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Rejection Blues
By Mary Ann Smyth
March, 2004

Take JoyI reacted to my very first rejection letter with great aplomb. Threw myself on the floor of my office, curled into the fetal position, stuck my right thumb in my mouth emitting moans and groans from my most inner core, used my left hand to twist my then longer hair into uncombable mats, and cried until I no longer had any tears left. Then thought, 'Oh, hell. Get a life, woman'. Picked myself up and tried again, and again, and again. I've written numerous stories mostly mysteries. Had a few published. Met some great people in the writing field. And have had a wonderful fourteen years doing something I never even imagined I would do. Fun. I'm a budding writer. How long can a writer bud? I don't know. Haven't bloomed yet but I'm still budding away.

How To Grow A NovelIt all started when I wrote a child's story called Myles Smiled. When my wonderful grandon Myles (okay, all grandchildren are wonderful) appeared in my life, I couldn't get over his smile and how it made those around him smile ... he still smiles, but now he's fourteen and I'm still reading rejection letters. Next, on a cruise to Greece, I fell in love with the town of Lindos on the Isle of Rhodes. Tried my hand at a mystery, set on this intriguing island, and with another grandson, Ryan, as the teen protagonist. Sure this would be an instant bestseller, I gave my reworked, revised, infinitely precious manuscript to my daughter (mother of Ryan), to read, enjoy and exclaim over. I was sure she would love my work, be so proud of her mother, gaze at me with wonder in her eyes.

Write AwayWrong! She drew me up short by being honest! Can you believe it? She was honest! Didn't expect honesty. Expected great praise to be heaped upon my humble head as I modestly kicked my toe into the carpeting and thanked her. Who the heck did she think she was? What gave her the right to criticize my hard work? Didn't she realize how I slaved over images that I struggled so hard to put into words? Just because she was a mother of three, two of them teenagers, why did she think she knew what young people wanted to read? Just because she monitored their voracious reading habits, what did she know about what was good? Just because she taught teens five days a week, putting her heart and soul into her work, why did she think she could trivialize what I put my heart and soul into?

The War of ArtShall I go on? She was the best thing that ever happened to my optimistically glorious writing career. She told me the truth - the out and out, bold and brazen truth. I quietly took back the thing that I laughingly called a manuscript and read it with a new eye. Most of the words that I loved and labored over were extraneous. The action of the story moved so slowly, it was as if the characters walked in glue. Speaking of characters, mine were bland and one-sided (like a steak my late husband was served in a nearby restaurant - he declared that it was so thin it only had one side!) I had done my research on the village of Lindos and made sure I got every detail into my work. As I reread this pitiful excuse for a story, I realized I hadn't really meant to give a history lesson.

Write AwayOkay. To make a long story longer, I ended up with a tale that two fifth grade classes read and liked. What a thrill to visit their classrooms as the author and have them treat me like the someone I wanted to be. Thank you, my darling daughter. Though I have since written a sequel to that book and two adult cozy mysteries, I am still an unknown writer. I could paper my office with rejection letters. No, change that to my whole three-story house. Since I turned book reviewer, I've had even more fun. I've read some absolutely wonderful books, a lot of good books and a number of really poorly written books.

Authors of the latter need someone like my daughter to be honest with them. Most friends and family tend to be knocked out by any writer's work because they don't write themselves. They're impressed by anyone who can string together enough words to get to book length. Then there are the vanity presses which will publish anything as long as they're paid for it - money passes hands but that does nothing to improve a poor manuscript, and Internet publishing is bringing too many of these manuscripts into the light well before they're ready for it. So my advice to any other budding writers out there? Keep writing, find yourself honest reviewers, listen to what they say, and rewrite ruthlessly for as many cycles as it takes for your story to bloom. The result will be worth it.

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