Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Nicest Rejection Letters

I've had my share of rejections, and each one is imprinted on my mind forever. Especially the nice ones. One editor critiqued my story and asked me to submit something else, a longer work. Which I never did since they wanted books and back then I only had time for stories.

Through years of writing and getting rejected, the helpful rejections are what kept me going. When I sent Uncut Diamonds out (under a different title back then), an editor sent suggestions on how to improve it. When I rewrote and wanted to resubmit to that publisher, I was bummed to find they were out of business. I actually figured I had a shot there. Another rejection letter suggested it would be a difficult sell because LDS women like to read novels set in either modern times or historical eras, and the 1970's was neither. Whether I agreed with that or not, I appreciated her time and trouble in writing me a personal letter.

When I finished Farm Girl, I sent it off to the University of Nebraska Press. They said it was too short for them, but listed several regional Nebraska magazines to try, who might be interested in publishing it as a series. I didn't follow that route since I couldn't let go of my vision of Farm Girl as a book. I didn't want it published in a magazine as a series of articles or stories. But still, what a promising rejection letter! And it came after just two weeks, which really impressed me. It's the worst to wait six months and then get a stupid form rejection.

I used to get those as a matter of course. Then one day came a glimmer of hope-- a form rejection postcard with these words written in blue ink: "Nice work, try again." I saved that one for a long, long time--my first rejection that was more than a form letter.

You can tell you're getting closer to publication when the rejections get more promising. When they contain a kernel of something more than "It's not right for us." When you get one of those, keep going. It means you're getting closer.


  1. It's tough for an editor to reject a promising writer. Especially when there's so much hopefulness and enthusiasm in the cover letter and potential in the ms.

    So when you get a personal note or even a notation on the form letter, it means you have made a friend at that publishing house. Submit there again.

  2. Not commenting on this post, but wanted to say I have visited. I read up on your Farm Girl book.. it sounds terrific. I have put it on my list of 'to buy'.

    I shall come here again

    best Wishes


  3. Thanks Douglas, I visited your blog as well today and really enjoyed it. Not sure what all that other stuff was about, but it added a bit of drama to an otherwise routine day of blogging!

  4. I've gotten my share of rejections, and the agents and editors who have taken the time to say something personal have stayed with me and inspired me to keep at it. A couple of months, I wrote a post "Positive Rejections":

    It's nice to hear that you got rejections too, but eventually got published.

  5. LOL! Either historical or modern, but not the '70s. I love it. But I would have hung on to that post card, too. Aloha, and cheers from the Nicola Morgan party!

  6. Theresa, I've been rushing around getting acquainted with new blogs today, but I added myself as a follower to yours so I can go back and read all your posts. I totally agree with you on the idea of positive rejections. Especially positive is getting rejected when my ms. was really crap. Thank heavens THAT didn't get published.

    Lorelei, thanks for stopping by. I loved your blog, I'll be following you over there, but I won't buy your book lol. (Actually, I probably will, I love a good mystery!)