Tag Archives: rejection

Three Strikes: writing outs

I’ve been watching a lot of baseball lately (7 games, 6 practices, 6 days) and have seen a lot of calls.  Some good, some bad.  Some umps are decisive, while others make wishy-washy calls.

Inevitably some parents/coaches feels slighted, going as far as screaming at the umps.

We teach our kids by example.  When our batters strikes out on a questionable call, we have the ability to shape their attitudes–for the game and for life.

“Bad call.”

“Shouldn’t have lost that game.”

“It’s the ump’s fault.”

“Come on, Ump.  Do you need new glasses?!?!?”

“Shake it off, you’ll get it next time.”

“A call is a call.”

“The next one’s yours, try again!”

As parents, our behavior sets our batters on a path of acceptance and hard work or on a journey of blame and frustration. 

Writers, we are no different.  Publishing is a very subjective business, one where many factors come into play well beyond a writer’s talent.  Agent/editor likes and dislikes, marketing, similar books repped/pubbed, competition, etc…

When receiving a rejection after a “perfect fit” query, we often wonder why the agent/editor made such a bad call.  We may have the tendency to shout, “Come on, do you need new glasses?”  We might shoot off a you’ll-be-sorry email.

But is all that really necessary?  Sometimes umps and agents make bad calls.  Sometimes they make the right call, but we’re too close to our work and feelings to realize we struck out for a reason.  For good reason.

I personally think the writing journey is tough.  It takes practice.  It takes more than a handful of swings and misses before we hit a home run.  But in the end, our perseverance is what counts, even in the case of a bad call.  Or especially because of one. 

And that, my friends, is all about attitude.

Wasting energy being angry at the umpire does nothing but waste valuable time.  Blaming someone else for a bad call makes us less than desirable clients and inhibits our creativity. 

Shake it off.  Practice–six times in six days–and go down swinging. 

What works for you in shaking off a bad call?  Chocolate, a walk in the park or a never-to-be-sent letter of frustration?  Share your experiences and positive attitude with your fellow scribes.

Happy Fourth of July.  I have a beach chair with my name on it, family to hang with and good food to consume.  See you on the 6th!


A Little Taste of SCBWI Love

So, I finally made it to the other end of the world.  Seriously, from the West Corner of Minnesota to the East side of Iowa is a freakin’ haul.  But, I’m glad I made the journey.

Bubbly, humorous and oh-so-kind (she helped me fill my water glass) Editor Molly O’Neill presented two mini workshops for us today.  One was a writer’s boot camp to help us get to know our characters better.  The second was an in-depth look at 25 book beginnings that caught her eye.  It was fabulous to  hear her express why each of these first words made her editor’s heart go pitter patter.

In the end, it was all about connection.  Yes, there are more kinds of connection than simple character connection.  Many more kinds.  To name a few: setting, familiarity and tone.  And once she connects, there is one sure-fire way to get her more deeply engaged in a story.

In her words: “It delights me when a character does something unexpected, but in character.” 

The moral: Writer, know thy character.  Henceforth the boot camp.

On Rejection: It doesn’t mean the story isn’t any good or that a writer can’t writer.  It just means “I personally didn’t react to this in a way that makes me the best advocate.”

So there.  No does not mean we have failed.  I just means our story failed to create a stong enough connection with one particular agent/editor.

And on a whole new level: I met Agent Awesome–sat by him at the opening, as a matter of fact.  I also met another one of his clients.  Imagine that, two clients within six hours of each other.  That’s a pretty big deal when you consider writers the sheer miles it took to get here!  And she’s super sweet.

Well, really, all writers who attend SCBWI conferences are sweet.  I’ve been to five over the years and never once have I found any highschool drama.  There are no prom queens among us.  We are all working toward our dream of putting our writing into the hands of children.  And that is enough to humble the published and support the newbies.

SCBWI rocks…and not just because their directions were impeccable.

Okay, time to decompress with a good book and a little sleep.  More to come tomorrow.  Also, you can follow me in real-time @catewoods on twitter breaks.

hugs and good night

Submitting, Marriage and Deli Sandwiches

On the way home from New Orleans, we stopped at a gas station.  I grabbed a turkey sandwich to appease my hunger.  Before taking my first bite, I glanced down and realized the bun was moldy.  It had expired a week previous. 

When I returned it to the cashier, she was more than a little grumpy and acted as if I had offended her by asking for a refund.  Even though I didn’t gripe or accuse, she took it personally.  By the way she was acting, I’m sure it ruined her afternoon.

Today, DH and I celebrate 18 years of marriage.  Over the course of the years, we have learned to let the little things go.  We have learned to understand the situation and ferret out how it relates to us.  In other words, we don’t take our spouse’s bad days personally and no longer get offended over things outside our control.

These two seemingly unrelated things–marriage and moldy deli sandwiches–reminded me of the submission process.  As writers, it is our responsibility to put forth our best manuscript.  However, acceptance or rejection by an agent is outside our control. 

We must learn to gracefully accept our returned manuscripts and not waste valuable time and emotions by getting offended.  Instead, we need to simply acknowledge that not all agents like moldy turkey on wheat.  We need to understand that many variables outside the quality of our manuscripts actually impact the decision to accept or reject.  We need to discontinue taking rejections (and even critiques) personally.

Only then can we gracefully remain in the writing biz for eighteen years and still enjoy the process.  Only then can we wave off a moldy sandwich without causing a scene.  And only then can we enjoy the ebb and flow of all that life–and writing–throws our way.


How thick is your writing skin?

I bought new tennies thanks to my DD wearing mine in the mud.  While I knew better, I made the mistake of breaking them in on a three+ mile, brisk walk with the hubster.  I am paying for that mistake now.

The Free Dictionary defines a blister as “A local swelling of the skin that contains watery fluid and is caused by burning or irritation.” 

I would add “rubbing on the back of a brand new shoe” to the list of causes, and would insert the word painful before local swelling.  Especially when the blisters are silver dollar sized and stick out 1/2 inch on the back of each heel.  Terribly inconvenient might also be good descriptors, as would “hideous when filled with blood.” 

Eventually my pansy skin will get used to the new tennies and become callussed, thus allowing me to walk unlimited miles without earning more blisters. 

Not that the dictionary defines a callus as such, but in my experience, callusses are formed due to the body’s defense mechanism against repeated exposure to aggressive forces–ie, new shoes. 

A callus, as defined by The Free Dictionary, pretty much describes the plight of the writer.  It is “a localized thickening and enlargement of the horny layer of the skin.”

That first rejection causes a painful blister.  The 714th one barely adds a layer to the callus. 

I would like to pit the writing blister against the writing callus. 

When I was a kid, my dad told me that I cried at the drop of a hat.  “Even if you have to drop it yourself.”  In a sense, I was a walking blister and have since learned to quit throwing my hat to the ground.  This kind of emotional dysfunction does not suit a writer. 

As a writer, those first rejections and honest critiques are akin to my new-tennies blisters.  They are painful and caused by our inability to adequately distance ourselves from the chafing.  When experts talk about thickening our skin, they are warning against these kinds of blisters.

“Buck up.  Stop taking every comment personally.  Quit being a baby.  Stop whining.”  These are the commands we give ourselves to move past the initial pain and discomfort.  These phrases help us add layers over our emotions.  They build a barrier between us and our rejections, allowing us to continue writing and submitting.

Yet, I believe we can become so callussed that we lose sight of what rejections and critiques are telling us.  Our skin can become so thick that we simply move forward with our dreams and don’t even notice great advice when it comes our way.

So, how thick is your writing skin?  Do you still get blisters or have you built up the perfect protective layer?  Is there such a thing as being too callussed for our own good?  If so, how do we know when we reach that point?

sending virtual bandaids to those in need~ cat

It’s a Head Game

Last night Eldest and I had a tough conversation.  He played poorly at golf and wasn’t happy about it.  Worse, he had to come home and tell his father (a nearly scratch golfer) about his bad game. 

Golf is my son’s favorite sport, but messing up is easy to do when you let your mistakes get under your skin.  For example, the two water balls on a par three.  It just sets the tone for the rest of the round.

Needless to say, Eldest doesn’t do well under pressure like that.  “You can’t imagine how hard it is when the three guys you’re golfing with say things.”

“Dude, I totally get it.”  Isn’t that what submitting is?

We put ourselves out there for someone to judge.  We take our feedback and internalize it.  Sometimes we do a good job of keeping our heads up after a rejection.  Other times, we almost fold. 

It takes guts to tee off in front of others.  It takes emotional fortitude to duff a shot, shake it off and hit the next one straight.  Golf is a head game.  And in a lot of ways, so is writing.

“Mom, writing is a hobby.  Anyone can do it.  Not as well as you, but they still can.”  Whoever says teens are horrible doesn’t know my son. 

“Yeah, well I’m trying out for the PGA.”

Who wants to be my caddy?

Research Beyond the Net–Way Beyond

Last night I had the Mac Daddy of all dreams.  That’s saying something because I dream often, I dream vividly, and my dreams are almost always off the wall.

Suffice it to say I slipped a mouse into my son’s overalls.  How he ended up one again eludes me, as does the exact reason for dropping a rodent into his drawers.  Except, it was on an editor’s request.  For some reason Editor felt it would be best if someone found out what would happen–before he accepted my manuscript. 

Apparently it had something to do with the novel I had pitched, though I swear I’ve never written about a mouse in someone’s pants.  Needless to say, a short time later, a very disheveled little field mouse tumbled out of Son’s bibs.  According to the idea behind the project, this was an epic fail, and I faced telling Editor the bad news.

I promise you, getting rejected in your dreams is no easier than getting rejected in real life.  Even for a reason as stupid as the mouse not staying put long enough. 

But I digress…

In terms of research, even a novel must be factually based.  For my fantasy-and I use the term very loosly-chapter book, I had to research ships for  my pirate family.  For my middle grade camp tale, I had to know how many kids played on a soccer team and what year root beer was first made.  I even researched how long it takes to start puking after sipping syrup of ipecac for my YA. 

I wanted to try it myself, just to know, but I truly feared the gut-wrenching stories I read about.  Note to self, syrup of ipecac is nah-sty.

My current WIP called on me to test color-making on paper using natural ingredients.  I spent an entire day smearing flowers and rocks, weeds and sticks, pork chops and grapefruit onto the paper to get reds, purples, yellows, greens and browns. 

So, my question is this: how far do you go to research your novels? 

Would you drop a mouse in your kid’s drawers?  Would you throw back a mouthful of Pop Rocks and swig soda just to see if it really explodes?  Have you cooked odd recipes for your historical fiction just to describe the taste and smell?

What is the craziest thing you’ve researched for your writing?  Did it turn out the way you thought it would?