rejection

Why did I start this blog?

recommitment-monthI have a confession to make. I haven’t been writing much lately. Actually I haven’t worked on my novel since March when I received disheartening news from the agent I thought I would be working with. After four months of correspondence, my hopes were dashed with this brief email:

I’m sorry to say that I’m going to have to step aside, despite my admiration for your work.  The past few weeks have been extraordinarily busy, and I have not been able to get back to your manuscript.  In any event, I cannot imagine you’ll have any trouble finding an agent to handle this—what I’ve read is quite wonderful.

OK, I know that this is overall positive, but that doesn’t make it any easier to face the fact that I have to start the long submission process all over again. But more over the writer inside me was broken and depressed by the rejection – writers have very sensitive egos. I couldn’t even look at my story.

But today, cooler heads prevailed, and I decided to open the document and read through parts of it. And guess what?!? It’s f’ing amazing! I needed a little break from it to realize what a great story I wrote. So now, before you all, I newly recommit to getting my novel published.

I am also making a promise to you virtual friends that I will write the second draft of my screenplay and enter it into a film contest by August 30. By the way, this is the feedbackI received after I entered my first draft into a film festival contest:

Your script made it through to some of the last rounds and saw many extra readings. The overall level of craft was remarkable, and made for some stiff competition.This screenplay’s concept is tremendous. And this script brought a dense and complex story alive. In the end, however–we had to pass. We found this to be a very promising screenplay. Thanks again for the honor of reading your work! And please keep writing.

I started this blog to hold myself accountable. I realized that once I state something publically I much more likely to do. So please send me lots of good vibes and encouragement. This summer it’s ON!

How bullying made me a better writer

Most kids joke that their favorite subject in school is recess or lunch. Those were the times I dreaded the most. Classmates spitting gum in my hair; getting called ugly/ fatty/ freakazoid; kids running from me, afraid they would catch ‘Tracy germs.’ I ate lunch in the bathroom whenever I could sneak by the lunch attendants who seemed more preoccupied with keeping us all in one raucous room rather than ensuring that no one was getting hurt or bullied.

While I would never wish that treatment on any young child, as an adult it’s easy to notice the bright side of the past. The truth is something positive did come from that time. I truly believe that my skills as a writer were formed during the isolation and depression of bullying.

  1. It made me more observant.
    If I wasn’t bullied, I was ignored. At these times I could watch my peers; studying their gestures, their words, and their behaviors . I thought if I studied them hard enough, I would learn how to become popular. Of course that didn’t work, but I did learn how to be quiet and absorb the information around me, and put that into my writing.
  2. It taught me the art of revision.
    As a kid, I was terrible with come backs. As soon as someone dissed me, I froze up and English became like a second language to me. This made the kids laugh even more. While trying to fall asleep I would go over the insults kids hurled at me that day and come up with all the clever responses I should have said. Writing gives you the ability to sit with a cluster of words and sculpt them as much as you want until they finally resemble your elusive thoughts.  Writing gave me the ability to use my words, an ability I didn’t have on the playground.
  3. It turned me into a reader.

    In order to become a good writer, you must read. This is the best way to absorb effective structure, beautiful prose, potent vocabulary, and great ideas. I was slow to reading, in fact I didn’t start reading until 3rd grade, but once I was able to decipher those inky pages I couldn’t get enough. I escaped into the world of books. If my reality was full of play dates and giggles, I probably wouldn’t have read so much.

  4. It taught me the complexity of humanity.
    The best authors make you sympathize with people who do bad things. In order to achieve this, the author needs to have incredible understanding as to why a person would behave that way, and, most of all, she must be able to forgive that character. It took me a long time to forgive my classmates for their treatment, but eventually I was able to understand why they did it. They were scared little kids afraid that if they didn’t pick on the scapegoat they would become the scapegoat. They had siblings or parents who bullied them and they took that out on me. They thought it was a harmless joke. When my best friend arrived at our school in fifth grade, I asked her if she knew how to talk because she was so quiet. Years later she told me how much that comment hurt her, but at the time I didn’t know any better. Whatever the reason for bullying, I don’t believe that kids are evil, they were complex.
  5. It helped me handle rejection.
    Getting a letter saying “unfortunately we cannot represent you at this time,” doesn’t feel like rejection compared to what the boys used to say on my school bus. I remember one time the kids teased a boy, saying that we were boyfriend and girlfriend, at which point he pretended to throw up. His retching was so convincing that the bus driver pulled over to see if he was okay. Kids would kick the empty seat over if they saw me coming to sit next to them, or they would beg my teacher to be partnered with someone else. That was a kind of rejection that puts all future rejection in perspective.

I spent years pitying myself as the victim, not understanding what I did to warrant that kind of treatment. The truth is it doesn’t matter. Bad things happen. If we choose to let those times teach us rather than beat us, we are stronger and better for it.