I've been suffering from the What-Do-I-Write-About blues. The blogs were waiting for my immortal words, but that closet needed cleaning. The laundry was piling up. I had errands to run, so I took myself off to the Dollar Store and the library. Post Office, next stop. I pulled the endless catalogs out of my crammed up box, deciding which ones would not make it home. Next came my latest copy of the Writer's Digest magazine. Who was staring back at me from the cover but my favorite author of all time. James Lee Burke. "The bestseller on battling through rejection" were the words under his name. I couldn't wait to get home and read it. I knew a thing or two about rejection. Or so I thought.
This man is a rare two-time Edgar Award winner, recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, and three of his books have been made into films. He published his first story at age nineteen. His latest novel, Feast Day of Fools, is his thirtieth book and has been nominated for the National Book Award. By the age of thirty-four he had three mainstream novels published.
His fourth book, The Lost Get-Back Boogie, was rejected 111 times in nine years. He was rejected for the Guggenheim fourteen times before finally being accepted. LSU Press finally picked up Boogie and it was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
This article is not so much about rejection as it is about perseverance. I thought I had cornered the market on rejections. I have one each from Alfred Hitchcock, Ellery Queen, Great Mystery & Suspense, Asimov's Science Fiction, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and two from Byline. A total of seven. I am not even in the ball park.
Here's Burke's advice: Never keep a manuscript longer than 36 hours. Listen to what a publisher or editor has to say about changes. DON'T EVER QUIT. Believe in yourself.
My novel, Wild Justice, is at The Permanent Press being looked at by an editor, but I have at least ten stories sitting in a drawer. The next time you see me ask if I've sent anything out lately. I'll do the same for you.
Linda Todd is a retired librarian who is taking advantage of her free time to write. A short story, "Waylon's Trophy," appeared in Nicholls State University Jubilee Anthology in 2005. Her fiction and poetry have won awards in regional contests. Her novel, Wild Justice is being shopped to publishers and agents.