A Rejection Acceptance

Savor the failure.
Savor the failure.

I am intimately acquainted with rejection. As I sometimes like to report, I received 114 rejections on various picture book manuscripts before I was given a contract for Sarah Gives Thanks. In the months since Sarah was published, I’ve gotten about a 100 more. Getting an agent earlier this year has also allowed me to get rejections from publishers that do not normally look at unrepresented manuscripts.

Long story short, I understand rejection quite well, thank you.

So, last year, when I learned that Cairn Press was seeking submissions for an anthology on rejection, I thought, “I need to get an essay in that book. I need to.”

And I did!

Blood on the Floor is a collection of fiction, poetry, and essays about writers trying (and often failing) to grab the brass ring. Sometimes funny, occasionally poignant, and always inspirational, Blood on the Floor is the perfect holiday gift for the scribe in your life. Get a copy now! Pair it with booze.

A Purposeful Post: Part Two

They grow up so fast!
Sniff! They grow up so fast!

A couple weeks back, my blog pal, Harula, posted a writing exercise. The theme was “Purpose” and the idea was to complete the following four prompts with whatever spontaneous musings sprung to mind.

* When I was a child, I believed I was here to…

* As a teenager, I believed I was here to…

* As an adult, I believe I am here to…

* The most important thing life has taught me is…

The answers to the first two prompts can be found here. In this post, I get the last two:

***

As an adult, I believe I am here to…

…write. It’s trite for a writer to say this, but I do believe it. I hope that one of my books outlives me. I hope that it might be handed down to the next generation, the same way I gave my old children’s books to my son.

But my son is the big reason why I’m here – to raise him the best way I know how, which is almost certainly not as good as it should be.

Parenting doesn’t come naturally to me, for I’m too solitary and regimented. Now that I’m a dad, I am in a sort of war with myself to resist these natural inclinations.

Fortunately, Ellen is better at this sort of thing. Not a moment goes by when I am not grateful for her presence, for it is she who shoves me back on the right parenting path on the occasions I become too hermit-ish.

I have one child. When people ask me why Ellen and I don’t have more, I have a stock answer: “My boy got all of our best traits,” I say. “A second child would get all the the genetic diarrhea.”

I’ve been told that this is not how science works, but I still choose to believe it.

Another reason I have only one child is because one child works for me. I don’t like messing with what works.

“Once you have two kids, three is easy,” a dad leading a parade of screeching moppets once told me.

“But you have four,” I pointed out.

“And once you have three, four is even easier,” he replied, his smile wide and condescending. It was the smile that got me. The smile said, “You don’t have what it takes, Buddy Boy,” and it stung because I knew he was right.

But I was also thinking, “Well, at least I’ll be able to pay for college, Mr. Smug Guy.”

That’s another reason why I’m here. I believe that, if possible, kids should graduate college no worse than flat broke. It troubles me that college debt is The New Normal. I will do whatever it takes to keep that from happening to my son. It’s hard enough to build up from nothing without having to begin one’s adulthood deep in the red.

The most important thing life has taught me is…

…that failure is not a big deal. I’ve spent much of my adult life screaming this fact from the rooftops. I’ve seen way too many people more talented than I give up on their dreams way too soon because the idea of failing is just way too terrifying.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Jealous?
And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Jealous?

I believe that almost every success I had is based on the fact that I’ve simply refused to stop trying. I love to repeat my old chestnut, “I got 114 rejections before my first book contract,” because I’m proud of it. I think that my many rejections say more about me than my one book does. It says that I will never give up.

Granted, it also says that I’m a little tweaked. But, hey, for a writer, that’s just par for the course.

So! What’s the most important thing that’s life has taught you? Tell me in the comments!

How I Earn a Living

Many moons ago I wrote a post explaining that it is possible to earn a comfortable living as a writer.

The post generated a lot of comments, which makes me happy. I like comments. The post also generated a number of personal emails, which makes me, I think, even happier.

Most of these emails asked me the same thing:

HOW can you earn a comfortable living as a writer?

Ah, right, I did overlook that.

For me, it was always about balancing salaried writing with personal writing. When I decided to do this for a living, I sought out any writing job I could find that would provide a salary and benefits. What I found was a weekly newspaper gig, which paid terribly but offered up a regular byline and a wealth of experience. Weeklies are still a great place for any unpublished writer and, since the hours are sort of flexible, I found time to write and send out plays, which earned me a few (very few, but, hey, a few is still a few) bucks on the side.

Newspaper writing, I learned, gives you just enough credibility to get better paying work. I went from working on a newspaper to a private school’s Communications Office, writing web stories and press releases and editing the alumni magazine. This Communications Office job led to a better Communications Office job where the web stories and press release stuff was left to other people. I just do the magazines now and I always look for ways to make the articles fun.

But the real fun — the reason why I got into this profession in the first place — was to write my stuff. I find time to do that, too.

If my stuff makes money, great. But if , for example, I receive 114 children’s book rejections or watch one of my plays fail in a very, very public way, my salaried writing income cushions the blow. Sure, I might not be writing exactly what I want to be writing about, but I’m still writing and still earning.

Your Writing Career story will almost certainly be different from mine because there are many paths to earning a living as a writer. But the key, as I mentioned in my old post, is doggedness.

Be patient. Be determined. Be focused. Be resourceful. If you really want this, then promise me that you’ll never, ever, give up, OK?

I’m rooting for you.