The Meaning of the Word

Challenge: Tell us what it feels like to be on the other side of the rejection letter.

Don’t like slow-ball it in there or anything.

Alright. What does it feel like to be on the other side of the rejection letter. It feels awesome. The sheer, unadulterated power. I’m not sure anyone realizes how life-affirming it is to be the person who gets to sit on high and rain judgement on…

No? Yeah, I didn’t really think I could pull that off. It was worth a try, and it might possibly have been more interesting than my actual answer.

The actual answer is that I’ve spent so much of the last decade, at least, with writers that I don’t really feel like this is a different side of the rejection. I’ve had random strangers in coffee shops, and Nano people, and friends, and family, and an honestly creepy breadth of people pitch their ideas to me, or ask me to read their work, or tell them what I thought of an idea. I’ve got politely disinterested down to an art.

Except I never use it.

Well… Alright, in the interest of honesty, if you walk up to me cold in a coffee shop and tell me about your aspirations as a writer you’re getting polite disinterest. When I’ve got my head-phones on and I’m working you could be the honest to peanut-butter next JK Rowling and I still wouldn’t want to listen to you. Because there’s a thing called situational relevance, and common freaking courtesy.

If you’re an acquaintance in a writing group, or a friend of a friend, or we’re at some sort of book themed outing I’ll give you all the honesty I think I can manage without discomfort. I’ve looked at people’s work and told them they weren’t telling the right story, or their flow wasn’t there yet, or their language was difficult. I have never in my life told anyone to stop trying.

Years and years ago I sent my first book to an agent. I shudder at this, because dear fluffy god I should not have. It was so far away from ready I can’t even comprehend it. The plot was a mess and the characters were flat and… Ugh. Anyway, I sent this pile of ick off to an agent and waited with baited breath.

Obviously she didn’t offer me representation–I’m consistently not sure that was a bad thing–but she did write me a long response letter. I still have it in a folder in my basement. It was basically six pages, single spaced, of ‘your idea has promise but you have a lot of work to do.’

So, maybe there’s a phase somewhere in this whole exploding snowball of a Publishing Company where I’ll start using the form rejection. It may even be this week. But it’s not my first instinct. Even if your work doesn’t deserve a personal response, I deserve to be the type of person who gives it one. While I can anyway.

Fingers crossed for that day we get so big I’ve got no choice.

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One thought on “The Meaning of the Word

  1. Kate says:

    Slow-ball challenges are just me being kind enough to throw you the topic I don’t want to talk about. ^^

    It always bothered me that the Lit Journal I read for didn’t pass on the pages of notes and crits I pinned to the slush pages. Why the heck did I write them if they weren’t going to be sent?

    But I’ll also say, you’re a kinder person than I. That being said… who gets to read/send out the first letters?

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