The Personal Rejection: Backhanded Compliment of Publishing

While I freely admit to spending far too much time to pouting over the very detailed rejection letter I got for my first novel, I eventually took a look at it again. I knew I wasn’t going to resubmit to that publisher, so I read the advice with a more open, less angry mind. There were some criticisms with which I wholeheartedly disagreed (e.g., they wanted me to change it from first person narration to third person — and that wasn’t right for the story), but others I could take on board. So, I made the changes that made sense and went back to the drawing board. That led to that same book being traditionally published in both the US and the UK.

The rights on that book, “In The Eye of The Beholder,” have since reverted and I’ve self-published it. Still, the lesson remains with me: a detailed, personalized rejection letter is a gift. It’s okay to be upset that someone called your baby ugly. Once you get past that, take on the criticisms and use them to your advantage.

A Writer's Path

by John Briggs

There are two types of rejection letters – the dreaded form letter and the personal rejection letter. The former is just what it sounds like—the one that editors and agents send to dozens, if not hundreds of authors every year that says, with very little subtext, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

The personal letter, of course, says, with very little subtext, “We’re sorry, thanks, but no thanks.”

Actually, that’s a bit unfair to the personal rejection letter. Some are effusive in their praise. Gushing even. But for whatever reason, they can’t publish or represent your hard work.

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Music Monday: “Summer in the City”

It reached 104 degrees F. at our house yesterday.  We live in a mid-century home that is not air conditioned, so you can imagine how warm it was.  We shut everything down during the day to hold in cool air we let in during the night and most of the time that works.  Other times?  Well … let’s just say I think of this song often during those circumstances.

A Lesson I Learned From Dad

When I was three years old, Loving v. Virginia was decided.  I was, as you can imagine, blissfully unaware of this.

I was unaware of it four years later as well.  That was the year that Joe and Christine got married.

Joe was one of my dad’s students at the Job Corps.  My mom and dad often had the Job Corps kids over for dinner; many of them were far from home, or had troubled home lives that were not safe to go home to.  Joe, like many of the other students, was African-American.

After Joe graduated from Job Corps, he still came to visit us regularly.  He was originally from Mississippi, and had a deep Southern accent that I thought was interesting.  His family was far away (we lived in Oregon), so my folks were like surrogate parents for him.  And that was why, when he started dating Christine, he brought her around to meet my folks.

Chris, like my family, was Caucasian.

I didn’t think boo about it, to be honest.  I also didn’t think boo about it when they said they were getting married.  I liked them both; Chris was nice to me and my brother, and I liked Joe a lot.  I was excited to go to a wedding, because I got to wear my pretty new dress with the red and yellow flowers and the pleated ruffles.

It was a long time before I put two and two together about something that happened during that wedding:  my dad gave the bride away.  Chris’ parents refused to attend her marriage to a Black man.

I didn’t even understand the lesson until I was in my late teens and early 20s, if I’m perfectly honest with myself.  The lesson was that everyone deserves to marry the person they love, as long as all parties are consenting adults and the various other legal requirements are met.  Prejudice and bigotry are not good enough reasons to deny someone this basic civil right.

It was that lesson that I took with me during the years I worked on behalf of marriage equality for my LGBTQ+ friends.

My dad and I have not always seen eye-to-eye on things, but this lesson was impressed on me at a young age.  I will always be grateful.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

Sample Saturday: “Last Stop: Storyville”

BayouToday’s sample is from a first draft, so it will most likely be tweaked a great deal.  I’m working on a short story collection called Bayou Non-Standard Time, and this snippet is from one of the tales.  Enjoy!

Afterward, Jimmy fell asleep. He was embarrassed when he woke up and found Lucy sketching him.

“May I see?”

“Course you can, when I’m done.” She took a few more minutes to complete her drawing and then turned the pad around to show him.

“Lord-a-mercy,” he said. “I really do look almost exactly like my Uncle Amos.” She’d captured his cheekbones and slender nose perfectly, his hair mussed as he slept with an arm under the pillow.

“He must be one helluva handsome man,” she laughed.

“The ladies always seem to think so,” Jimmy replied, a wry smile on his lips. Then he turned serious. “Look, Lucy, you’ re really talented. That’s a beautiful drawing. Haven’t you ever thought about making a living from your art?”

“In case you ain’t noticed, jobs are few and far between right now,” she replied. “That’s exactly why I came here in the first place. Thought I could get me a job drawing for the Times or something. That didn’t exactly turn out. I ran out of money, and I had to leave the boarding house. I wasn’t pretty enough for one of the fancy houses, but I can rent me one of these cribs from Tom Anderson for twenty-five cents a day. All that takes is one trick, so anything else is gravy.”