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.]

Staring You in the Face

Behold, the aha moment!

That nanosecond when at last your brain engages gear.

When the Vaseline smearing your inner-camera lens is wiped away and you perform an internal triumphant victory lap that clarity is now yours. The answer, the truth, all the clues you needed were there all this time…staring you in the face.

Perhaps this aha moment then paves way for a more successful change in life’s direction or attitude.

Perhaps this spark of clarity impounds repercussions for you being last off your mark (aka, you should’ve spotted the glow of neon earlier).

Invite farce and folly to lighten the mood!

Some days, all one needs is a cleverly-drawn cartoon. One with astute caption to reignite synapses and prompt a pause of levity. I love New Yorker cartoons by David Borchart. I’ve held on to this one for ages and always smile when glimpsing The Raven outwitting its opponent with a supremely ironic Scrabble coup de grâce!

‘You’re gonna hate yourself,’ quoth the raven. Not mocking, merely stating the obvious.

It’s that forehead-slapping doh moment that can baffle the sharpest and wiliest of characters.

Have we not all experienced this?

‘Gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door ‘

My blog has idled for over a week.

A raven’s been perched on my shoulder. When I have questioned will I ever find time to post here, he pecks away with cries of ‘nevermore.’

I’ve been writing in my head for hours per day, boasting less-than-impressive actual production on the page. I am plagued by characters’ voices imploring me to type out their dialogue and hit cmd+S so their words and feelings are secure in my hard-drive. I have pretended not to hear them.

To my rescue enters my too-wise-to-be-believed mother, who has never admonished me in my lifetime. I share with her that I have hit a block of writing bricks. As ever, she assures me that ‘even when you are writing in your head, you are writing.’ My mother is an editor, she is truly lovely and I make a note in my journal to keep her.

I wrote here weeks ago about experiencing a resurgence of imagination—lack of imagination is not the barrier now, it’s the feeling of too many projects that damns me to unproductivity. My head houses a hurricane of words that all morph into a cataclysmic crash of lexicon carnage. I dream in technicolour.

Then I woke today with this New Yorker cartoon etched behind my still-closed eyelids. Cue creative epiphany:

Stop setting out each day to (metaphorically) scale the Chrysler Building. Cease raising the daily bar of literary expectations to produce work rivalling Dorothy Parker’s. Writing can be simple. Effectively simple.

This is the answer. Look squarely at what is staring me in face, do not flinch and move forward. Acceptance is key. I am lucky to have several writing outlets:

  • The novel is there. It often writes itself, flowing on my MacBook or woven through grey matter.
  • I love my blog and the connective blogosphere. If I can’t find time to post, reading others’ blogs is an impressive trek through the garden of other writers/photographers/ruminators/bright sparks spanning the globe.
  • This was today’s true lightbulb moment: I’ve amassed a towering Everest of short stories that now suck up the majority of my computer’s memory so why not publish those? Why not, dammit? Why only realise this now after slogging away at them?

 Word-count or words count?

This post has most assuredly gone off piste. So, what I have learned writing it?

A few weeks ago I confessed to cheating on my blog with my novel; now, I am inviting another feisty guest to the party: a book of short stories.

I may self-publish the collection just so feel the weight of it in my hand by end of 2017. Also, bound paper makes a useful gift for friends at Christmas—read it, use the book as a coaster, tear out pages for emergency gift wrap.

I know nowt about self-publishing but, until the novel is complete, this short story concept rocks.

‘Still beguiling all my fancy into smiling’

Consider the raven playing Scrabble.

Inspired by poetry, he is fixed on altering ‘evermore’ to ‘nevermore.’

Be gone!’ I curse the bird, nestling his sleek ebony feathers against my neck.

Today, I am shouting only positive statements to encourage creativity in myself and any other creatives cruising this blog. After all, Poe faced some mighty personal and professional demons but clearly never banished his quill from the paper, nevermore to be writing again!

Poe wrote powerful stuff, did our Edgar Allan. He is credited for inventing detective fiction, the artful writing form of twisting an ending so the reader does not see what is ‘staring them in the face’ all along as they turned pages.

This post itself has been rather a twisting tale: Scrabble, Poe, ravens, overcoming writers block, general musings.

I appreciate your company on my meandering train of thought.

Estella

Imagination in Three Acts

Act 1: The Rouse

I snatched it. I did!

I snatched it, ensnared and bottled it, that elusive and seductive entity. Do you doubt me?

But wait—is it indeed an entity or must it, by definition, then be alive?

It happened today. The sky burned blue, peppered solely with one fascinating cloud. Cumulonimbus—the only cloud name recalled from childhood science, the ‘fat’ cloud, the thief. Yes, the thief!

Act 2: The Conundrum

For there I was, supine on garden chaise lounge, draping myself à la Bette Davis, feeling the full-force of dramatic existential crisis:

Am I a writer? I pondered to the non-responsive atmosphere above.

More questions followed, in the form of internal monologue:

A writer? Am I worthy of such declaration to friends, to family? Proclaiming writer’s status to the greater masses with whom I have only the flimsiest of relationships, based almost entirely on fibre optic cable giving juice to my internet? Perhaps I am now a dried-up writer. Has my creative brain dissolved to dust?

I panicked:

Shall I relinquish this over-glamourised life of words and word-count, plotting intricacies in novel form and pitching the perfect short story? Or, do I revert to nine-to-five clock-punching again?

Self-questioning perpetuated. Evidently I swept away into complete daydream, transported back in time where I graced The Silver Screen and not this current reality:

Perhaps I am not, in fact, Bette Davis but Mary Pickford—a queen of silent movies who looked quite fetching and had much to say yet her voice was muted. Maybe I am better off being silent. Damn!

I needed to get a grip.

I needed to snatch it or I would not survive.

If only the world was a film set. If only I could remain in the garden this sizzling afternoon with a pitcher of Mai Tais as companion. But, sadly, there the fantasy had to end.

Act 3: The Revelation

I began this week with a confession to my blog, a confession of infidelity. Now, another confession: this afternoon’s garden drama was purely an exercise in procrastination, to avoid my laptop. Also, neighbours consider my random 1940’s starlet shtick quite worthy of over-the-fence-tittle-tattle so there was a bit of folly in my temporary madness.

But just when I was resigned to beam back to 2017 and stare frustratingly at a blank Word document, it happened. There it appeared. That aforementioned elusive and seductive entity. Playing hide-and-seek in the sky, held captive by the porcine cloud overhead.

I glimpsed it.

I fluttered lashes and narrowed my focus.

I zeroed in on the spot.

No, it was gone again.

Wait—it’s there!

Stay still! I shouted skyward, alerting Sue at number nineteen to raise her head from weeding flowerbeds.

I unfolded body, reached up into an elongated pose that would have knocked Bob Fosse’s socks off, and I snatched it. And now it is mine.

Imagination. There it was. All this time. Up there. Sleeping on soft clouds, mocking me when it awoke.

I clutched it to my silk gown—no, more a practical playsuit—and felt its energy reverberate within.

Amongst the garden weeds and daffodils, I stood jolted to life by the surge of imagination. In seconds, its petrol fumes ignited my mind and body to action. I high-tailed it from outdoor film set to indoor sound stage and now I am here.

Existential and creative crises have been banished to the stratosphere.

I am here, typing at speed and ready for my close-up.

Because I snatched it.

[Slow curtain, the end, as sassy Bette quipped.]

Thanks for reading. Just to remind: all writing and original photographs published on my blog are copyright of Estella Lynch and can only be reprinted by my permission.

Confessions of a Random Blogger

Dear Blog,

Today’s the day I muster the courage to confess: I have been cheating on you. You have never been far from my thoughts—in fact, I think of you many times per day, wanting to connect but unsure how to cut through the excuses and get in touch.

You mean so much to me.

‘Tis true that our relationship is still new and fresh but already you have become an invaluable part of my life. Our connection has broadened my world, added meaning and given me space to thrive, explore my playful self and express my vulnerabilities in words. You have introduced me to a vast number of fellow creatives across the globe—writers, photographers, poets and brilliantly-colourful characters. I miss my blogging world.

It’s not you, it’s me.

So, this is the reality–I miss you. My days the last fortnight have either been:

  • An exercise in awakening with head buzzing with fresh ideas, then I burn a beeline to my laptop, eager to write some zingy blog post then check in with those blogs I follow and cruise around for others. Do I do it? No. Instead, I descale the kettle, pair up my socks or perform any other procrastination sloggery that distracts me from sitting down and writing a damn post. Then I chastise myself when the sun goes down, slip between sheets with promises I shall rise with birdsong the next morning and embrace my blog. I have been sinking into I-need-to-blog-but-cannot-concentrate quicksand. Sheesh!
  • On rare days when my writing brain triumphed over fidgeting body and I sat determined at MacBook, fingers have danced across the keyboard, writing the penultimate chapter of my novel. You see, this is the confession: I have been cheating on you with my novel. You are both lifelines in ‘My Write Life’ but this novel keeps demanding I bring it to the boil, that I set each page alight and give readers a mighty fine page-turner. I am determined to complete this so, until my manuscript nets 100,000 words, you and me and the novel-in-progress must work together as a happy threesome.

Perhaps other bloggers sometimes feel this way?

Life can prove distracting. Procrastination is the devil’s work. Creative inspiration sometimes morphs into an elusive or even absent friend. But do hear me, my lovely blog—you are never far from my mind.

Let’s do lunch soon!

My best to you,

Estella x

P.S. As a writer, I am a perpetual magpie who collects images and ideas then ferrets them away for a day when they require an airing. I saved this brilliant comic by Summer Pierre a couple of years ago—I loved her fine cartooning and how adeptly she captured ‘Things I Think Every Day.’ It resonated with me, this daily cycle of life. Today, Summer’s illustration screams a wake-up call in my direction, an urgency to leap out of the daily slog cycle and write. Check out her fantastic Paper Pencil Life blog.

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