Literary Reflections is pleased to present our featured writing prompt response from December. We asked, “Have you ever received a coveted acceptance letter or honor for your writing? What about a painful rejection? How did it impact you and those around you?”
Cara Holman wrote:
“Two years ago, hopes high, I posted off a query letter accompanied by a sample of poetry to a local publisher. Then I sat back to wait. And wait. And wait. Waiting seems to be the name of the game in publishing, and I am not naturally a patient person. When three months elapsed with no response, I gently prodded. In my family, asking a second time is just barely okay. But, asking a third time falls in the realm of “bugging” and is strictly verboten. I admit it. I prodded them three times.
The first time they couldn’t locate my query letter. The second time I was informed that they didn’t read over the summer. The third time, they had just changed editors, and they were sure (even if I wasn’t) that they would get to my proposal soon. It was almost with a sense of relief that I eventually received a garden-variety rejection letter. I promptly shredded it.
When my next three submissions met a similar fate, I was, to say the least, a bit discouraged. Could it be that my mom and my fellow writing group members were wrong about my talents? Did they like my writings only because they liked me? Why was it so all-important to me to have my writings in print?
I’m still asking those questions. With roughly a quarter of my submissions eventually finding their way into print, I know I should feel grateful. And I do. It is the rejections that nag at me. Accompanying one rejection was the mystifying comment: “You’re a good writer. Your story just isn’t compelling…” I’ve been told not to take it personally, but as I write highly personal nonfiction, that’s a tall order. Worse yet are the non-responses. When I use up my self-imposed quota of three friendly reminders, I consider those submissions defunct. No news it seems is not necessarily good news.
I know why I keep writing. I love everything about the writing process, from the initial inspiration, to watching my words flow onto the page. There is supreme satisfaction in capturing precisely what I set out to express, even if it does take a few iterations. I am still puzzling over what makes me brave the inevitable rejection in my quest to find an audience wider than my friends and family.
I think the answer is complex. Writing offers me a reprieve from the demands of everyday life. It enables me to channel my oft underused creative energies and to synthesize something truly my own. I have a compelling need to be a person in my own right, and not simply Douglas’ mom or Sylva’s daughter. When a perfect stranger selects a work of mine for publication, I know it is being chosen strictly on its own merits. The image of an unknown kindred spirit relishing my words simply enchants me. It is the desire to achieve this elusive sense of connectedness that makes me keep coming back for more.”
Cara Holman may be reached at: cara(dot)holman(at)gmail(dot)com.