Rejection Letters: ‘Perhaps we’re being dense…’

Congratulations!

On finally completing that manuscript, crafting one sublime essay, mastering a poetic masterpiece, achieving your greatest photographic composition…now what?

Since writing here last week about deciding to collate my short stories into book form, aside from finishing the novel currently hogging my hard-drive, I’ve been considering rejection letters that surely will one day clog my inbox.

It undeniably takes guts to distribute one’s work to discerning literary and visual top-brass in hopes of securing their approval, leading to both professional validation and an increase in bank balance. Yes, yes, we all know that casting a net wide in this Writers & Artists pool will inevitably bait rejection but, parking our realism aside, each of us creatives hope for snagging that big break, to arise to the top of murky slush pile, be discovered, not adrift in sea of aspirational uncertainty.

So, this Monday morning, I approach the week with three rejection letters to lift my spirits. I laugh at all three–not just because creative brilliance was overlooked only to be inevitably discovered and produced, but the wording of said letters is quite hilarious.

Plath:

Plath Rejection Letter

I love that The New Yorker admits to perhaps ‘being dense’ in not understanding the correlation between sections of Sylvia’s Amnesiac submission; however, this is a fine example when the crux of a rejection encourages improvement to the writer’s work. Plath heeded their advice, crossed out the section TNY refers to and that deleted poem subsequently became ‘Lyonnesse.’

Plath reads the published Amnesiac here.

Stein:

Stein Rejection Letter

Gertrude Stein is a genius and ‘a trickster,’ says The New York Times in 2012. But Stein received this rejection letter in 1912.  The rejection letter is rather ranting and odd, with Alfred C. Fifield mirroring Stein’s repetition in her submitted manuscript. Fiefield writes:

Only one look, one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.

Hardly one copy? Stein did publish this manuscript, The Making of Americans: Being a History of a Family’s Progress, in 1925. But would you recover from receiving such a rejection letter? Would it pack a hefty blow to your ego, to your confidence? Or, would your skin be thick enough to plough forward until publication? Stein certainly maintained a mighty determined focus throughout her career.

Fawlty:

This year, a survey of comedians and comedy writers/actors cited Fawlty Towers as ‘the best British sitcom of all time’ but its rejection letter sent to BBC’s Head of Comedy and Light Entertainment demonstrates that comedy genius can be overlooked. I wonder if Ian Main, the author of the rejection letter at top, later sat through all twelve of Cleese and Booth’s episodes, tossed back a few whiskeys and reconsidered his perhaps rash assessment that Fawlty Towers was anything other than ‘a collection of cliches’ that would ultimately prove ‘a disaster.’ Fawlty Towers can be marmite—some absolutely love it, some are not massive fans—but it’s survived many decades and Manuel still evokes guffaws worldwide.

A toast today to rejection letters!

Receiving one may punch the air temporarily from one’s gut but clearly, from the above and countless other examples (say hello JK Rowling), one agent’s mud pie is another agent’s scrumptious gateau.

Keep submitting your work. Success may just be one letter away.

Very Versatile

Versatile. I type this word. My immediate association with it is the musical Gypsy, based on Gypsy Rose Lee’s memoir. I hear youthful Baby June then metamorphic Gypsy then, finally, a show-stopping Mama Rose belting:

Let me do a few tricks,

Some old and then some new tricks

I’m very versatile

I learned the entire score of Gypsy aged seven and must’ve sang the words I’m very versatile thousands of times, surely to the point my mother’s head wished to implode.

Twirling sparkly batons in both hands, I slide into splits on the threadbare rug in our sitting room and wished to be a Vaudeville performer. I hadn’t fully realised that I was born some eighty years too late to tour with the likes of the sublime Mae West, incomparable Judy Garland and the outrageous Sophie Tucker.

But I’ve never forgotten once wishing to be Baby June. I was a girl deeply struck by the tragic rise of June’s sister Louise as a wallflower, the neglected sister, who was subsequently thrust into the limelight when June escapes her mother’s toxic clutches. The scene where Natalie Wood as Louise finally realises she’s pretty is quite poignant. Even to me, as that seven year-old girl twirling on the rug.

I digress…

When Cherylene notified that she’d nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award, I heard I’m very versatile in my head. Silly really. But who can fully understand the workings of memory?

Writing this reflective post now, I note the connection between my desire as a child wishing to one day demonstrate my versatility on the stage to the masses with dancing, singing and acting, then fast forward decades and I am here, pretty much doing the same thing on a blogging stage, only with words.

Versatility is a trait I value in others. My blog is very much still in its infancy so Cherylene’s simple act of acknowledging me is honouring. Thanks, Cherylene. Your own blog is versatile in your writing holistically about mind, body and spirit,

According to The Versatile Blogger Award rules, I must reveal seven facts about me. If anyone cares to read on, here’s the skinny on Estella:

  1. I once wrote a novel by accident. Surprisingly, the manuscript was accepted by my first choice from the invaluable Writers & Artists book. Lots of excitement! Too young, too unconfident, I decided instead to pack it away in a shoebox. It’s there now, mocking me, collecting dust. I must unpack it soon.
  2. Motherhood is a mixture of joyful connection and hilarious fun. Gives life purpose.
  3. I grew up engrossed by watching black & white films, musicals and pretty much anything that wasn’t shlock.
  4. I once worked as a carhop waitress.
  5. I have two paralysing phobias. Too frightening to write about them.
  6. I paint, sing, write and make a mean enchilada.
  7. London’s Southbank is one of my favourite spots in the world but my heart will always belong in Ireland.

Apparently I now have to nominate 10 bloggers for this award. Over two months, I’ve sourced so many brilliant blogs. I’m still not entirely sure how this works but will list 10 blogs below whose posts I devoured today:

  1. Bonnywood Manor
  2. Transcribingmemory
  3. Gregory Josephs
  4. Artiche
  5. Richard Berkshire
  6. Grief Happens
  7. Jellyfish Review
  8. Diganta Misra
  9. Ceolsigehanna
  10. Aquileana

[À la Gypsy Rose, I enter stage right, take a bow, remove satin glove and exit.]

One Award, Two Buses

It’s that old adage: ‘Wait ages for a bus then two come along at once.’ So, here I am—firing up the blog after a fortnight’s hiatus—and I return to find I’ve been nominated by two different bloggers for The Liebster Award. Delighted!

Thanks to Book Meets Girl for nominating me. I see that The Liebster Award is intended to ‘Discover New Blogs’ so, in this online world of sharing our words and images, awards such as these can be a lovely means to discover new voices and honour their author’s contributions.

What I like about Book Meets Girl is that it’s a mixture of book reviews and writings about life. Many of the Book Meets Girl’s entries are prompted by The Daily Post—a brilliant blog for inspiring writers and photographers, a site I adore for kickstarting my own writing and where I read many creative entries interpreted by one simple word—and in these entries, I gain insight into the personal life of Book Meets Girl.

As I have just nominated eleven bloggers on my other post about The Liebster Award, I am going to adapt this nomination acceptance slightly. I’ll answer the eleven questions and post eleven questions out there for anyone to answer, should they wish to comment.

My answers to the eleven posed questions:

1. What is the first book you remember actually choosing and reading yourself?

The Velveteen Rabbit. I was about seven and thought it was such a sad book. I can still feel that sadness for the rabbit. I was also given a Velveteen Rabbit stuffed toy and, over the years, its blue coat scuffed and faded, its tail ended up resembling Einstein’s wiry hair. Sadly, my bunny never was kissed by a fairy and came to life. I finally agreed to donate my toy when I exited my teens. Fondly remembered, poor ole rabbit…but he was loved.

2. What is your favorite food?

Steak with peppercorn sauce. Divine.

3. How do you feel about T.V.?

I’ve little time to watch. It’s collecting dust.

4. Who is your favorite Disney Character?

Shrek’s Donkey rules with wit and heart.

5. Minions, Marvel, D.C.?

I like a good Minion.

6. Where is your favorite place to read?

Bed, under heavy duvet.

7. What is your favorite book(s)?

Too many. Here are two: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (Anne Tyler) and Spoon (Amy Krouse Rosenthal).

8. What is your favorite time of the year?

Summer.

9. How do you feel about the current adult coloring book hobby?

Sadly, it’s become a saturated market—they’re everywhere! But I find colouring a meditative pastime that can reward one’s efforts with an artful creation. I don’t own one of these books as I prefer to paint.

10. Where would your dream house be located?

Either ten steps from the beach or a three-story house in Kensington. Both, please. Or anywhere I can write, with light-filled inside space and luscious garden.

11. Cooked fish or Sushi?

Prawn with chili, garlic and lime.

Here are eleven questions for anyone who would like to answer. Answer any or all of these below, should you be so inclined:

  1. What’s your most favourite blog post you’ve written? I’d love to read it. Post a link below.
  2. Your house is on fire! Aside from people, what do you save?
  3. Your autobiography—what would be its title?
  4. Congratulations! Hollywood wants to make a film about your life! What actor would play you?
  5. What’s your greatest fear?
  6. I need a new book. Recommendations?
  7. How long have you blogged?
  8. Can you share three blogs for people to check out?
  9. I’m rather fond of espresso martinis and Barolo wine. What’s your favourite tipple—either non-alcoholic or liquid bullet?
  10. Has the world gone mad?
  11. Cheese—it’s a staple of life! What’s your favourite?

Thanks again to Book Meets Girl for my Liebster Award nomination.

Estella

My life: La La Land or Moonlight?

‘I’d like to thank the Academy for this award—‘

Oh, now…wait…(Estella puts down statuette, checks with Warren Beatty, snatches the envelope out of Faye’s slender hands and rereads the card).

‘Sorry, folks. Scratch that. I’d like to thank the lovely Cherylene for this Liebster Award nomination. I am sincerely chuffed to be nominated and know that she considers my blog worthy of recognition.’

Since I began blogging not so long ago, Cherylene has continued to ‘like’ my posts and I have enjoyed her writing at Living vs Existing. Cherylene invites readers into both her real-life and creative world. She blogs about physical and spiritual wellness, and also writes poetry, like this recent reminder to ‘Stop and Think.’

I’ve been asked to answer eleven questions about myself. Deep breath:

1. What do you enjoy most about blogging?

Two things: first, it gives me a platform to write whatever I want—fictional stories, life-reflections, nonsense; secondly, I am baffled by the mad mixture of varied blogs online and it’s an impressive world of people all putting themselves out there to blog, sharing their words and photos et al. Inspiring stuff indeed!

2. Are you a meat, fish or veggie person?

Carnivore.

3. Use one word to describe yourself?

Curious.

4. Which word would you use to describe your life at the moment?

Chaotic.

5. If you could change anything about yourself – would you?

Only one thing? Goodness! Today I would change my motivation to exercise. I’m tall and have always been slim but I need to get out and move my body. I’ve always returned from a swift walk with a head filled with writing ideas. If only I could find my Nike trainers. They are buried underneath books.

6. What moves your decision to follow another blog?

I enjoy reading all blogs. I tend to follow blogs that are creative, blogs with sharp writing, ideas and/or images that captivate.

7. Do you believe in giving second, third and fourth chances in relationships?

Depends. Is it salvable? Is there still love and passion?

8. Do you have a favourite sport to play or watch?

Huge football (soccer) fan.

9. Which is more difficult for you to stay away from sugary food or fast food?

Driving by a window where someone will hand me a burger—well, that can be mighty tasty when you need a food fix.

10. What’s the most difficult thing about blogging for you?

Finding time.

11. Has your blog met and or exceeded your expectations thus far?

Far exceeded.

I understand my next move is to nominate eleven bloggers and ask them eleven questions. By doing this, I simply want to acknowledge those bloggers for their well-carved space—no requirement to participate!

Questions:

  1. Which is your favourite blog post you’ve ever written? [Please post a link so I can read it.]
  2. Do you prefer the city or countryside?
  3. Cats or dogs?
  4. Comedies or thrillers?
  5. Coffee or tea?
  6. Words or images?
  7. Meryl or The Donald?
  8. Parties or private moments?
  9. Are you a world-traveler or home-body?
  10. What/who inspires you?
  11. Why blog?

I nominate:

  1. Calliope Writing
  2. The Enchanted Outlook
  3. Cindy Knoke
  4. Kate
  5. Love Ur Own Life
  6. Simple Ula
  7. Flittering Soul
  8. Mums the Word
  9. Space, Time, and Raspberries
  10. They Once Called Her Pumpkin
  11. Christy B.

Thanks again for encouraging me to sit, write and connect with other bloggers, Cherylene.

Estella

Thank you! My Black Cat Blue Sea Award

This must be a million-dollar question: why do people blog? Why put yourself out there, share your words, your photos, poems, thoughts, musings and snapshots of your life? Are you seeking connection, promotion or an audience? Are you motivated to inspire others with your blog, boost creativity in a global community or perhaps you simply want to create an online space that is purely yours.

Hand on heart, I kick-started this blog for all of the above reasons. As I inch forward with it, however, I learn there are additional gifts and this morning awoke to discover a lovely gift indeed: a nomination from Living vs Existing for The Black Cat Blue Sea Award along with a message about how much she enjoys my writing. A huge thank you, Cherylene!

Living vs Existing aims to ‘Enlighten, Motivate and Inspire Change’ via blogposts. Cherylene’s first short story is a sweet tale of two contrasting families, a story with a moral theme at its heart: ‘It does not matter  where you start in this race called life; all that matters is how you finish.’ Predominantly, Cherylene gives readers a glimpse into her life, from sharing her poetry to insight about mind, body and spiritual well-being. The joy she has in her life from her two boys and in her writing shines through!

Cherylene’s response to her own Black Cat Blue Sea Award questions are here. These are my answers to Cherylene’s prompts:

  1. If you could go to any period in time within your life, would you go to your past, your future or would you remain in the present and why? The future strikes me as quite a scary prospect at the moment, what with quite mad political friction heating up, so it’s a toss-up between past and present. I’d like to visit the 1950’s/60’s to experience the upswell of writers and artists I admire in print and film, but also to experience the enormous change in politics and music over those two decades. But that would just be a visit. I could not live without my MacBook and iPhone so, for technological and creative reasons, my feet are remaining planted in present day.
  2. What is your all-time favourite movie or television series? Too difficult. Father Ted and Catastrophe are the sharpest of comedies on television so are favourites. Favourite films range from Some Like it Hot to The Player, O Brother Where Art Thou to Pulp Fiction.
  3. When no one is watching or listening, would you consider yourself more of a singer or a dancer? I’ve been both a singer and dancer but these days, I belt the blues more than pirouette. A singer. Definitely.

I nominate the following bloggers, knowing that all may not respond but hopefully they shall be heartened just by receiving this accolade from a fellow blogger.

  1. Shivamt25
  2. LOVEUROWNLIFE
  3. Aroused
  4. Mum’s the Word Blog
  5. Out of My Write Mind
  6. BEXoxoBlog

Questions for these six bloggers:

  1. Why do you rev up the computer and blog?
  2. If Hollywood were casting an actor to play you in a film, which actor of present/past cinema do you see in that role?
  3. You’ve been contracted to write a novel—what would the story be about?

Thanks again to Cherylene—it’s been a reflective and enjoyable exercise to post this, to connect with other bloggers. Gratitude to all who have read this and to the nominees who participate.

Estella

Book Bound in 17 Syllables

Book Bound

Musty, old book smell

Shrapnelled, leather-bound Tolstoy

Gripped in my left hand

Is it the emotive heavy scent of yesteryear or the heaviness in hand that boosts the importance of leather-bound books when we peruse a library or open their yellowing pages?

Today’s New York Times piece about bookbinding is fascinating insight into what I had thought was a lost art but am grateful for a glimpse of what remains a thriving, daily day at the office. Stitching, slicing, pressing leafs of printed paper together where an author’s work is enshrined in one beautifully-produced tome. Book-binding–a true craft.

For writers, readers and antiquarians, the video footage in this article is worth the price of admission:

Much More Than a Peaceful Read

World Book Day last Friday prompted my reflection of books I read before hitting the landmark age of 18—what lingering impact did certain novels have on my life, books that packed a literary punch I have yet to shake (and likely never will) and I pondered the everlasting question of ‘why’ those novels and not others.

Lionel Shriver once again upped the Radio 4 listening stakes on Valentine’s Day when she appeared on Harriett Gilbert’s A Good Read slot. Shriver’s choice of a good read? A Separate Peace by John Knowles, promoted as ‘an intense story of adolescent friendship and betrayal’. It had been decades since I read A Separate Peace but, just as Shriver highlighted and the panel agreed: this is a clever coming-of-age novel (Knowles’ first) that ‘wrong-foots’ the reader and is well worth the read whatever the reader’s age.

This is a novel that embeds beneath the skin. The decades elapsed since its 1959 publication have not diminished nor dated this story. Being reminded of its plot, characters and twists by the BBC last week triggered my teenage self to float reluctantly to the surface. I felt nostalgic and teary-eye for that teenage girl I was when I first read Fowles’ novel, but I also felt grief for this story of two distinctly different boys who cascade down a waterfall of adolescent descent together.

Are there homoerotic undertones to this book? The reader is left to intuit what they wish; what is clear, however, is that A Separate Peace can still rattle the bones of its audience and is relevant today.

Looking for a book to share with a teenager or seeking a novel to engage your adult self—this is a mighty fine choice. If my recommendation isn’t enough, Lionel Shriver apparently knows a thing or two about what makes an enduring, captivating classic.

Check it out:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08dnrqg