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Posts Tagged ‘rejection’

Chacun son goût

My next door neighbours are a couple in their eighties. They’re the best possible sort of neighbours to have in lots of ways. They’re quiet, friendly, warm, and exactly the sort whose home we happily watch when they’re away and who do the same for us. They’re also interesting people. They’re into everything from helping refugees to getting lots of exercise to writing poetry and self-publishing it for their families. They’re computer savvy and independent, and over the years, we’ve talked lots about books, because they’re avid readers.

Until now, we’d only mentioned titles and authors to each other, but after a recent visit, I offered to lend her a couple of books I thought she might enjoy. I picked two: one I liked with a subject I thought would appeal to her, and one that ranks as one of my own favourite reads this year. I didn’t tell her anything about the books when I dropped them off.

This morning, she brought them back. The first she liked well enough. She found the topic interesting, as I thought she would, and the writing solid.

The second, a book I loved, she didn’t like at all. With an eye to making future suggestions she’d enjoy more, I asked her what she didn’t like about it, and she said she didn’t like the writing, that it got a bit better as she went along, but she just didn’t like it and didn’t really know why. She doesn’t mind reading outside her usual areas, she said, but likes good writing, first and foremost. (The implication, I suppose, was that this book wasn’t it.) Then she asked me what I thought of it.

This book had me hooked from the beginning, and I think it’s beautifully written. She was very surprised when I told her it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year, and that I like the writing style, the characters, all of it.

It was a very good reminder that reading is utterly subjective. One person’s favourite read is another’s wasted reading time. The variety of books available at any bookstore should be reminder enough of that, but it’s easy to forget, especially when you’re looking for someone to love your baby enough to publish it or if you get a poor review.

So next time your work gets slammed in a review or you get one of those “not right for me” rejections, remember that that one was my neighbour, but the next one may be me, hand-selling your book to everyone I can talk into buying it because I loved it so much.

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Agents and Underwear

I haven’t talked too much here – or anywhere – about my recent serious effort to find an agent. It’s no secret, but it’s a business thing, and I figure it’s pretty much between me and the agents until something official happens. In the meantime, either someone is going to love my work and want to represent me or s/he’s not the right agent for me, however perfect s/he may look on paper. But, of course, as easily said as that is, the whole process is also a very emotional one. I don’t think it’s possible to write a good book without pouring your heart and soul onto the page, so sending it out and waiting for likely rejection isn’t easy and feels very personal. For me, it’s essential to remember, always, that this is a business. But it’s also essential for me to keep my sense of humour about the whole thing.

My best friend is not a writer, and is the perfect person to help me keep this process in perspective. So especially for those of you who are also going through this process at the moment, I give you her analogy about agents and underwear:

A query letter is the first time you see a potential date across a room and get up the nerve to go over and introduce yourself. Rejection is likely, but the amount of yourself invested in the attempt is relatively minimal. Being rejected sucks, but it’s a numbers game. You expect it to happen more often than not. If it happens every time, you polish your approach and try again. And if things go well, it leads to

The partial. This is the first date. It’s conversation over dinner, where you find out whether you have the same taste in music and feel the same way about dogs vs cats and whether there’s any chemistry. At worst, one of you will feel it and the other won’t and you’ll get rejected. This will sting, because you had your hopes up that he might be The One and you put your best effort into being your most attractive self. But if the two of you click and you can’t stop talking and suddenly it’s two am before you realize it’s even dark outside, the relationship will progress to

The full manuscript. This is the first time your date is going to see you naked, and you’re not sure whether you’ve picked the right underwear for the occasion or if he has an aversion to cellulite or freckles, but cellulite and freckles and the lacy number you picked up that one day you were feeling thin is what you have to offer. And it’s here that you reveal so much of yourself that rejection is going to hurt. You know he likes you enough to want to see you naked; that’s been established. But when you’re standing there in your best bra and panties, holding your breath, it’s nerve-wracking. Being told “Sorry, not for me” at this point is a blow. No matter how circumspect you’ve tried to be about the whole thing, standing nearly naked in front of anyone is pretty intensely personal. But there’s always the hope, the chance, that he’ll take a long look and want to take things to the next level as much as you do and maybe even propose…

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