Friday, December 9, 2011

Lollipop Rejects

In response to my wo-is-me-ing, in my last Insecure Writer's post, my oh-so-fabulous blogging buddy, Mandi, sent me a fantastic article from Writer's Digest. The article was SO freakin' fantastic, that I decided to post the whole thing, verbatim [please don't get your panties in a bunch about copyright, Writer's Digest! I shall tag the link too!] Hopefully, you other struggling, REJECTED, an yet totally AWESOME writers out there will find the same inspiration from the article's amazing-ness that I did!

By, Sue Fliess

I have the somewhat daunting task of organizing the lollipop fundraiser at my children’s school walkathon this year. You could say I represent the Lollipop Guild. So I call the local candy factory and inquire about how I can get my hands on 300 or so lollipops.
My business mind kicks into gear: Can I buy them wholesale? Do I get a discount if I pick them up? A perky woman on the other end of the phone informs me in a singsong voice that buying wholesale is “still pretty expensive.” But it turns out she’s the owner, having inherited the family business, and she kindly offers some insider advice: “Call me the morning you’re ready to make a trip to the factory, and I’ll set aside the day’s rejects for you.”
Yes, she calls them rejects.
Red flag! Are these lollipops unrecognizable as lollipops? Will I be the laughing stock of the Parent Teacher Association? Worried, I ask her, “What’s wrong with them?  Are they misshapen and damaged?” Clearly, there must be some reason these lollies didn’t make the final cut.
“Not at all,” she assures me. “They’re actually perfectly good lollipops. All of them are very pretty and taste great. We reject them for a variety of reasons.”
My heart skips three beats and my hairline tingles with sweat. I’m having post-traumatic rejection disorder as my mind flings me sideways into my writing world. I’m reliving the opening of letter after letter from editors who gingerly (or not so gingerly) explained why my story didn’t make the cut: “We decline manuscripts for a variety of reasons; we’re sorry, but this one just wasn’t right for us.”
Whatever the reason, rejection is rejection. “REJECTED” may not be stamped on the letter, but that’s the only word I see.
Returning my attention to the call, I realize the woman is telling me that some lollipops are too big, too small, too thin or too thick. Some come off the line with insufficient swirls, lackluster colors or slightly skewed designs. Some are too long while others are too short. The list goes on and on.
Overcome with a magnanimity that surprises even me, I proclaim, “I will save your rejects!” And I vow to take these lollipops and give them a home.
My first book was rejected 24 times. My story may not have been too fat or too long, but I heard other reasons, including, but certainly not limited to: too slight; too sweet, not enough guts; we just bought a book like yours. The colors were skewed. It lacked swirl and sparkle. In essence, my story wasn’t right for their palates.
I’d pored over those letters, some personalized, some form, some not even getting the title of my story correct, as if some kind of manuscript rejection wizard might leap from the paper and tell me what I’d been doing wrong, reveal the key to publication. To vent my frustration, I’d punished the letters—sending them straight to the three-hole puncher without dessert, and burying them in my not-so-thin Manuscript Rejection Binder (for which my spouse nearly had me committed).
But the binder had come to serve a deeper purpose. Eventually, instead of clicking my sequined heels together and wishing for home, I decided to view these rejections as poppies in the field, slowing me down but for a brief moment before waking me up and kicking my sorry behind back onto the path. No wizard appeared, but the rejections spoke to me in a way. They gave me the nerve to keep going. And I believed in my story. Even though I may have thought it was perfect the way it was, I sat down and made it better. I continued to submit that manuscript, determined to reach the Oz of the writing world: publication.
Thinking back to that binder makes me even more curious about the rejected lollies. The next morning, I call the factory and make the drive to the outskirts of San Jose to pick up my first batch of rejects. And are they ever glorious! Too long, too short, too swirly, too plain, too blasted with color, too void of color, too thick, too thin. I devour their random sparkle, their irregularity, their courage. I suck in their bravery. These lollies popped off the assembly line screaming, “I am different, and I am beautiful!”
I pay the young woman from the phone and she helps me carry more than 300 lollipops to my car. From the back of the factory, her mother smiles and waves to me. “Take good care of them,” she says. I nod. The kids at my boys’ school will love them.
The lollipops are amazing, each in its own way. Sweet, full of charm, and waiting to be opened by a child with a squeal of delight. They are all dazzling. And each one has a story to tell—they just needed someone to listen.


Christa said...

This is a great post. I love the lolliop rejects. And the boys will too. Keep at it, J. You're a great writer.

S. L. Hennessy said...

I love this article. I mean, I really love it. It's a metaphor for so many things - because rejection comes in many and varied forms. And Sue Fliess is right - just because ONE person thinks your story is too this or too that, doesn't mean everyone will. One agent says a character's humor is too much, another says he's the best character in the whole novel, full of fun and SPARKLE.

And one of the many things your story has in spades is sparkle. I know, I've read it.

prerna pickett said...

good for you trying to turn this into a positive. We really can learn so much from each rejection, as hard as they may be.

Julie said...

Christa: I know, I thought so too! I thought it was a clever way to look at rejections. And thanks for the vote of confidence ( : Its muchly appreciated by yours truly!

Lauren: I like sparkle... [big cheesey grin!]

Prerna: Its so true. As painful as they are, rejections help us to improve on many levels. One of these days (probably not til my post published life starts) I'll look back and say "Gee, I'm so grateful for all those rejections! Look how they helped me grow!"

Sadly, today is NOT that day! Haha!

M.S Tucker said...

This article is going on my hard drive! Even I fall into that trap of "not being good enough" and I'll need to read this one of these days.

I'm one of those people that gets REALLY upset when no one likes what I've produced. Especially since I pour every ounce of my physical and emotional self into doing my best. Its like you hand someone your heart and they slice it up with a dagger and say, "Here. You can have this thing back now."

Been there. Done that. And many times I forget that I'm a perfectly good sweetie and someone is going to love what I done.

Patsy said...

They're not rejects - just lollipops (or stories) that haven't yet found the right home. Just wish those letters that come in envelopes addressed in my own handwriting could be as sweet as lollipops.

Julie said...

Mandi: Ugh. Its so true, right? I think I've gotten better at distancing myself from my work... but it is SO FREAKIN' HARD!!! The best thing to remember, I guess is that what doesn't kill us, will make us stronger, eh??

I'm just not sure that one of these agents WON'T kill me at some point! Haha!

But seriously, GREAT article! THANK YOU for sharing!! You're the best!

Patsy: I KNOW! My heart sinks to my knees every time I see my own handwriting on those letters. I want to scream "BOOOOOOOOOO!" At the mail man. But I don't, of course. Can't kill the messanger ( :

Jolene Hueber said...

Great metaphor and colorful picture that really adds to the blog. It's just a matter of time for you.

Julie said...

Jolene: I know, right? That pic make me wanna eat a lolipop! Also, thank you for the vote of confidence... It is most certainly appreciated.

C D Meetens said...

What a fantastic post! So glad you posted it here. I probably wouldn't have found it otherwise.

Julie said...

CD: So glad you found it! I love sharin' the love ( :

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Um, you might want to put a captcha on this post or something. The Bots for some reason REALLY love Lollipop Rejects because they're blowing up the comments! LOL

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