Okay, I hesitated even writing this, even just writing it to myself, let alone sharing this with the world. But you know what? I write to vent and be heard. So, here it goes...
I F@#$%#@ hate REJECTION. Seriously, I try to be all zen about it. I try NOT to be angry.
It sucks. This contest, (I entered the Amazon Breakout Novel contest and got through the first round but didn’t make the second and just found this out five minutes ago) just like the Delacorte one I entered so many years ago, is such a friggin’ tease for me. I always seem to come into things second or third best. Or, I get a tease that it might happen. With the Delacorte one, I got a handwritten note from a certain editor named Jennifer who said the story didn’t win but I love your voice and I want to see more. Then I showed her more...and didn’t hear back for a year! Just to hear “Oh, thanks but no thanks." There’s been countless correspondences with agents and editors like that, and I don’t want to relive those torturous times. The deal is, this rejection for Fear of Falling– with this recent contest– particularly sucks because I didn’t get excited about it at first. really wasn’t going to tell anyone, but then I did, and now it’s kind of like telling people you are pregnant too early and then finding out you never were and now you have to go back and tell everyone.
I got rejected. Yep, I’m a LOSER. By definition.
I am sitting with the feelings of it and letting myself just feel it and not struggling with it or telling myself a bunch of bullshit. When I do that, I form a weird, secondary pain, one that comes from the struggle of pushing back what I really feel. We all do that, right? Something happens–a rejection or betrayal– and, at first, you are like, “Oh, hey, I’m cool. Whatever. I don’t need that shit. I’m so much better than that. WHATEVER!” Then, the pain hits. “Oh, man, this sucks. Man, this just sucks.” Then you fight it again, but this time it’s really hard and almost feels worse than the actual rejection itself. “Oh, God, I suck. I’m such a loser.” Then I fight that with: “No– I’m not! Whatever. Just don’t think about it. Let go. Who cares. It means nothing....” But, the truth always comes through. The truth of my feelings, that is. And that truth is...it does hurt and fighting with the hurt, hurts even worse.
Here I am. Feeling the pain of yet another rejection from yet another publisher. Even though this is a contest, it is one with a prize of publication and book contract. In other words, winning this, for me, would be like winning the lottery. No, better. It would be better to get a book contract than win the lottery. Because a book contract is earned. It means validation. It means I have made it. I have mixed feelings about saying that. I guess I really don’t like to admit that I want the validation of the publishing industry because that will imply that their criteria is valid when, in fact, we know that’s not always the case (just look at some of the shit they publish!).
But getting the book deal, in a weird way I don’t want to psychoanalyze, feels like winning prom queen. Me. The anti-prom queen girl. If I win prom queen, it means all the bullshit rules of the beautiful, perfect people getting everything they want–those rules are all turned upside down. If I’m the prom queen–the girl who you thought would never, could never be the prom queen–if I win, then maybe we all have a fair chance. This part of me that feels that way is the same part that is still fifteen years old. The same part that can’t stop writing young adult fiction. The part of me that gets rejected from the publishing industry.
This rejection from yet another publisher, brings up all kinds of other moments in my life of rejection. Of course, these moments are all before the age of eighteen because that’s the part of me that is the writer. Here’s what I immediately thought of when I read the list of who made it to the second round. I thought of how NO ONE asked me to either my junior or senior prom, and I remember standing at both proms looking around and realizing not one person in my class of roughly 120 kids wanted to go with me to prom–okay, split that in half. Not one out of 60 people in my class, people who I have known since third grade, not one thought going with me to prom would even be tolerable, even just as friends. I sucked THAT much. I remember thinking that and wanting to kind of curl up and just sleep for the remaining years of high school. Now, I think back and I can be all adult about it and say, “Well, whatever. It really doesn’t mean much to not be asked to prom. I mean, who cares? What does it mean in the scheme of things, right?”
The problem is that it may not mean much in terms of will I get up and move on in my life, but it means something to me inside each time I am rejected. Rejection SUCKS. And no matter what it’s for, it all feels the same. Dank, dark, yicky, sad, shitty frustrating, and unfair. It leaves such a heaviness in my body, such a feeling of not really being in this moment but being deeply inside my mind, where all the pain sits.
I sit and type this at Starbucks, feeling like I really am a loser. I mean I have been writing and trying to break into the mainstream world of publishing for so many years, and I keep getting the proverbial kick in the face, and, yet, even with this rejection, I am not giving up. Now does that make me? Crazy? Tenacious? Admirable? Stubborn? Stupid?
Of course, when rejection happens, I look at the work itself that is getting rejected, and I say, “Well, you know. I am just not good enough.” Now that reality used to hurt me really deep. When I would come to the realization that the rejection slip meant I wasn’t good enough, I would just really struggle with that and think, “No. No. I am good enough. He/she/they are just stupid and don’t know a good thing when they see it.” But now, wiser and older, I realize that, the thing is, I am not good enough. Period. End of sentence. All of these publishers and agents can’t all be stupid and not know what they are talking about. I am not good enough to get a real, genuine, book deal.
As I say that to you, I know some of you might get nervous for me. Listen, don’t worry about me. I can sit with this reality and not die. I can sit with this reality and still get up and write.
Shit, I am writing right now.
***It's several hours later and I have had time to come out of the dankness of the initial feelings of being rejected. It isn't true that I am not good enough for a book deal. What is true is that for this particular publisher and this particular contest, my work wasn't right. In fact, that's what being rejected really is about. We just aren't a match. What can you do?