Handling rejection like a boss!

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I am a people pleaser.  I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb asking the medical staff if there was anything I could do for them.  I invariably want to go out of my way to make sure everyone is happy, but my ambitious goal is not necessarily always an attainable goal.  In the words of John Lydgate, later adapted by President Lincoln, ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time’.

As a young writer, back in my grade school days, I was afraid to let people read my poetry for fear they would not like it.  That same phobia applied to my poems and short stories through high school and college.  Writing, for me, is the biggest part of myself and I used to feel that if people didn’t like my writing, they were somehow rejecting ME.  It wasn’t until I began the process of seeking an agent or a publisher that I began to truly understand how rejection makes us stronger.

I received my most recent rejection last night.  It was a curt line that simply said, “Thanks for submitting, but I’m afraid this one isn’t for us. ”  Instead of feeling unsettled by such a quick and negative response, the thought in my head was more of understanding that my book was not a true fit for their collection.  I wasn’t sad.  I was merely determined to continue the quest to find an agent that would best be suited for ME and not the other way around.

Writing a book is not for the faint of heart.  Hemingway said it best when he quipped, “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  My blood is now the ink on the pages that I crafted.  My skin is much thicker now than it was and I am more than prepared to deal with my overwhelming share of the writing world’s brush-off.  Those abrupt dismissals are the constant in the ‘writer seeking publishing’ equation and I am prepared to rework the problem until I come up with an acceptable answer.

To bastardize Sally Field’s 1985 Oscar acceptance speech, “They don’t like me. Right now, they don’t like me.”   And I’m okay with that because, someday, that will change.

Boys will be boys, and then they make you dinner

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I stopped by my brother’s house on Saturday to pick up my empty Tupperware containers.  The rule is….if I get them back, I fill them up again.  I love to make soup and they love having homemade soup for lunch, so it’s a no-brainer.

My oldest nephew was in his car behind me and we pulled into the driveway at the same time.  After most of the family had an appropriate amount of time to make fun of his morning hairdo, I headed to the grocery store to get all of the ingredients for the three soups I was making that afternoon.  I was just about home when my phone beeped with a text message.  It was from my nephew asking if I had dinner plans for the evening.  His parents were going out for the night and he wanted to make something nice and have me join the two boys for dinner.

I have written two previous blog posts titled, “Boys will be boys and then they make you cry”.  I’m sure you can surmise what happened next.  Yes, the tears appeared at the thought of a 17-year old boy not taking advantage of an empty house to have his friends over.  Instead, he made steak, baked potatoes and a salad for his Aunt and his brother.

Suddenly, the dynamic of boys being boys was replaced by a dinner that the three of us enjoyed and gave us time to catch up.  There were no sibling shenanigans, my older nephew cooked, my younger nephew cleared and stacked the dishes in the dishwasher and I sat staring at these two faces who seem like they should still be seven and four, not seventeen and fourteen.

In a world where the character of some children can be questionable at best,  I sat in awe of the two young men sitting with me at the dining room table.  To say my brother and sister-in-law got it right is an understatement and I am so proud to have these two young men in my life.  Now, if you’ll excuse me…..I have something in my eye….again.

One step away

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The hopeful feeling that something great is just around the corner sparks in the back of all of our minds.  That fire is fueled by the creative desire that drives us to do what we love.  But more often than not, that spark is quelled by the reality of our day-to-day lives.  Imagination allows us to light that fire again but reality can be a tropical rain storm when we are desperately hoping for the dry Santa Ana winds to turn that spark into a raging creative inferno.

I was tagged in a Facebook post last night by a friend I have known since I was 5 or 6 years old.  Ironically, from his tin boat, he used to deliver words to my dock in the form of the morning newspaper.  Now, forty-plus years later, through a tag on social media, he delivered some words to me that really hit home, words I needed to hear.

Success is a funny thing.  You can dream of it.  You can chase it.  You can feel like you can almost touch it, but never do you imagine it could be a mere one step away.  He sent me this video of Anthony Bourdain describing the life he was living before that one step closed the gap between his reality and his eventual success.

This video is the wooden match for all of us who have dared to set the kindling for that fire but have second-guessed torching the wood to start the spark.  Light it.  Bathe in the light from its embers.  Those Santa Ana winds could be one step away.

 

January showers bring publishers emails

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I awoke to a sound not typically heard in the snow belt regions in late January ~ thunder.  It was shortly after 3:00 am and the lightning made my room light up like Chevy Chase’s front lawn in Christmas Vacation when Beverly D’Angelo finally hit the right switch.  Carved into the newly formed shadows was the outline of my storm-fearing dog.  We cuddled for a while, listening to the pouring rain, and eventually fell asleep again as the storm moved on.

When I woke up at my usual time, I was greeted by a misty, grey day instead of the usual crisp, white blanket of snow for which January is famous.  I have lived here for 42 years and I can’t recall a more turbulent month since it began with three consecutive days of feeling like -43 with the wind chill and we are now hovering at a balmy +3 degrees Celsius.

Weather can certainly affect our moods and today was no exception.  Our morning walk was shorter than anticipated because of the rain and our drive to work was somewhat daunting since the back-roads resemble a cross between a sheet of ice in a curling rink and a luge, depending on your trajectory.

But my morning improved significantly when I arrived at work and checked my email.  Sitting innocently in my inbox was an email from a publisher in the States.  After reading the first three chapters required for initial submission, my story was intriguing enough for her to want to see where I took the rest of the story.  She wants to read my book!!

I have calmed myself to the point that I can craft this blog post while reminding myself that she may not like the remainder of the story.  But I am allowing myself the high of knowing that someone who works in the world that I am attempting to enter has opened a small door for me to be able to peek into the other side and I have to say, so far, the view is fantastic!

 

Putting yourself out there

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Trying to find a literary agent is much like putting yourself on an internet dating site.  You spend a great deal of time stressing over how to describe yourself and your work without sounding obnoxiously confident but you have to nail that very fine line between determination and arrogance without exaggerating either of those things.  Contrary to internet dating, that agent is only looking for one very specific thing and if you don’t have it, they move on.

I have never been comfortable being the person to profess my strengths.  I can write for days about subjects that have nothing to do with me, but words vanish as soon as I have to point them in my direction.  I am extremely happy with the final product of my first novel and so are my Beta readers.  I want nothing more than to find an agent or a publisher who believes in it as much as I do.  But that process is much more daunting than staring at that first blank page, knowing that you have to string together over 80,000 words in an articulate and entertaining way.

Agents and publishers who are not interested in your work will not dangle bait in the water to see if you bite.  They are more than willing to move on to the next pond because there are so many fish and so few anglers.  An agent can’t even cast a line into a body of water without a frenzy of fish ready to fight to the death for the rare hook that shines in the distance.  In a sea of Piranhas, I feel like I am the poor carrion waiting at the bottom to be consumed by the predatory beasts with the sharper teeth.

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But there is always hope.  I know that one day, those Piranhas will have distracted themselves by something very shiny and I will be in the right spot in the pond at the right time, staring at a hook that was meant to catch only me.  And like every angler who is waiting for the “big one” knows, it’s all about patience.

 

Reducing stress = elevator music

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The term elevator music doesn’t get used much anymore which makes me think that I am older than I care to admit.  Too many people these days are plugged into too many devices, so the dulcet background tones in those confined spaces never have the chance to fall on ears that are close enough to hear them.

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For the last two days, I have been purposely subjecting myself to the calming sounds of that very music.  Stress is a very cunning adversary and I am using every trick in my arsenal to keep my worthy opponent at bay.  Between calming essential oils and the lulling sounds of piano and crashing ocean waves, I have been successfully keeping my blood pressure down while struggling to keep my eyelids up.

I am not a fan of taking medication, even if those tiny pills are relatively successful at keeping my numbers as healthy as they can be.  I have been following the DASH diet to ensure that my body has all of the proper nutrition to combat the high blood pressure and I have doubled the length of my daily walks, so my dog is absolutely thrilled.  Those things combined with my new home BP monitor seem to be giving me more encouraging numbers while giving me a much-needed sense of relief.

After learning all of the little tricks you are supposed to do before taking your reading, I am happy that my numbers are averaging in the comfortable to normal range, but tomorrow is anyone’s guess.  I have a follow-up appointment with my doctor and I’m sure all of my “happy” numbers will be cast aside and the “white coat” numbers will re-emerge.  Perhaps I should take some ear-buds with me tomorrow, plug them into my phone and let the smooth elevator music soothe my senses before the cuff tightens on my arm!

Do good, feel good

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Over the last few years, I have found myself very driven to spend a great deal of my spare time volunteering.  I have always liked helping people so this step was a natural progression in my desire to offer my time to help those in need.  With a background in hospitality and a passion for cooking, it came as no surprise to me that I have combined all of those things about myself and I have become very active with our local Food Bank.

When you weave your way into the world of volunteering, you see just how many people are right along side of you, driven by the same aspiration to lend a hand where they can.  The faces you see in your daily life suddenly become the hands behind the volunteer work that you didn’t know they were a part of.  They don’t do it for the recognition, they simply do it because they want to help.

I have been very fortunate to become a part of a group of people with a vision that continues to grow to serve our small community.  Sure, there are a few people who need more recognition than others and an occasional public pat on the back, but there are always a few of those people in every crowd.  Thankfully our intentions come from the same place and we put forth the same effort to achieve the desired results.

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If you have ever entertained the idea of volunteering, I highly recommend it.  Just knowing that your efforts make such a difference in people’s lives, regardless of where you volunteer your time, is a truly heart-warming feeling.   And there is no shortage of places that could use an extra pair of hands or two.  The amount of time you commit to volunteering is always up to you but every second you spend helping those who struggle is well worth the time you take to show other people that you care.