I got a rejection letter in the mail last month. It was for a picture book manuscript that I had sent so long ago, I had actually forgotten I had submitted it. It was a generic rejection, with a note about how taste was subjective and just because this particular publishing house wasn’t interested, that didn’t mean someone else wouldn’t like it.
It is hard to put our work out there, with fingers crossed, prayers offered, and a kiss on the envelope for luck (am I the only one?) only to have it rejected. I think many of us know the discouragement when you recognize your own handwriting on a self-addressed envelope in the mail. That sinking feeling when you open the mailbox. And that’s if you even get a response, of course. Many times you don’t hear from the editor or agent at all. Even though I may not be happy with the news those self-addressed envelopes contain, I am always grateful to at least hear back from the editor or agent. Thank you to those who write back, and especially to those who jot a personal note. Those are treasured words.
But just when I’m feeling discouraged, when I’m wondering if it’s all worth it, something comes along that keeps me going. I just saw a news piece on Newbery author Kate DiCamillo, which said she was rejected more than 400 times. Could that be possible? The multi-award winning author who wrote The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, one of my favorite books of all times?
I also read her acceptance speech from the recent Newbery awards ceremony. It is lovely, utterly lovely, and it reminds me of my purpose. Like Ms. DiCamillo, I truly loved books as a kid. They were my friends, my companions, my security, especially when the world seemed busy and confusing. Just the thought that my words could offer that kind of joy and comfort to a child is one of the thoughts that keeps me going when the rejections continue to come in. It keeps me writing, learning, growing, and challenging myself. The thought that one day, one of my books could mean as much to a child as Ms. DiCamillo’s books have to my own children, is another reason to keep at this. And so, I continue to learn on this writer's journey - with a little hope and a lot of heart - and inspiration from those who already do it so well.
If you want to read Ms. DiCamillo’s excellent Newbery speech for Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, here’s a link. Her interview on NBC news can be found here. Enjoy!