When Rejection is a Good Thing

English: Rejection

English: Rejection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been two years since I looked up from nursing my youngest, and realized that soon it would be time to figure out what I was going to do next. On the best of days, I can do about 80% of the stay-at-home parent thing—for the other 20%, everybody had better clear out of my way. We’ve managed fine by finessing our weekly schedule; I get just enough time away to maintain my sanity in this rewarding and challenging role of “mom.” But in four years, both my kids would be in elementary school. The time for me to find something else to do with myself was imminent. Dedicating my education and intelligence to ever more perfect stacks of laundry could not be my destiny.

So two years ago I made a decision. Instead of:

  1. figuring out what I wanted to do next,
  2. updating my training,
  3. getting a job, and
  4. learning to do a new job,

I would instead put all that time and energy into learning how to make money doing what I really love—writing.

There, I’ve said it. My naked ambition is on the table. Don’t worry, I’m not about to start asking you for money (although I don’t promise that I never will). I want to learn how to take the writing I do from the pages of my notebook to the pages in readers’ hands.

So there it is. After a lifetime of writing, I’ve finally owned up to what I am and what I want to be: a writer. A paid writer. The “paid” part is important. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no interest in the money apart from this: if my writing brings in an income—any income—it justifies my time away from making school lunches and monitoring the bandaid supply.

Decision made, done deal, right? You know the answer to that. But I will say this, the last two years I’ve spent dedicated to this new future I’ve chosen are starting to pay off. I haven’t signed with my dream agent, no book deals, nothing like that. But the firsts are starting to pile up, and that feels good:

  1. First conversation (followed by many more since) in which I feel like my Fictional Husband (FH) understands that I really am a writer, and what that means for us.
  2. First time attending the Book Passage Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference (2012), now an annual event in my writing life.
  3. First time joining a writing group of strangers (Temescal Writers, my inspiration and my home).
  4. First solo writing retreat (look for a separate post, coming soon).
  5. First manuscript complete (closely followed by several more).
  6. First time submitting a manuscript to an agent.
  7. First time attending my regional meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and best of all
  8. MY FIRST REJECTION!

My response to this first rejection—a form email from an agency that I greatly admire and was certainly a long shot—might surprise you. Rather than feeling deflated or discouraged, what I felt was…initiated. I am now doing what I want to be doing: writing and working toward publication, with more or less success, depending on my expectations and time frame. I felt liberated. They don’t want it? I am free to find the person who does. I felt excited. Who will get the next shot at collaborating with me on the making of this book?

Being rejected means that I was considered. And that’s a huge accomplishment in my writing life to date. I can live with that, for now.

This article is part of the Writer’s Passage series, chronicling the journey of one writer into the rabbit hole of children’s book publishing.

 

Related Articles:

Facing the Inevitable Rejection Letter

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Fallow

Fallow Field

So it turns out that I don’t write much in the summer. You’ve noticed.

Our family is now fully steeped in its current incarnation: Agent 006 in elementary school, about to start second grade next week, and the Birthday Girl (still three in spite of intervening birthdays which refused to have anything to do with her) in preschool twice a week. With the help of our marvelous babysitter, I manage to extend those few childless hours into a ten-hour-a-week writing practice (not including late nights and “I just have to go to the bathroom” quick ducks into the writing studio for stolen moments with the page).

But somehow children and travel have completely absorbed my time and attention this season, rolled up my writing practice like an old wool rug nobody needs when it’s hot out and the lawn sprinklers call us to summer’s baptism of heat. And it’s impossible for me to feel guilty about it. I know what’s really happening.

Summer is my growing season, but story doesn’t grow on the same schedule as the vegetal world. Travel, my children’s inches and appetites, long, sweet hours at the pool and beach–I can feel myself soaking it all in like the browning of my skin. The fields of my story lie fallow in the summer; the children and I play together in the rich dirt. My fields may look as empty as the pages of my journal or as inert as my blog statistics, but I feel small creatures stirring underground. I feel the bursting of seeds, straining toward the light of back-to-school fall routines. Soon, I will be able to water these fields once more with scattered showers of solitude. With just those scraps of nourishment, and the discipline of the hoe, the stories will grow forth again.

Please stay tuned for these new series of articles, and more, coming this fall:

Little Travelers: Tips for parents and kids on traveling to destinations near and far, exotic and quotidian.

A Writer’s Passage: Wisdom shared from the June 2013 Book Passage Conference for Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators, as it intersects with my life as a writer and mother of two.

The Beleaguered Kitchen: Ideas for creating nutritional family meals under duress

Bites from the Magic Apple: Strokes of parenting genius shared

See you soon!

Photo credit: Thanks to Paul Schultz for adding “Fallow Field” to the Creative Commons.

Better Than a Pedicure

When I started blogging a year ago this time, I swore I would never be one of those bland, self-absorbed bloggers who apologized every time I couldn’t write: “Sorry I haven’t been writing—it was really time to cut my toenails.” But I misunderstood the nature of blogging and have therefore neglected its most important component—you, my reader. I’ll make that singular for now, since there is probably just one of you left after my heartless and unexplained absence.

I wish I had a really good excuse, like a cancer diagnosis or another pregnancy, but in fact I just stopped having good ideas about what to write. So now you know my deepest authorial secret and shame—I am unreliable. I dry up. I get writer’s block, or I just get absorbed in living life and soaking it up, and sometimes my sponge is deep enough to hold it all, nothing leaking out onto the page. Every once in a while it’s like that. But since I’ll always need somewhere to drip, I thank each and every one of you for hanging a bucket under the faucet, confident that someday again the water would flow.

So here I am again. I came back because of you. I have something to tell you.

Reverie and Reconciliation

I write to reconcile the life I think I am living, the life I hope to live, and the life I am actually living. Becoming a parent has put new pressure on this reconciliation. I feel as though my children demand a clarity of intention, an authenticity of purpose, a generosity of emotion and an urgency of action that do not exist in the real me. But all that can exist here.

In the real world, I do not have a room of my own. Even if I did, I have not yet learned to shut the door and ignore the pounding from the other side. In the real world, I write with my back to the sofa, the front door, the central freeway of my home, balancing on a ball and attempting to block out distractions with earbuds blasting. As soon as I sit down to write, the five-year old bounces onto the back of the ball, and the 23-month old reaches for the post-its, the mail, the space bar, whatever her fingertips can find over the edge of the desk.

Here, I can sink into the gift of reverie, let the grains of my days run through my fingers with soothing softness, find the glittering quartz or shiny pebble and set it onto the windowsill to admire the way it gleams in the sun.

So far, nobody knows about this place but me. It exists only as an invitation to myself.

And I accept.

Photo obtained from Google images. Please notify me of any copyright infringement.