10 Truths About My Latest Rejection

The ballet teacher I worshipped gave us no warning. “Line up against the wall, ladies! A photographer is going to come and pick three of you for a wrist-watch advertisement.” We all shuffled in our soft pink shoes to the side of the room. I remember standing tall, shoulders back and neck long, just like we’d been taught. I could play the part of a young ballerina pirouetting around a Rolex watch.




Pick me! Pick me! Pick me! I willed myself to be chosen as the photographer scrutinized us all, peering through his camera at our feet in tendu. After pacing before us like a butcher choosing prime cuts, he picked three petite ballerinas, all with strawberry blonde hair and perky, turned-up noses.


It was 1979. My first rejection. You never forget your first.


When I wasn’t chosen to be one of the background ballerinas, I cried in the bathroom alone. I had the idea that I wasn’t supposed to be upset in front of anyone else. Rejection is shameful, I thought, so I buried it like the dirty tights at the bottom of my ballet bag.


I don’t really do that anymore. Now, I publish my rejection stories on my blog for the whole world to read.


So, the latest:


Yesterday, I got a form rejection letter from a literary agent whom I queried on Monday. When her email came in, I was at the half-way point on a six-mile run.   Seconds before I checked my email, I was gazing at Lake Michigan’s rolling waves underneath a vast and flawless sunny sky. I literally had this thought: There’s nothing wrong with me that the beauty in this moment can’t heal. How blessed I am to be here right now.


PING! I glanced down at my phone in my sweaty palm and saw, “Thank you for your submission, unfortunately …”


I laughed. How could I not laugh at the timing? It felt like a test—do I still feel blessed? Do I still find spiritual solace in the beauty all around me?


Answer: Hell yes. More than ever.


The email passing on my novel said all of these things to me:


  1. You’ve gotten your first rejection over with! You never have to have your first again.
  2. You’re on your way—you are doing it, and rejection is part of “doing it”.
  3. Now you get to see how badly you really want this.
  4. You’re putting yourself out there. *applause*
  5. You’ve taken a huge leap forward to arrive at the stage where people can judge (and reject) your work.
  6. Rejection won’t kill you—it may not even hurt that much. (Yet)
  7. You’re brave.
  8. Your query needs more work.
  9. You need to ask others to help you jazz up the query.
  10. You’re on your way.


I don’t know how I’ll feel ten or twenty rejections down the road. I’m sure at that point I’ll Google other authors’ rejection tales – J.K. Rowling, Kathryn Stockett, Stephen King, etc.   Then, I’ll immerse myself in the writings of Anne Lamott and Brene Brown and gnash about.  I’ll be insufferable. I’ll eat too much peanut butter. I’ll threaten to stop writing altogether.  Maybe I actually will.





Until then, I’m celebrating the rejection because the other great truth of it is this: I’ve been rejected for lots of things I didn’t really want (see on-line dating fiascos, Vice President of the student body in 1990) that it’s nice to at least be trying for the things I do want.


I’m in the game.


It feels amazing.




46 thoughts on “10 Truths About My Latest Rejection

  1. Happy first rejection!! I can’t even tell you what i’m up to! That sounds like an amazing run and moment. We’re always being tested right? But we just keep going one step at a time. Go you!!

    • You’re leading the way! I want to be where you are with your “perfect pitch,” but I gotta earn my spot next to you. #NotThereYet

      On Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 2:23 PM, Outlaw Mama wrote:


      • well, i might be leading the way to no where, but it’ll be a good run. 😉
        and yeah, my pitch was good, but that doesn’t mean they’ll think the book is…
        trying hard to stay realistically positive. it’s with editors so there’s hope but, you know..
        so hard to promote yourself when you’re full of doubts. wait! i mean for this to be a lot more woo hoo. so GO US!

      • Go you!!! I can say that your book is good and you’ve edited the bejesus out of it since I read it! onward and up the mountain you go.

        On Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 2:52 PM, Outlaw Mama wrote:


    • It’s a marathon, not a sprint right!? Thank you for the support. This rah rah rejection thing can’t last forever!

      On Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 2:47 PM, Outlaw Mama wrote:


  2. You check emails while you run? That’s hard core! I think I’ve told you before that I’d read your query and offer my amateur opinions, and the offer still stands. You poor little ballerina. I remember my first time getting cut from a select soccer team. It stung. Lol.

    • I’m not sure the pot-belly was exactly what Jacques the photog was looking for! Once I vet my query through my writing group (in 2 weeks), I will send it to you. Not kidding. It will be less than 400 words per requirement. you know you have to be ruthless, right?

      On Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 3:05 PM, Outlaw Mama wrote:


  3. You were running six miles? I’m in awe! You’re amazing and you will get a “yes.” Just keep going!

  4. This is an amazing piece of running zen. Yay for getting out there, doing this hard and scary and incredible thing that you are absolutely meant to do. I can’t wait to get my hands on that book.

  5. I save all my rejections in hard copy. Because I’m badass that way. And because I can see at a glance how hard I’m working to craft, polish, and submit. An acting coach once tilde me the job is auditioning. The benefit is getting gigs. So the job is querying, and rejections are “thanks for doing you job.”

  6. Good for you. Persistence is key. At least that’s what they say. I can paper my walls w/ rejections now. However, I did get a short story published after it had been rejected twenty times and I’d almost given up, so there’s that.

      • A lot of deep breathing. Haha. I think I’m just stubborn. The one that was finally published after being rejected A LOT was in an anthology from Del Sol Press, The Robert Olen Butler story award from (wait for it) 2004. I’m still living on fumes from that one. But I did also get a portion of my novel “published” on this audio website called The Drum Literary Magazine. I assume it’s still there but I hate the sound of my voice so I haven’t gone since it was put up. I had one agent contact me after seeing it there; I sent him the whole thing at his request; and then he was like, not for me. Oh well. It’s odd how the “nice” rejections keep you going. Thanks for asking.

  7. Thank you for printing your honesty, your truth. I think it is refreshing for the rest of us to know that even an extremely talented writer like you…gets an occasional thumbs down.
    Your post is inspirational 🙂

  8. I’m working on a query as we speak, so this was timely for me. #2: yes, yes, yes. Seth Godin says something similar, that when you’re rejected or when the work is hard, that’s a sign that you’re not just hiding in the fantasy of doing it, you’re actually doing it. ❤

  9. I guess congrats are in order then? 😉 The rejections will make you appreciate it more when it happens. If everyone got picked up the first time, then we’d all be doing this, right? That letter is pretty hysterical with its “buck up, little camper” message. How can you not laugh?

  10. This post! Yes! You can’t see me, but I’m raising a fist in their air to you in solidarity. Your first rejection means your first agent reading your work, your first step out into the next chapter of this journey. I had my first “sit down with an agent at a conference” moment last week – how utterly terrifying! But so good. This makes us better. You’ve done the writing part – now you’re venturing out to learn the business end of this whole thing. Going bravely, etc. Hope you’re still feeling positive about it. Just keep swimming. 🙂

  11. Not sure how many rejections I have, because they’re stored in an email box merked “rejections” and I never look at them. Dozens, definitely. The first book didn’t sell, but it got me my agent. Then the second book sold on proposal! DIRTY CHICK: True Tales of an Unlikely Farmer comes out in January. Am I happy about all those rejections? F-k no. Those people are robot trolls and I never have to think about them again. But I had to get through THAT to get to THIS. And so will you!

    • Well, congratulations and thank you for reminding me that there is hope. YOur book sounds Ah-MAZE-ING. Like I’m going to pre-order it. Congratulations!!!!

      On Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 2:04 PM, Outlaw Mama wrote:


  12. Glad you didn’t allow this rejection to get you down! I recently did something really out of character for me & made myself a squeaky wheel to the govt. about my disability payments. Usually, if they tell me it will take 6 months, I sit patiently & wait for 6 months, then I make a call just to be told it’s now going to be 8 months, etc., etc. This time I walked right into the Service Canada office & asked to speak to an agent about my appeal of their rejection of my first claim. 10 days later I got the news, I have been approved! Once in a very long while, sticking your neck out actually works!

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