Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My First Rejection Letter by Wendy Homar

This article appeared in the Rocky Mountain Writer in November 2011. Many thanks to Wendy who graciously gave us permission to reprint it on Chiseled in Rock blog.

Wendy was born in Wisconsin but eloped in Sedona 30 years ago and has lived there with her husband ever since. She started a children’s book years ago but never finished it, so she's always known she had the writer’s “bug”. After 30 years in real estate, she realized a huge part of feeling unsatisfied everyday was that her job offered absolutely no creative outlet. She began writing her novel. It changed her life.

With no formal education in writing or literature to tout, she soaks up all she can through conference workshops, agent panels, pitching and via her critique group. Her interest is penning thrillers and mysteries...she's totally addicted to what drives people to commit crimes and how those crimes ripple through other lives. Although her novel is based on a dark topic, it is peppered with humor because she finds it hard to suppress her own sense of humor when she writes.

My First Rejection Letter by Wendy Homar

It began quite simply in February 2010 when I started writing a novel inspired by true events. I’d seen a short snippet on T.V. about witch doctors in Uganda and I was off and typing. The novel flowed without a day of writer's block. I wrote on my lunch hour, on vacations, I even hit the keys on the laptop when my husband was at the wheel, and for the next two years, I thought of little else.

As the novel wound down and I began the task of tweaking it to perfection, we headed off on a transatlantic journey that took us to ports along the eastern seaboard and then six joyful days on the high seas over to Barcelona, and of course my book came along too. One morning in the bustling dining room, a British couple stood, breakfast plates in hand and table-less, so we offered them the two empty seats at our four-top. He was dressed in a Scottish kilt, wool jacket and vest; she wore a contemporary button up blouse and skirt. We looked like typical American tourists with backpacks and cameras.

After striking up a conversation we learned he was not only a lecturer on the ship, getting ready to speak, but an author! One thing led to another and we had made arrangements to have dinner together the next evening. I was bursting to pick his brain and to tell him all about my book, certain he’d want to know all the details, including what had inspired me to write my intriguing thriller and of course, did I want the name of his publisher? When at last, after great anticipation, I finally told him about my book, I was alarmed by his response to me, “Can you take rejection?” That’s what he wants to know? Geez, what a buzz-kill, I thought.

I would soon learn that my new friend was only giving me a realistic introduction into the world of publishing. As a well-seasoned author, he was trying to prepare me for the inevitable, not trying to steal my thunder.

So I set out to quickly acquaint myself with the how-to’s of the publishing business. I learned about platform. I created a meaningful website. I blog. I tweet. I have a Facebook fan page. I joined major writers' groups across the country and traveled from my home in Arizona to conferences in Willamette and Denver and pitched my book. I joined a critique group. I bought books about writing query letters and a great synopsis and how to find literary agents in my genre. I sent in pages and chapters and waited.

And then two weeks ago, it happened. My first rejection letter. It was a day like any other, but it wasn’t, because this was that day...the day my cruise ship buddy had so wisely asked me to prepare for. Here I was, getting rejected...and the question hung in the air, could I really take it? Was I cut out for this business? I read the letter once. All I could see was one dismal line; she didn’t quite fall in love with my story.

Through slightly blurred eyes I read it again and this time I discovered a compliment there. She liked my engaging use of prose! I read it a third time; she liked my skilled use of suspense! Two compliments. I read it a forth time...maybe I’d missed something else. I had! She pointed out that hers was only one opinion. She was also encouraging me not to give up! As rejection goes, hers was respectful, kind and complimentary.

I brushed away the silly tear. I could take this. I would just head to the next conference, knowing I had a real skill for suspense AND engaging use of prose. I would send out another query, remembering hers was just one opinion, but an opinion I would treasure, forever.


Thanks for letting us reprint your article, Wendy. Respectful, kind, and complimentary rejections sure beat that submission twilight zone, the one that's labeled "If you haven't heard from us in umpteen weeks, you can assume we're not interested."

You can learn more about Wendy and her novel, Buried Innocence, at her website. She can also be found on Facebook.


Margot Kinberg said...

Wendy - Thanks for sharing your experience. You were fortunate to get such a helpful and supportive rejection letter. I'm glad you found the support and confidence you needed to keep going.

Julie Golden said...

...and such a well-written article, which indicates your books will be of the same high quality.

Misha Gericke said...

Great article. I'm still training myself to take rejection. :-)

Rob-bear said...

Remember: it was your writing which was rejected, not you. Those may feel the same some days, but they are not.

Best wishes with your writing.