9 May


Rejection comes in all shapes and guises, and as writers we’ve been told to expect rejection from Day One. Great literary names have suffered the wrath of the poisoned-penned standard letter, their work resigned to file thirteen – endured threats of police retaliation should they darken the agent’s doorstep or set foot in the publishing house ever again. It’s a tough business and trying to get your manuscript to the top of the pile isn’t easy. I’ve read the hints and tips from the bona-fide writers who ghost the columns of scribbler’s magazines, insisting that theirs is the only way to do it. Parading their worthy portfolio for the rest of us to admire and envy, in the hope we’ll hang on their every word and take the commercial bait. Countless books and DVD’s are sold on the subject – reclusive getaway workshops where the writer can be at one with their craft, uninterrupted in a virtual paradise for the price of a small utility vehicle or a week in the Bahamas. 

Seems to me that writing about writing is a money-making business.  

Enter our competition and win thousands. Receive the accolade and admiration of millions who hate you for winning. Flaunt your newfound notoriety across blog sites and book covers. Colin James, winner of the Kettlerville Writer’s Competition in 2010, and Honorable Mention in the Boise Writer’s Competition in 2011. Possible future winner of multi-various competitions – but then again depending upon the current economic climate maybe not! 

Each competition costs money to enter and I’m sure you’ve noticed the prize being boldly advertised doesn’t come close to the entry subscriptions collected from the thousands of wanna-bes like myself. People who just can’t resist paying another ten bucks to receive a sealed envelope in the post with a thank you very much, but no thank you very much. 

Thanks for your submission. Please dig deeper in your wallet and try again. 

It’s apparent that the winners of the competitions are the organizers themselves – drug dealers and peddlers of prose, godfathers and usuries of verse. The first taste of nail-biting anticipation is free, but ever after you’ll pay through the nose. 

Licked and posted to the vaunted heights of ivory towers in little towns such as London, Paris, New York, and Munich, where the very name of the place gives the agent enough cache to lure us with siren song. Ever sent your inquiry letter to Kettlerville in Wisconsin, or Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire, or perhaps Litchfield Park in Arizona? I thought not. 

We’re all hoping on hope, praying for the miracle that somewhere beyond the reach of mortal man is a darkened room with a bespectacled figure pouring over our manuscript. 

…A clock ticks on the wall, breeze-blown dust floats in city sunshine and the sound of metropolitan traffic ebbs through an open window…

We can see it in our mind’s eye – willing the moment as we stick our stamps and post our very best. We imagine the agent picking up our first born, our cherished child – smiling as he reads the first few lines – chuckling as he turns the page. He doesn’t reach for the waste paper basket – just maybe we’ve got it made! 

We’ve studied and corrected, pared and shortened, fussed and bothered over word-perfect inquiry letters. Determined not to fall at the first hurdle we’ve researched names and addresses hoping they’ll notice we’ve titled them correctly as sir or madam, or even your most regal highness. Doffed cap and bended knee are metaphorically offered in the hope of literary patronage. 

It’s a money-making business, and they’re making the money. 

How many times have you perused the New York Times best seller list and seen the same tired names, or picked up the books of well-reviewed authors and wondered why they’re at number one? With no thought to direction, description, plot or language, we muddle through unacceptably poor editing. Yet here it is in black and white, as real as life, as sure as a heart attack and at a Madison Avenue price. Bumbling, unexciting prose that once again proves the mediocrity of a for-profit driven industry. The author in question has written thirty seven best-sellers, but clearly hasn’t had an original idea since book number three. 

Sure, all it takes is one good book. All you have to do is excel at your craft, and of course be marketable. Perhaps a necessary fitness regime – a couple of weeks in the gym, or even an appointment at the dentist for a teeth whitening experience will enhance your golden opportunity? In an imperfect society that dotes on perfect people, what sort of chance do you really think you have? Don’t kid yourself – just because you have spent four years on the manuscript doesn’t mean that you’ve got it in the bag. Your personal cost, measured in gallons of blood sweat and tears, means absolutely nothing.

Consider the nobody celebrity or the so-called reality stars that push out untold cookbooks, work-out videos, or even god forbid another kiss-and-tell-all biography ghost written by an otherwise unpublished author. Given public apathy, and the fact most of us have the attention span of a weasel, we the muddling masses are doomed to feast and gorge on any tripe they deign to dish. Do we really want to hear about celebrity number one doing it on the down low with leather-clad celebrity number two? 

It seems we do! 

It’s a matter of getting your foot in the door, networking till you’re blue in the face and hoping that you get lucky. What happened to an appreciation of good writing, a honed, crafted literary masterpiece capable of blowing the socks off anybody who reads it? Maybe I’m being difficult, a little cynical perhaps? Maybe I should just accept that writing isn’t my thing and choose another ‘hobby’ like water coloring or train spotting?

The problem is I can’t, it’s in my blood – I feel the need to exceed. I have already written the book that’s going to sell a million copies, so I’m prepared to wait for the balding bespectacled apparition of my dreams to push his specs up his nose and observe as my work illuminates his face and sizzles his brain. Prepared to watch the gears grind, the cogs turn, as realization grips him by the short-and-curlies and boots him up the arse. 

Rejection – I spit in the general direction of rejection! 

Who gives a damn? Send me your tired weather-worn standard letters complete with coffee stains, penned telephone numbers and erotic doodling. I can take it – bring it on. You can only refuse me some many times – it’s a numbers game! As I prepare to hit the send button and launch another masterpiece into cyberspace I finger the rabbit’s foot hanging around my neck and invoke the idols. I’ve decided that polytheism is the way to go. The more gods, the more chances. Right? 

Just one more competition, with one more self addressed envelope; please don’t forget the ten dollar check – don’t call us, we’ll call you.  

I get it, but I don’t care. I’m a writer and I will be read. One day – maybe not this week or the next, but somewhere in the future, there’s a desktop with a pile of query letters, and mine’s on the top. 

I believe. Failure is not an option.


2 Responses to “REJECTION…”

  1. Eveline Horelle Dailey May 11, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    I can think of thousands of writers wishing they had written this piece. Well crafted, franc and gut spilling truth!

    Colin for President! do you think this subject of Great Britain could be the next one! let’s begin Vive la Revolution! lets put him on the throne …

    • Colin James I-10 Blog May 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

      Eveline – I sent this to Writer’s magazine and Writer’s Digest – do you think they will print it?
      Take care.

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