At first, I made a ton of freshman mistakes. I sent off pieces before they were ready. I didn't do enough research on the right markets for my work. And I had no idea what a query letter was. Seriously folks, I would email editors of fancy-pants magazines with stuff like, "Hello! I have written an essay for your publication. I look forward to working with you. Thanks!"
I slaved away at this essay. It took me a week to write 800 words. Then, it took me an entire month to whip it into shape. (Egads! What happened to my time management skills?) But finally, the piece was finished and I felt pretty confident with it. After all, I had worked so hard on this essay and I truly believed it would find a good home. This would be my debut into the freelancing world!
I aimed high. Really high. I sent my little baby to the Style section of the Washington Post. My fingers tingled. My heart leapt.This was going to be my big break!
But a week later, I got my rejection. It was short and sweet. Something like, "Thank you for this essay, but we have very limited space at this time."
I was crushed.My heart sank. My eyes welled up. My stomach twisted into a pretzel-sized knot. And I thought to myself, "I can't do this. I'm not cut out for this freelance writing thing. I need to give up right now."
And I cried for a long, long time.
Eventually, my husband found me in my heap of pitifulness and he urged me to send out the essay again. It took me a few days, but I listened to his advice. I mailed it off. It got rejected. I mailed it again. It got rejected. I mailed it again. And it still got rejected.
Months passed. My little essay had been turned down by the Washington Post, Commonweal, the Washingtonian, The Sun, and countless other places. I had an almost-but-not-quite experience at a small magazine, but the editor decided to pass. Alas, things were not going my way.
In a last ditch effort, I submitted the essay to a contest at a small literary journal, Segullah. I figured I would give it a shot since nobody else wanted the article. And you know what? About a month later, I received an email from one of the editors. She told me that I didn't win the contest, but she would like to include the essay in their winter issue.
*Le sigh no more!*
So that's the story of my first heartbreaking rejection. You know what's weird? To this day, I still remember opening the email from the Post editor and feeling the breath knocked out of me. I still remember deleting the email right away and crumbling onto my desk. And I still remember thinking about giving up then and there--about finding something else to do besides writing.
I'm sure glad I didn't. :o)
*By the way, you can read an early version of my essay here. Yikes! I just re-read it and there are so many things I want to change in it.
**Dear Washington Post, I will publish an article or essay in you one day. One day! Even if it's my own obituary!