Saturday, February 7, 2009

My First Ever Rejection Letter: 1989

Like most people who write as adults, I started writing early on in life. My first project was entitled 'Disasters in Florida', a non-fiction narrative detailing my family's trip to Orlando when I was nine. It was fraught with troubles such as delayed airplanes and damaged rental cars. A great subject for a novel!

Hot on the heels of that success, I began my second project, fictional this time. It told the story of Angela, a girl who wanted to become a gymnast but was held back by her poor family's finances. I can't recall the title but I do remember I drew a great illustration on the cover.

When I was eleven, I decided to get serious. Inspired by Gordon Korman, a Canadian teen who published best-sellers, I was determined to write a proper book this time. My subject: a handicapped girl who wanted to become a champion diver. She would defeat all the odds -- overcome her disability -- and win the gold. Typing away on the trusty Commodore 64 during the hot summer months, the novel began to take shape. My interest dwindled when school started, though, and the project languished until a year or so later when I got a second wind and decided to finally finish it. Sixty pages later, 'Glint off the Gold' was born.

I have to laugh reading it, but it's actually quite a morbid story. Anne, my main character (named after Anne of Green Gables), loses her best friend to a drunk driver and her Grandmother for reasons I can't quite recall. And Anne herself dies of cancer at the age of 40.

Full of enthusiasm to have finished my 'fictional only' story, I was sure it would get published. I looked in the front of some of the books on my shelf and decided to send it away to Tyndale House Publishers. Tyndale House is a Christian publisher and I thought they might be nicer. So I printed out the whole thing, shoved it in an envelope and sent it off.

Time (almost a year) passed and I'd pretty much forgotten about the whole thing until I got a letter in the post turning down my offering. Disappointed, I put the whole thing aside and straight out of my mind.

It's only now, twenty years later (yikes!), when I'm querying agents to try to get published that I truly appreciate the response from the Vice-President and Editor-in-Chief (or his assistant). I didn't include a self-addressed envelope, I had no cover letter, yet someone took pity on me and decided to respond anyway.

And thus, my journey towards getting published had begun.


Gorilla Bananas said...

Have you considered writing a novel where one of main characters is a gorilla? I could help you with this idea.

Marsha said...

Ha! Sorry - animal novels are not my thing. In fact, I can't remember writing anything about an animal, ever.

Maybe it would be more interesting coming straight from a gorilla. Want to give it a go?

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Fascinating. I follow your progess with great interest. I have far less belief in my work I fear. Go for it.Do you ever feel like packing it all in.Good luck.
Do you ever show unfinished work to anyone else. How the hell do we know if our work is ok or bloody aweful.

Marsha said...

Ken, Thanks for your interest in my journey! I don't let myself think about packing it in - not now, anyway. Maybe in ten years if, after 30 novels, I haven't made *any* progress. But then, I have to ask myself why I'm doing this, and ultimately I do enjoy writing and creating. Publishing would be nice though!

Funny you ask about showing my work to people. I am generally quite shy about showing anything to anyone until it's done. With my second novel, I needed some guidance so I sent it off to the Literary Consultancy (I'd heard an interview with the agent Lucy Luck and she recommended them). I'm glad I did - not so much for the reader's report but for the positive reinforcment it gave me.

But again, you have to ask yourself why it is that you're writing. It's so hard to keep that in the front of your mind when you're pitching your work!

Good luck with your projects, Ken!

Nixy Valentine said...

This is a wonderful story. That's great that you've saved your letters! My early rejection letters are around here somewhere... I don't know why I held on to them, but maybe I'll dig them out. It'll probably be encouraging to see how much better my writing is since then!

Nancy J. Parra said...

OMG- great story!

I still have all my rejection letters-except for those in e-mail... I can't bring myself to print them out.

Keep writing!

Criss said...

I wonder if they knew how old you were... Sounds like at the tender young age of 11, you had gotten farther than most adult* writers! (Farther than I have, at least -- I still haven't sent my novel anywhere...)

*by adult I was referring to age, not genre... :P