November 6, 2010

Don't fret, Caroline, you'll get published one day (Um, maybe?)

Rejection. Hmm, it sucks, doesn't it?

It always leaves me feeling deflated and depressed. A little flattened, if you if someone has taken a mallet and pounded my heart into a fleshy pancake. And I hate pancakes. (No, really, it's true. I also hate waffles and French toast. I'm weird.)

When rejections come my way, I often do three things: 

1.) Eat unhealthy amounts of ice cream and Ferrero Rocher chocolates.
2.) Work on a new book to focus on something else. (Jim told me he thinks my WIP sounds "FABULOUS!" And he actually typed it in all caps!)
3.) Re-read Shannon Hale's biography on her website. 

I love me some Shannon Hale. She's the author of books like The Goose Girl and Princess Academy, and her blog is funny, funny, funny. Additionally, her path to becoming a published author has taken some interesting twists and turns that I find oh-so-inspiring. Here's what she wrote about getting an MFA at the University of Montana: 

Unfortunately, I wasn't offered a teaching assistantship [in my MFA program].  Those with teaching assistantships teach undergrad classes and get free   tuition. When I asked the department head how they chose which students got to be TAs, she told me they were granted based on who they thought were the best writers. She looked away politely while I tried not to cry.
By my second year, I was the only one in my group who wasn't a TA--effectively, I was considered the worst writer in the program. This stung, yes, quite a lot. (Incidentally, I believe I'm the only one of the group now to have published multiple books by a major publisher, let alone spend time on the New York Times Best Seller list.) All I'm saying is, I was never considered the best or the brightest at any stage in my education, and that's never a good indication of whether or not you've got what it takes. 

Wow, good for her for not giving up, eh? And here's another snippet that I find oh-so-inspiring too: 

By summer of 2001 I'd found an agent to represent my novel--a real miracle in and of itself. Amy thought it was a young adult book and she began to shop it to the big children's publishers over the next several months. They rejected it again and again--nine rejections in all. It was an exciting and emotionally exhausting year. I had an agent! And she was sending out my novel! And everyone hated it...and said no, no, no...
Now seven years later, The Goose Girl remains my most popular novel, has gone through many printings, translated into several languages, earned several awards, and inspired three sequels. I think it goes to show that rejection doesn't always mean "You stink!" It can mean, "You haven't found your home yet. Keep looking.

Ahhhh. Thank you so much for sharing that, Ms. Hale. It brings some warm fuzzies into my heart on this cold November morning. 


  1. Such an incredible post!! Shannon Hale deserves a ginormous mountain of her favorite ice cream for staying strong!

    And guess what? You should, too. Um, hello? Jim typed FABULOUS, didn't he? Didn't he???

    Take it this way: someone believes in you. That means you don't suck. It's just time to keep pushing on.

    Here's to staying strong :D

  2. Get rid of those words in brackets AT ONCE! Of course you'll get published :-)

    I LOVE Shannon Hale I saw her on tour and she brought all her rejection letters, which she has laminated and stuck together, and rolled the across the floor. It went right across the store.

    She's brilliant and inspirational and I love that she went on tour with her baby too. Makes you think anything is possible :)

  3. Valerie12:13 PM

    Ah, thanks for that. I'm not on submission yet, but I have been in the past which caused me to stop writing for awhile and take a long, hard look at my MS. While I liked the idea of each plot, none of it was really me. (Yes, I lacked "a voice", but luckily I figured out that it wasn't the writing as much as it was the GENRE!)

    So I abandoned ship on two of my past and very regular YA MSs and made the switch to horror/dark fantasy...and it's easier now! Much easier.

    I guess what I'm saying is that I wasn't only rejected by agents...I rejected myself!

  4. Aw, Amparo, you are far too kind! Thank you so much for your encouraging words!

    Alexa, I'm so envious that you got to hear Shannon Hale in person! I hear she's hilarious and that story about her laminated rejections sounds awesome. Hopefully I'll be able to meet her someday!

    Valerie, I'm glad that you are keeping on truckin'! That's the thing with successful writers--they don't give up!

  5. Ouch. You don't like pancakes? What is the point of breakfast if you can't eat multiple layers of carbs with sugar poured on top of them???

    j/k... Except not really ;)

    I think we're at this weird stage of the process now that doesn't really get talked about much in those "road to publication" stories we're so used to reading. The period in between getting an agent and making that first sale is always glossed over in those stories. Sometimes the rejections aren't even mentioned. But that doesn't mean they didn't happen, just that the authors don't want to dwell on them, naturally enough. But one thing the published authors always say over and over is that rejection always happens, at every stage of the process, even after the first sale, and the second sale, and the tenth sale... Sigh. It kind of sucks, this job. ;)

    Hang in there, and remember you're not in it alone -- and that 99.9% of all the published writers in the world have been where you are right now.

    *retreats back into research burrow*

  6. What?! No pancakes? Ack!

    Actually, I didn't use to like pancakes or french toast either, but I've discovered that powdered sugar and some sort of fresh fruit make them irresistibly yummy.

    Those snippets are great. There are stories out there of people who didn't have to go through tons of rejection to find their agent and publisher, but it's good to be reminded that even the big time writers had to spend time in the trenches too. This business is really all about perseverance!

  7. Great story, and I agree completely about the pancake/waffle/french toast triad of sugary evil.

  8. Wouldn't it be great to be able to write the query letter and give it to someone else to mail out, and get the responses. That way you'd never know who rejected your or if you got rejected.

  9. Aw, thanks everyone for the kind and supportive comments!

    Robin, I totally agree. I often read success stories of writers who sell their book at auction only days after going on submission. We hardly hear about the rejections that inevitably come at this stage of the process. Ugh, rejection! Guess I better get used to it.

    Stephanie, I actually don't mind waffles too much if they're smothered with sugary strawberries and whipped cream. Haha, so healthy, right?

    Ian, another person who hates pancakes! Wahoo! Most of the time people think I'm insane.

    LM, I would've loved something like that when I was querying! Getting rejections in my inbox was the worst!

  10. From one Caroline to another: hang in there! I was told my verse novel was too quiet and that kids of this plugged-in generation wouldn't be interested. Then my quiet little historical sold at auction.

    Off to read Shannon Hale's story!