Archive for March 7th, 2012

Handling Rejection

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Writers become used to rejection, but despite making snarky comments about papering our bedrooms with rejection slips, few of us really enjoy hearing “no.” Whether it’s a letter with a hand-written note from the editor or an impersonal slip of paper, rejection notices are never fun to read. It’s hard not to view them as a personal assessment: an indication that perhaps we’re not the writer we thought we were.

Losing a contest is no easier, especially in the cases where we were certain we had a chance. Perhaps we imagined how much of a difference the cash prize would make, or exactly what we would do with the free time that a grant would allow us.

So how do you get something positive out of rejection? First of all, if possible, find out what beat you out. In a contest, read the winning works. In the case of a literary magazine, check out the latest issue. Compare that to the pieces that you had submitted and try to figure out what the published pieces had that yours might have lacked.

About 90 percent of publication has to do with finding the right fit, with 10 percent being professionalism (proper spelling and grammar, polite cover letters, following all guidelines). So when you’re rejected, try not to take it personally. Instead, try to figure out where your work might fit better.

I compare it to trying on clothes in a department store. As any woman knows, this can be a disheartening experience, whatever your body type. A long time ago, I learned a technique for saving my self-esteem: rather than blaming myself for every ill-fitting outfit, I tried to assess what it was that made the outfit a poor choice. Then, when I returned to the floor, I looked for items that might be cut in a more flattering way. In other words, don’t blame yourself; just accept that the clothing is wrong for you and spend your efforts finding something that works.

You can’t avoid rejection, but you can change how you respond to it and find a way to turn it into something positive.

Goodreads Author’s Blog Post

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

I’ve written a Goodreads author’s blog post about how I’ve recently found inspiration, as a writer, from reading “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” Give it a read!

Review: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After receiving “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” as a Christmas present, I let it sit on a shelf for a year before reading it. I must admit: the prospect of reading about a child who lost his father on 9/11 did not excite me. Perhaps it was best that I waited, because this lyrical, fearless book has inspired me at a time when I, a stay-at-home mom of a toddler, am feeling overworked and under-inspired.

I have not gotten so excited about an author’s creative use of voice since I read William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” in high school. Rather than concentrating on 9/11, author Jonathan Safran Foer tells a multitude of tales from a family, all dealing with separation, guilt, grief, and an inability to communicate with loved ones. These are, of course, universal concerns, and they elevate the book above the simplistic ways we often talk about tragedy.

The characters include a young boy mourning his father’s death on 9/11, as well as his grandmother and his estranged grandfather. Each tell their tales in distinct ways. The boy keeps a scrapbook of pictures that speak to him and seeks meaning by engaging in a city-wide scavenger hunt for the lock opened by a key his father left behind. The grandfather, who left while the boy’s father was young, has not spoken aloud since the Dresden bombing in World War II, where he saw unfathomable tragedy. He “speaks” through writing short sentences to people in blank books. The grandmother shares her deepest thoughts through letters which, apparently, she leaves unsent. At times, the different voices descend into nonsense or take an unusual approach to describing experience. This constant discovery and renewal is exhilarating and thought-provoking.

I highly recommend this book to any reader, but especially to writers seeking inspiration. Reading this book will make writers think about narrative and how to construct it differently, as well as how to use voice and character to tell a story and build dramatic tension. This poetic, insightful book speaks volumes about the human experience.

View all my reviews

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