final requirement for the class was to revise a piece to completion, and submit it somewhere.  And so, when I found this literary journal, Bartleby Snopes, named after two famous literary characters one of whom was Barleby the Schrivner, I thought is was fate. Or something.  I was compelled to submit my story there.

And it was accepted!

Now the fun part…  some things you may recognize:  my green coat, my cousin Katie’s blue hair, and big ole orange tom cat who liked to be vacuumed, my two cats…   the rest is fiction.

Looking back, and of course with the success of publication under my belt and the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with that, I think maybe fiction can be fun.  Like collaging, you can take a little bit from here, a little bit from there and paste it all together and create something.

This semester I’m back in the world of cnf, but taking a class about the novel.  One of the requirements for that class is to plan our novel, so who knows!

Write A Thon Wrap Up

Not all the writing prompts worked well for me…
For this particular session, we received an envelope filled with randomly selected letters that was supposed to inspire us to write about our destiny.

My first response:
WTF: playing with letters
Note I had to cut up a letter to make that work.

And then I came up with this:
Chooz Letters

It’s kinda scary how my brain works. This may eventually work for me, to use in my writing, or it may become my new mantra: Live Like There is No Tomorrow or Defy Destiny.

Last year’s mantra was Why Not Me. But I think I need to move on from that.
Do you have a mantra?

I’m just so honored to be nominated….

It’s bullshit. I want to win. I’m tired of being nominated. Yeah, I said I didn’t really care, that I was so honored to get invited in for an interview…. that I totally would understand if they had the single, non-soccer mom, non-property-owner, no tax deductions, north county coastal liberal perspective covered.

But I lied.

I lied to myself. I care. It sucks that I was rejected. Again.

I really wanted to be a part of the Citizen Voices project.

So sure, it was an honor to make it to Round 2, to be asked to submit additional writing samples. It was an honor to be asked to come in for an interview… to drive an hour out of my bubble to get stuck in traffic on the way home… to meet a bunch of really cool people and have a great conversation that we called an interview. But dammit, I’m disappointed.

So why not me?

My new friend Aaryn sent me a link to this:
http://elizabethgilbert.com/writing.htm

My sister said, “I know just how you feel, Jenn. When I was a dancer I was rejected all the time for lots of reasons which had nothing to do with my talent: not tall enough, not thin enough, not fat enough, not blonde… ” reminding me that being in any creative endeavor, you need to have a tough skin.

Not sure I have a tough skin, but I do have a lot of awesome people cheering me on from the sidelines.

KPBS Citizen Voices Project. Round 2

Yeah me! I made it through to Round 2, and the producer has asked for more writing samples.

Let me preface the next commentary with saying that 1. I love KPBS and 2. I welcome the opportunity to apply for the Citizen Voices project and 3. I have no idea how I would choose blogger/writers…

HOWEVER.

The email request has been weighing heavy on my brain for the last four days:

We’ve finished reviewing applicants and have narrowed it down to a very small group. You’re in that group and we’re requesting a bit more information to better understand everyone’s political leanings. In no more than one sentence for each issue, let us know where you stand:

War in Iraq:

Immigration:

Health care:

Education:

Taxation:

Gun control:

Same-sex marriage:

Abortion:

Separation of Church/State:

In addition, we’d like to see more of your writing. Please respond (in 300 words or less) to this question:

If the presidential election were tomorrow, who would you vote for and why?

eeeeegads! The last assignment– to sum up who you are, and your “unique perspective” in 500 words– all of the sudden seems easy!

Issues like those listed above are far more complex than one sentence. I admit I stretched some of those answers as far as I could while still maintaining one, creatively long sentence. Hopefully that kind of creativity will count in my favor.

Anyway when I know more, I’ll share.

On another note… through my blog, and my application for the Citizen Voices project I “met” Aaryn, writer of RubySoho blog. We compared notes via email, read each others submissions, commiserated over the fact that we were “going for it” even though it was scary, and wondered what other San Diego bloggers had applied… She didn’t get into the narrowed down group. I’m bummed, as I’m sure she is as well. Do stop by her blog. Give her a read. She really is a good writer, and her posts and pics about her daughter are particularly fabulous.

I’m Better Out Loud!

My entry, Letters From Heaven, was selected for San Diego Writers, Ink Audio Anthology : Year 3.

Whew. After all the rejection I was feeling like maybe I am not a writer. But maybe, just maybe I am better out loud than on the page.

The coolest part is that we get to re-record our submission at the KPBS (public radio) station.

If you want a sneak peek, check out the September Stories over at the First Friday Prose website. If you want to hear me live and in person, come to the Third Anniversary Party for First Fridays on December 7th.

Did I forget to mention…

I just applied for a blogging gig. For KPBS radio/tv.

KPBS is recruiting bloggers for an election-based project called Citizen Voices. Six people will be selected to blog as “citizen journalists” for KPBS.org from January 2008 through November 2008. Selected applicants will be trained (beginning Nov. 2007) in journalistic ethics to maintain fair and accurate writing. Those selected will represent diverse perspectives (culture,life experience, gender, and geographic) and write about how election issues affect their lives and their communities. In addition to being published on KPBS.org, bloggers will periodically be featured on-air on KPBS Radio and TV….. continue reading about the Citizen Voices Project ->

As part of the application, they requested a cover letter (300-500 words) outlining your (my) experience, along with a professional resume and clips of any published work.

How in the world do you sum up who you are, and your “unique perspective” in 500 words. I didn’t even get to MENTION the fact that I am writing a book. And that I have a cat that just died. And my sister has cancer.

It’s so hard to know what to put in, and what to leave out.

I barely touched upon my political views. Or the fact that although I say I am left leaning I am so disgusted with the politicos on BOTH sides of the aisle, and that I am tired of the divisivness, and the personalization, and demonization within our own nation, and that I can say that in rhyme. Should I have mentioned my idea for mandatory political service by lottery? sort of a draft for congress? Or my uncle’s idea to curtail lobbyist spending by moving the capitol to Boise… think about it.

At one point I had revealed that I’m an NPR-o-holic but I figured the convulsions said it better. Should I have written that I like long walks on sandy beaches at sunset, and I enjoy fine wine and foreign movies? nevermind. wrong ad.

The fact that I studied Spanish Linguistics is on my official resume, but it doesn’t fess up that my Spanish gets really good after a couple shots of tequila. Or that I can say “Please pass the butter” in German.

And I didn’t include the fact that I could PODCAST my blog posts, recording on my M-Audio digital recorder, and my fancy Beyer microphone (with XLR to 1/4″ cable) and I can edit my own audio and lay in a music track, and …

Oh well. It’s done. I applied. A continuation of the year of Why Not Me.

So, dear readers– all five of you– I thought I would share my little essay. All about me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. And when you’re done reading… we can talk about you. Just leave a comment and tell me what YOU think about me. Old joke, I know.

I am applying for the Citizen Voices project. My writing skills, experience as a blogger, passion for public radio and interest in politics would make me a great citizen journalist for KPBS. Of course I think my perspective is unique. I believe we all have more in common than not, politically, socially, and culturally. I do admit to leaning to the left but I strive to be fair, and to listen to all sides of an issue before I make a decision. Perhaps its my Libra rising. And perhaps that is my tongue in cheek salute to my California roots.

I scan the Union Tribune with my morning coffee and count on my commute to keep me up to date and ready to good-naturedly debate friends, family and co-workers. I drive to work listening to Morning Edition and on the way home I catch Marketplace. I nearly went into convulsions when I found out that I could subscribe to public radio podcasts with my new iPod. At work I’m known as Google Girl. I’m always the first to find information online. I know my way around the internet and even manage two blogs along with the company’s MySpace presence.

As a Navy brat I lived all across the country from Washington DC to Hawaii though I rightfully call myself a California native. And,because my grandparents retired in Del Mar in 1972 the San Diego area has always been home. I spent my college years here, and except for a six-year stint in Chicago in the 90s, I’ve spent most of my adult life here as well, from La Mesa to Leucadia. I currently live in Solana
Beach.

Through San Diego Writers, Ink, I participate in the First Friday Prose open mic event each month. Over the last year I’ve gotten fairly comfortable performing in front of a microphone. My only television experience was in Argentina in 1993 as part of a Group Study Exchange Program sponsored by Rotary International. Our team
was big news throughout Patagonia and as one of the strongest Spanish speakers, I was often called upon to speak for the group. In Spanish.

I’d like to think my community is the global community, but the truth is I’ve cobbled together a rag tag group of middle-aged, middle income, mostly local friends from all walks of life: writers, artists, construction workers, real estate agents, computer geeks, accountants and flight attendants representing most of the middle of the political spectrum. We care about local, national and global issues, and sometimes dryer lint.

We all want the same things out of life, good health, a decent job, a nice place to live and to find fulfillment creatively, and spiritually.

My resume is attached, which includes a list of published articles and links to my various blogs. I am eager to learn more about the citizen voices project– I’d love the opportunity to participate.

Regards,
JeSais

PS. I vote.

Of course I have 200 pages of unpublished, incomplete memoir that perhaps says it better, or more deeply than I would say on a blog. Or in a cover letter or a resume.

Who are any of us anyway?

yes I’m neurotic

Aren’t we all?

I know I just posted that very negative post. I wrote it earlier. I don’t feel that bad anymore, but it did feel cathartic to expunge it from my body. To get those words out of my head… So please, don’t feel you need to comment with words of support. I DO know I have friends out there in the universe, in the blogosphere, and even here in my home, in my neighborhood and in my cobbled together family.

and if you are feeling bad, check out Jen Lemen’s blog. I met her at Blogher in New York.

No, Non, Niet, Nein, Nao, No y No

… and yet another “rejection” for my pile…

no scholarship for the Taos Summer Writers Conference from the A Room of Her Own foundation. And even though on my last post I said I wasn’t hopeful, I lied. I was still hopeful.

And no letter even.
Not even a thank-you-for-your-application- but-you-suck form letter.
Nope. I actually had to ask them, thus making me feel even more pathetic.

I busted my ass to put together the application, with the vague requirements of “10 pages of prose” and a short description of your work… or a cover letter, or whatever. I stressed about what to include, should I just submit what I would be working on in Taos? Should I show the broader scope of my writing abilities? No one seemed to know, everyone had a different opinion, so I was flying blind. There was no information about what kind of recipients have been awarded scholarships in the past. No way to gauge the bar. I mean what if all the recipients in the past already had MFAs and were English professors or published authors? I still would have submitted, but at least I would know the odds were not in my favor. Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.

So now, I’m sitting here thinking I totally suck. Yesterday I was thinking maybe just maybe it could be me. Why not me? well apparently I’m not good enough.

Not sure I’m cut out for this putting myself out there shit. How do you keep doing it, and getting rejection after rejection?

How do I reprogram the tape player in my head that is saying you suck you suck you suck????