word craft


Getting Used to Rejection


If one is a writer one of the things you get used to is rejec­tion. It’s nev­er pleas­ant but can be mem­o­rable. And some­times, in ret­ro­spect, even funny. 

When my moth­er learned she was giv­ing birth to twins (my sis­ter and I) she employed a nan­ny to help her. (There was already a two-year-old in the house — (my broth­er) — and my father was away at grad­u­ate school.) At the end of the first week, after I had been brought home, the nan­ny quit. The fam­i­ly sto­ry is that she said, “It would hurt my rep­u­ta­tion to have been in a house­hold where a baby [me] died.” 

In kinder­garten, my very first report card was issued. I received “Sat­is­fac­to­ry“ in “sit­ting, stand­ing, walk­ing, and respect­ing the rights of oth­ers.” But for “use of hand­ker­chief” I got “Unsat­is­fac­to­ry.” 

[Edward is my birth name.] 

Avi's report card

For most of my ele­men­tary school days, I was in the same class with my twin sis­ter. It was not unusu­al for me to hear, “That’s wrong. Let’s see if your smart sis­ter has the answer.” 

I had already flunked out of the first high school to which I went. When in the sec­ond, a pri­vate school, the Eng­lish teacher called my folks and said “Avi is the worst stu­dent I have ever had. If you wish to have him con­tin­ue here, he will need a writ­ing tutor.” 

In col­lege, already hav­ing decid­ed to be a writer, I asked an adult men­tor to read some of my writ­ing. “Lee, what do you think of my stuff?” “Well, Avi, it takes a heap of manure to make a flower grow.” 

Edi­tor: “I am turn­ing this down. Just know an author’s sec­ond book is always much hard­er to write than his first.”

An edi­tor reject­ed a sub­mit­ted book. I asked, “Can you tell me what’s wrong with it?” The answer, “It has no salt.” 

When anoth­er edi­tor turned down a book of mine, I asked her if there was any part of it that was good. Her reply, “You can keep the title.” 

Anoth­er editor’s rejec­tion: “If I pub­lished this it would hurt your reputation.” 

This is from an edi­tor regard­ing a book we had been work­ing on for a year: “You did every­thing I asked you to do but it’s no good.” 

Anoth­er edi­tor: “I have to turn it down. I love it, but my boss thinks no kid will ever read it.” 

A Goodreads review: “I was forced to read this book in school and it’s the most bor­ing book I ever read. Don’t, don’t, don’t ever read it!!!” 

Some­times when you are a writer it’s best to be like a tur­tle: wear a hard shell and keep up a slow but steady walk forward.

1 thought on “Getting Used to Rejection”

  1. Such wise words. I’m try­ing to be a turtle…or a tor­toise. It’s always hard. It is help­ful to hear words of rejec­tion from such a fab­u­lous author as your­self. We keep steadi­ly walk­ing forward.


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