Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Young And The Restless


Today I’m turning to a topic we’re all sadly familiar with – rejection. Who enjoys rejection? Not me, nor any writer. It’s something we’ve all had to face at one time or another. To be honest, it doesn’t bother me in the least as it’s all part of the learning process. Crikey, even Cheryl Cole had to deal with it recently, but instead of taking her dismissal from the US X-Factor like a grown up, she threw her toys out of the pram. As writers, I like to think we have more dignity than spoiled slebs.

Let me take you back many years to my first ever submission when I was a naïve young writer, thinking every agent would just fall in love with my submissions. I remember scurrying to the post office, after having opened the envelope four times to check I’d spelled my name correctly. I recall making a mental note to myself – Monday, June 25 – this would be the day Big Agent is overwhelmed by my wonderful three chapters, so much so, that he calls this date ‘the first day of the rest of my life.’ Ok, so it’s Friday, June 22, I mutter to myself. Big Agent won’t be in the office tomorrow to read it, so it’ll be Monday at the earliest before he feasts his eyes upon my masterpiece. Maybe Tuesday if Royal Mail has a backlog. Luckily I’d taken that fortnight off work, as it was compulsory Wimbledon viewing. I made sure I had my mobile switched on from early dawn, just in case Big Agent arrived early at work – perhaps he’d gone to a clairvoyant over the weekend, and therefore knew there was a fabulously talented author just….sitting….waiting. Good, the phone had plenty of charge and reception. Reception, most importantly. If he couldn’t hear me, he may well hang up and end my dream. But no phone call came that day.

So…Tuesday….I’d arranged to visit a friend in a slightly more rural area. Panic set in just in case the reception was poor and Big Agent couldn’t get hold of me. He’d bin mine and move on to Joe Bloggs’ manuscript ‘Henry Porter and The Magnificent Flying Owl’. Thankfully o2 was the most reliable provider in the area and I took comfort in that. I decided not to leave my mobile phone in my handbag in case it slid down the infamous black hole in the lining. I would hear the ringtone, but my mobile would be playing a vicious game of hide and seek. What if he didn’t leave a message and the number was withheld. So I balanced my phone on top of my bag. No phone call on the Tuesday. Maybe he’d gone to the gym and had a minor accident on the treadmill? Perhaps he was in the Seychelles for a two week holiday. Mmmm.
Maybe tomorrow. Again I rose at the crack of dawn, perched my phone within reach and prayed to the gods of submission. Nothing. Thursday….nothing….Friday….nothing.

I consoled myself with the belief that Big Agent had it on his desk and was so engrossed in it he hadn’t moved for days. Could he have been so excited about the storyline he had a heart attack at his desk? Maybe he was booking a flight to meet me but was so incensed by the baggage charges he cancelled. I checked the flight schedule for London Heathrow to George Best Belfast City Airport on the Monday, making sure there was availability. Maybe he’d prefer to fly from London Gatwick. Again, flight schedule checked. Availability - yes.

No phone call ever came. Instead about five weeks later I got a rejection. Thanks but no thanks. Oh well. And it was a standard signed letter. I folded it and put it inside the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. Onwards and upwards, I said to myself.

9 comments:

Helen Black said...

I think your attitude is definitely what it takes to survive in this industry.

On the one hand we writers need a supreme confidence that someone will love our work...all those self doubters that never get enough courage up to sub, will forever be left wondering what if.

On the other hand we need a thick enough skin to deal with what comes when we do put our babies out there.

Writing takes a certain kind of sensitity but also a steely side...those of a nervous disposition need not apply.
HB x

Gillian McDade said...

Absolutely - thick skin required. I've seen too many writers give up before they've even started. Perseverance is key!

Karen said...

I thought it would be that easy too, back in the day. That the agent would be bowled over by the lovely 'cover' I'd designed to go with my chapters ...

It's been a long, steep learning curve!

Gillian McDade said...

I hope no one has gone as far as to send a photograph with their submission! I bet there's someone out there who has...

Carys said...

Not guilty on the photograph front! Definitely guilty of waiting with baited breath the first time I sent something off - it was a long and fruitless wait :)

Fionnuala said...

I'm not sure if I was supposed to laugh but this resonated so much I did giggle... Terrible thing is that it was probably all of us during that early submission stage - before we all became hard hearted Hannahs! x

Susie Nott-Bower said...

So true, Gillian! But I think I've never really grown past that stage...
Susiex

Debs Riccio said...

Ha ha Gillian! I used to put a b/w photo on the top of my query letters to show how sensible/mature/cheerful/funky/delete where applicable I was.
As far as I know it didn't help or hinder but as I'm still exactly where I was then, who knows!

Caroline Green said...

I recognised every emotion in this post! I slightly disagree with what Helen said there [sorry Helen!] because I think even the thin skinned can get through it if you want it badly enough. I know that for me, each rejection felt like a dagger in the heart and it never got any easier!