Finding the "Yes" in the "No"

When you’re a writer, the word “no” sucks hind tit, doesn’t it? The infamous rejection. When you are submitting a beloved manuscript via snail mail, you can tell you’re screwed when your SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) comes back to you, and it’s REALLY skinny. You still tear open the envelope because hope springeth, leapeth, and backflippeth eternal, but, dammit, it’s another FORM LETTER. These photocopied atrocities are always so short, and, well, pleasant. The editor/agent/or other person to whomever you’ve submitted says your work is not a fit for their style, or due to the economy the market is not right for your work, or WHATEVER! They always wish you well in your future literary endeavors and tell you to have a nice day.

It’s not much different when you send off your amazing writing via email. You see the special address of the person with whom you’ve entrusted your precious work pop up in your inbox, and you immediately begin clicking the mouse. If you’re me, and you’ve struggled with dial-up or piece o’ crap air cards because you live in the sticks, you’ve clicked your mouse on these messages enough times to freeze your computer. Then you have to start the whole damn mail opening process over again, which takes five milleniums, until you finally get the bastard to pop up on your screen only to find that it’s a short email. It’s another FORM LETTER just like the ones you used to get in the mail before every office went green. It’s the same smoke the folks have been blowing up every other rejectee’s ass since the dawn of the pencil. Except it’s recycled smoke. FORM SMOKE! You don’t even get smoke of your own.

Okay, I’ve gotten a lot of these SHORT letters. At first I fell for it. The editors were kind, weren’t they? AWWWW. They wrote me a PERSONAL letter thanking me for my submission. I was nineteen, then. Yes, folks, I’ve been at this for awhile–nineteen was a LONG time ago, and I’m quite long in the tooth by now. I know when I’m at the bottom of the slush pile.

But, I’ve been at this long enough now to know what a thicker envelope feels like. The kind that has complimentary copies of YOUR PUBLISHED WORK inside. I also know how that special piece of mail with the tear-off edges feels in my hand–I love riding those bad boys over to the local bank. I’ve been lucky enough to have enough YESES to do Christmas for everyone and pay the mortgage a few times. Freelancing was great, and I found some incredible opportunities to see my work in print. I have even had some regular gigs, despite all those earlier rejections.

Now that I’ve traded writing to others’ specifications for writing to my own, I’ve gotten reacquainted with NO. Delightful. A FORM LETTER just muffs up a sunny day, doesn’t it? Lately, however, my NOs have had a different twist than ever before. I’ve been querying successful agencies with sample chapters of my work and been asked to submit more. I’ve also been told to expand the market for my book, then resubmit. I had one editor tell me she had been really thinking long and hard about my submissions, but that she thought the stories were too regional for big sales. She did not send a FORM LETTER. I’ve submitted to three agents and one editor over the past two years. I’ve received a pending MAYBE, two suggestions about marketability, and only one FORM LETTER.

To me, personal feedback from an agent or editor, even in the form of a rejection, has a YES in it somewhere. These people read thousands of queries each week, but something about the work made them take the time to send their own comments, rather than paste in a form letter. DUDE! That’s something, right?

Putting oneself out there is mighty scary, and we all know rejection really chaps one’s ass. At least it does mine. That’s okay, though. Use those damnable FORM LETTERS to rub cream on the sore spots, polish the work some more, and send that story to someone else. Eventually, with enough revision, we will all get to that resounding YES! We can then sit and celebrate with a beer. Because, let me tell you, there’s little better sound than the hiss of a popped top in concert with the ri-i-ip of torn check tab. CHA-CHING!

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