Sunday, December 27, 2015


My friend Sunny often pops in unexpectedly. She knows where I hide the key and she’s an I-know-you’re-in-the-bathroom-but-I’m-coming-in kind of friend.
    “Why are you taking a bubble bath at one in the afternoon…in your Tony Llamas?” she says. “And you wanna explain the bottle of tequila on the kitchen island? Wait…are you bawling?”
    I try to answer but end up blubbering unintelligibly. I’m pretty sure I just blew a snot bubble.
    “What’s that you say? You have an objection to ladders? What are you talking about?”
    More blubbering. A little more intelligibly.
    “Rejection letter? Oh…you got a rejection letter! You mean, for that story you just sent to those people for the book thing?”
    I try not to wail. But I can’t help it.
    “I’ll take that as a ‘yes,’” says Sunny. “Well, little Vonnie gets her first rejection letter! Come on, sister. You’ve been writing for a couple of years now and this is the first time you’ve been turned down, right?”
    “Yes.” I hold out my empty coffee mug.
    “Ah, I don’t think you need any more of that.” Sunny crosses her arms. “Seriously…you’re beating yourself up over one rejection? Someone needs to count her blessings. You’ve had a really good run so far. Lots of writers were turned down dozens…shoot, hundreds of times before they got published. So they hated the story?”

“They didn’t say they hated it. They said ‘we liked your story but…’ I can’t remember the whole thing. Maybe that it needed a stronger ending.”
    “And did it?”
    “I don’t know, Sunny. Maybe. Maybe it needed a stronger ending! I said it. Are you happy? I’m incompetent. I shouldn’t be writing.”
    “Hey, hey. Lighten up. Writing is one of those subjective things. Maybe the next guy will like the story. Or maybe you can tighten up the ending. You know, revise and resubmit.”
    It occurs to me that Sunny’s mother must have consulted a psychic when picking out a name for her future sunbeam of a daughter. It also occurs to me that optimists can be very annoying.
    “Why did I have to pick such a subjective career?” I moan. “Why not a ‘do this and that happens’ kind of career? Like those chickens in the cages at the smart animal place. I just want to go and peck on a piano key and get my piece of corn, you know? None of this we-liked-your-style-but-no-corn-for-you business.”
    Sunny rolls her eyes. “A chicken in a cage? Sounds kind of like a cubicle. You remember the cubicle, don’t you?”
    I do remember the cubicle. And the stacks of papers with the endless columns of numbers. And the ticking clock. And the bad coffee. In desperation, I made an ornate sign for my tiny space, proclaiming it La Petite Boîte à Chaussures, “the little shoe box.” I initiated an inter-cubicle rubber band fight at 2:00 PM sharp every day. A creative soul crying for escape.
    “Somebody on Craigslist is looking for a seasonal female Santa,” I say, piling bubbles into a peaked hat shape on top of my head.
    “I don’t think you’d better answer that ad.” Sunny places a folded towel on the edge of the tub.
    “Or I could go back to college…”
    Sunny is getting impatient. “I went to college with you, Vonn. Every other paper you turned in came back with the same note, written in red at the top. ‘Have you thought of becoming a writer?’ Even your algebra papers. In fact, especially your algebra papers. Face it. It’s the thing you love. Go do it. Well, not right this second. Allow me time to evacuate. I’ll be in the kitchen, okay? I hope you left a little tequila for your therapist.”
    Ten minutes later–clothed and mostly in my right mind–I join Sunny. Miraculously, the Tony Llamas are dry. Well, except for a few bubbles clinging to the bootstraps. Sunny is waving her smart phone at me. She’s obviously been Googling.
    “Here’s the scoop,” she says. “Louis L’Amour got 200 rejections before anyone would sign him. Stephen King practically wallpapered his office with rejection letters before he sold his first book.  Elmer Kelton got published on his thirtieth try! You’re being a diva, Vonn. Or maybe just a wimp.”
"Publish? That? You're kiddin' me, right?"

    “A wimpy diva. Well, that sets me quite apart from the pack, doesn’t it? Thanks, Sunny. I can always count on you for moral support.”
    We stay huffy for almost a minute, which is about average for us. Finally, I give her an affectionate kick in the shin.
    “I know what’s wrong with my writing career,” I say at last.
    “What’s that?”
    “It needs a stronger ending.”
    Sunny favors me with a double-dimpled grin. “Well then, you’d better get to work, sister,” she says. We hug goodbye and Sunny helps herself to a Diet Coke on her way out.
    I sink into my favorite chair and open my laptop. Fingers find the home keys. I close my eyes and wait…for the sparks to fire from the mysterious flint and steel of creativity. The refrigerator hums. My faithful pup turns around three times and lies down on my foot, settling in for the vigil.
    Time suspends. With eyes wide open, I become unaware of my physical surroundings. I follow a memory, or maybe a dream or a vision, into another realm.
    The mournful cry of a steam whistle. The squeak of a saddle.The sputtering flames of a campfire on a clear, cold night and the silhouettes of two trail-weary men. One of them is named for a Greek god. The other will not live to see Cheyenne.

      The next thing I know, the sun is slanting between the kitchen curtains and I can hear the alarm clock chirping from the back bedroom. My neck is stiff and I need coffee…but I’m five thousand words in, and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.


Keep up with Vonn...






  1. I know what's wrong with your writing career: You're drinking Diet Coke.

    Get back to that computer and type. I'll march up yonder and kick your ornery butt back into creative mode...

    ...right before you march down here and kick mine. :-|

    1. That wasn't Diet Coke in the coffee mug.

      I knew I could count on you for a swift kick in my seat of orneriness!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Peter. It's often a love/hate thing, isn't it?

  3. I never counted how many rejections I received. I like to put humbling experiences behind me. In the old days, some outfits merely sent a form letter indicating that what I sent them was not what they were looking for, that is if I included a SASE. Thankfully, emails give a speedier reply. After a lengthy time, no reply signals a problem.
    If I received a rejection slip today, I might look within and ask what was I thinking or dismiss the critique and wonder what were they thinking.
    I enjoyed your post.

    1. Rejection happens. I have to admit that blogging about it was therapeutic.

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  4. Vonn,

    I went one step further, starting around 1975 I QUIT sending in stories and books. Some publishing houses didn't even send back rejection slips, others were like what Jerry Guin is talking about---"This is not what we are looking for."

    But...I never quit writing and the manuscripts piled up.

    It wasn't until about 1992 that a small publisher looked at some of my stuff and...

    Nice article and quite creative.

  5. Gosh, Charlie, I'm certainly glad you decided to show that pile of manuscripts to someone! Thanks for your nice comments.

  6. Thanks for posting, Micki. I suspect that there is a high correlation between number of rejection slips received and satisfaction level after the first acceptance letter. That is, slight tingle of satisfaction after acceptance of first work at first attempt, but huge satisfaction if achieved after ten or twenty rejections, and total bliss on acceptance after fifty rejections.

    My first acceptance was for the equivalent of $10, yet I celebrated on the basis of finally becoming a 'professional, published writer' tenfold that amount.

    Maybe that is another facet of authorship?

  7. I think your theory is valid. Is there a chance it works in reverse? If one has only received successive acceptances, then the first rejection feels especially catastrophic!

  8. Absolutely. The writer's law of reciprocity.

  9. Ah, I knew you when...

    GREAT POST. Love it!

  10. One thing, though. If you're aiming for a major publisher, you have maybe two or three opportunities to get rejected. In the case of western historical romance, we were down to ONE publisher. And they didn't pay. I think my lucky stars for the new publishing landscape.

    1. You're right, Jacquie. When the major houses start slamming doors, the independents begin to flourish. Best of luck with your new release!

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