Wednesday, May 28, 2014

That is one picky universe

"I have a crush on the New York Times," I told a writer friend a few years ago.
"Ask it out,"  he said.

So, I submitted a piece to the Modern Love column. Kindly, they rejected it before I could get my hopes up.

"I was rejected by the New York Times,"  I reported to my writer friend.
"Everybody gets rejected by the New York Times," he said.

That's not true, of course, there are plenty of people at that party,  but I know what he meant. You need talent and the right topic to get in line and then you still might have to talk to the bouncer.

Many rejections ago, when I started writing and sending my submissions "into the universe",  here's what I did. I wrote a 1600 word essay and sent it on heavy bond paper to the Boston Globe. I never got a response and assumed it never arrived. 

What with snail mail.

Many rejections later, I realized that the essay was rejected not only because it was 1000 words too long,  or because it was submitted on cardboard, but because it was not well written, despite what my mother and husband said.

It was over-everything. Over-long, over-wrought, over-reaching, and of course, overweight.

I wasn't startled when I found out how hard it was to publish, I was stunned. Had I known how many rejections that  universe spits out before it accepts a submission, I may have quit.

But because I'm a writer and I love my captor, I soldiered on after the Boston Globe maybe-never received my piece.

I focused on  my fiction and submitted a completed novel which was rejected by everyone.
I wrote a second that was rejected by half of everyone
I wrote a third which brought a request for a full manuscript by a mega-agent the next day.

A week later,  and you'll be so jealous if you're a writer, I received the rejection  with a letter of praise and suggestions. I took the book back and rewrote it.

For six years.

Eventually, I discovered that writing better was more important to me than submitting, and that loving my work felt better than being noticed.  Most important, I learned that big goals are not met in a single leap, but by taking the smaller, friendlier ones along the way seriously.

And here's the thing about "eventually":

The ratio does begin to turn around. More submissions are accepted than they are rejected, and each rejection hurts less. If you don't become an Eeyore, you realize that you're probably further away from the submissions-on-cardboard days,  than the Big Goal.


I published a first piece, about two kids leaving for college at the same time  in  the Concord Monitor.
I focused on my blog and  my traffic increased until some readers were not even related to me, and, lived in places I had to look up on a map.
I sold an essay to a national publication
I published in three online magazines.
The Christian Science Monitor selected one of my pieces as a top ten in its category.
I got picked up by the Washington Post.

My novel and I are almost ready to journey into the universe once more.  "You again?" it will say several times before I catch it in a good mood.

And then, eventually, probably - not possibly - there will be another exchange with my writer friend.

"I did it," I'll say.
"I knew you would," he'll respond.

I would sometimes like to flee, but I can't. I'm a writer and I love my captor.

And I haven't been published in the New York Times yet.


  1. wow, you sure have a great list of accomplishments! fergetabout the rejections. learn and grow.

  2. You are so right.....don't give up! Like you say you have to like your writing more than you like submitting.... I'd also add that you have to like writing more than you like attention or accolades from others too. As long as we keep at it and keep offering our gift we are bound to get better. Congratulations on your current success and may your future hold the fulfillment of all your goals and dreams!

  3. Good for you! It is an honor to be rejected is what I think because so many people never get to the process of even being considered!
    My sleepwear line has been rejected 2 times by O magazine as one of their favorite things and I rejoice in the rejection!

  4. The universe commanded you to write this post because I needed to hear it haha. No really, wonderful as usual.

  5. Well done--it just goes to show that writers gonna write, no matter what! I started publishing bits of my "rejection collection" because--why not?! Sometimes you have to redefine what success means!

  6. The thrill is in the writing - being published is the icing on the cake. I admire you for even submitting to Modern Love - that's one of my bucket list items!

    I love the way your write - along with your mother and your husband - and many other people, clearly!

  7. Thank you for the comments, all of you. I've seen your writing too (all of you), and know you've all been in the same "stay or go" position. For me, writing is hard to fall into each day, and almost impossible to climb out of - each day.

  8. A wonderful and encouraging tale...kudos to you!

  9. Well now you are stuck with me and I love you. I've submitted many things over the years, which means many rejections. There's an editor at O Magazine half my age who I am trying to strong arm into publishing a piece by taking her "notes." I don't want to be posthumously published, but would settle for publication as an octogenarian. But I must admit I'm praying for just one hardcore, legit byline by 50. Sigh. (Please don't reject this comment)

  10. Carol, I love you, as you know, and Shannon, you crack me up, always.

  11. I have no doubt you will be a published author of a bestseller AND a NYT writer!

  12. Oh my goodness, I do like the way you write AND I like your friend. After all, anyone that sticks with an author for that long must be very special.

    As for the Times, good luck with that. In my world, being turned down by the Times is a badge of honor.

    I actually had the Frugal Traveler trash me...I was so proud. He called me an amatuer...go figure!


  13. Barbara, thank you for that smile. My dentist talks about framing a letter from NASA turning him down for - I don't know, I guess applying for an astronaut job - but same idea.

  14. What a great post on writing, submitting, rejection, and resilience. I'm going to share this one. Thanks!

  15. My goal this year is to submit more. I have let fear hold me back long enough I think. I really loved this.

    1. Yes, Rena, submitting is enough. We may have big goals but nothing happens without submitting. Good luck.

  16. We writers love writing. We love the written word. And we're crazy and wonderful.

    I am not surprised the Universe answered back by publishing what you had to say. Because your voice shows us your heart and your genuine soul. And I, for one, will always want or NEED to read what you have to say, Susan. Happy New Year!

    1. Cathy, thank you. Makes my day to think I've touched someone "out there."

  17. I love this post!!! There is something so amazing about putting ourselves out there and letting the world read our words. I have gotten to the point where submitting and putting myself out there is really the prize, the result is just gravy. Thank you!

    1. I couldn't have said it better, Kathy. Submitting is the goal. The rest comes.

  18. What a perfect, encouraging post to read in this new year. Thanks for re-sharing on Women of Midlife.

    1. Andee, thank you for stopping by and reading. I hope you have huge returns on your own efforts in the new year.