Monday, 23 April 2012

On a losing streak

I am getting rejected left, right and centre at the moment, I am. But, alas, tis part of the job/lifestyle/package/shebang of being a writer. I only submit to competitions/places I really want to be placed in these days. I tailor my writing energy to projects that mean the most to me, or get me excited. This might sound kind of obvious - but there was definitely a time I'd send work to places I didn't care that much about, just because I wanted a publication credit.

So when my stories don't make it there's always a little sting, and maybe a bigger sting the more I wanted whatever I was going for. Most of the time it's a fairly prestigious prize that will help elevate my career, or sometimes it's a project I think looks interesting and I'd like to be involved in.

The last 3 rejections have all been different but all were coveted intensely (by me) (and others too, yeah, but let's just stick with me for the purpose of this blog post about me).

I'll run you through them, and then I will let them go good and proper, like.

I REALLY wanted to win a week's retreat at Anam Cara. So much so that I relaxed my writing principle of only working on work that excites me - I was not excited about the brief but I was about the prize, so I gave it a go. Got nowhere. That's okay, really, because the stories I produced, although I sweated over them, weren't really my thing. And one day - I will get to Anam Cara.

Then there was the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology which I REALLY wanted to be in because there were so many good writers commissioned to be in it including my most favourite Ali Smith. So I sent 2 pieces of flash fiction that I feel good about and thought stood a fighting chance. Got nowhere. Felt a bit bummed out, natch.

BUT THEN, there was this thing I REALLY REALLY wanted a go at. And it was different to anything I'd tried my hand at. It was an application for a paid writing job - a one-off commission to write a short story for The Stockton Riverside Festival. The story would create and establish a myth about why the festival takes place each year, and as soon as I started digging around on the web and looking at this fantastic festival I got hugely inspired. And that thing happened where stuff started fitting together - where ideas were coming that felt like they were always there, that magic spark you get. Coincidences too - notes I'd been making for other things linked to possibilities for this thing. So, the application required a writing CV and a covering letter - there was no need to write the story yet. I put my CV together and felt proud what I could include on there (Bridport, The Guardian, Willesden Herald) while also being aware that I'm (okay, excuse me that this is a little icky) 'up-and-coming' (it's okay - I didn't describe myself as that) rather than 'got-shit-loads-of-books-published'. I hoped I might get an interview - because that was the next stage - and I could impress them with my enthusiasm. But no. I didn't get shortlisted, and that one stung the most, because even though I hadn't written the piece, I had totally invested myself in the idea of it. I knew it was a long-shot, but it was something I felt ready for. The fee was fantastic: £1500 plus £1000 in the research fund. I had let myself imagine being able to work less at my day job over the summer so I'd have more time to write.

This post isn't about being wallowy, because like I said up at the start rejection is all part of it. And I also said I would let it all go. So go on, rejected feelings - away with you. Feel free to share any recent rejections (writing or otherwise) in the comments section and when you hit 'post' I promise the bummed-out feeling will go.

(By 'promise' I mean I 'hope')


Essie Gilbey said...

In the spirit of sharing recent rejections:

I've got a novel that I'm touting about - got a place on the Apprenticeships in Fiction course last year, where I was mentored by Liz Williams (respected fantasy writer, if you don't read the genre). So I feel good about the novel, I think it's good, even got a couple of agents who have a really good reputation to read the whole thing - but no. Both passed in the end. This is as close as I've got to getting it published and... nothing.

Sigh. As you say - part of the process. Onwards and upwards with the next steps: trying to find a independent publisher for the novel, getting on with writing novel two and starting a new fiction blog (ghosthunter) that's set in the same alternative London as the novels.

You can only fail if you give up trying, right? :-)

Rachel Fenton said...

Started to comment a while ago, then saw you mentioned cornbeef toasties in your twitter feed and lost my train of thought...

I last submitted a novel end of last year. Got ASKED FOR THE FULL MS!!! Also got given a massive list of questions to answer - got my hopes up so much only to get the rejection right before

Best thing for me is just getting straight back up and sending mores stuff out (though not my novel, yet!).
Good luck with your next subs x

Anonymous said...

Ahh, me too - sent out quite a few short fictions at the beginning of the year and got nowhere - and NFFD! To be honest I've gone through a what-the-hell-am-I-doing phase this last month, but onwards and upwards eh?! Wish you good luck with future submissions :)

Teresa Stenson said...

Ah, how heartening to find your comments here this morn!

Essie - oh that sucks, to be that close with the novel. But, as you say, 'onwards' - are you trying other agents? Good luck with the blog - you're writing quite a bit each day for it, you must be very into your world and that's a great thing. I'm sure you'll get to the next hilltop soon - then: the mountain!

Rachel - aw, crap, bit like Essie with the 'almost'. I know I'll have to go through all of this when I have something novel-length to send out, and I'm kind of looking forward to it because it'll mean I'm on my way. (Sadist? Masochist? I get the 2 mixed up.) Looking forward to reading your novel when it is on sale in all good bookshops and around the time you are interviewed on Oprah.

Diane - Oh, NFFD didn't see how great your story was either? Tut, I really do have to doubt the proficiency of their selection process. Haha. (Not really, any NFFD selectors/writers, we know how high the level of talent is in that book.) I think the 'what-am-I-doing' phases are good, ultimately, because we'd be pretty dull if we didn't have them and just thought our work was the bees knees (yes, I just used that expression). Good luck to you in your future subs - you've done it before, you'll do it again, lass.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

See, there's this myth that getting your book published is the end of rejections.

It isn't. It's just the start of even bigger ones, when your book doesn't get sold in lots of languages, or doesn't get invites to any mainstream lit fests, or doesn't make the longlists of the novel comps.

Whatever. We don't stop, do we? Nah.

Rejecterly hugs!!

Teresa Stenson said...

IDIOTS! (The people not putting yer book on lists.)

Ah, yeah, they don't stop then... but yeah, we do we go on. Thanks, Vanessa - it's heartening (though outrageous) to have you on our team of rejects. What was that TV show about the toys that lived in a skip...

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Embrace it, gels!

Anonymous said...

So far I seem to take rejection well. I walked round in a cloud of my own glory after the comments from one editor and it took me a long time to realise that it was actually a rejection ... My tutor says the people she has seen make it are the ones who didn't give up. Cathy x

Anonymous said...

So far I seem to take rejection well. I walked round in a cloud of my own glory after the comments from one editor and it took me a long time to realise that it was actually a rejection ... My tutor says the people she has seen make it are the ones who didn't give up. Cathy x

Anonymous said...

Thanks Teresa - kind comments ) x

Teresa Stenson said...

Yer welcome, Diane.

Hi Cathy - well it must've been a good rejection! Must have said some good things about your writing. And yeah, we keep going, otherwise it'll never happen, for sure. Thanks for commenting, hope your writing is going well.

Anonymous said...

Ah, rejection -- yerrr -- reminds me of the Fb game we played a few years ago: who could get the quickest rejection (while still submitting decent stuff, no Wergle Flomps). Turned out it was whoever subbed to Abjective (a matter of hours for all of us). I managed about 6h and I wasn't the quickest.
Seriously, though, you've done really well with your Bridport and Willesden hits -- and you're still writing. All good.

Teresa Stenson said...

'Wergle Flomp' - I'm going to have to Google that! Thanks, Martha, for the encouragement. I was just sounding off - have been here before, will be again - and I thought after the last post about Bridport it'd be a good realistic contrast.

I might have to Google Abjective as well... (glutten for punishment). Hope your writing is going well.

Anonymous said...

Wergle Flomp is here: -- I think now it's humour verse but in the past it used to be a pre-requisite that entrants' poetry had to have been accepted for publication by the vanity press; the poems were then judged on how awful they were and the worst poem to be accepted by vanity press won the Wergle Flomp. It's changed these days -- shame, it used to be laugh out loud funny.

Abjective ( has closed, sadly. It was entirely opaque -- nearly impossible to be published there, half the stuff on there is mindbendingly difficult to read and the site navigation required you to max up the screen and hit 'info' down at the bottom. Crazy, but in a beautiful, minimalist, monochrome way.

Ah, those days are gone.