Trigger Warning: Potty talk and scary photo
I don’t like having my writing rejected!
My skin is getting a little bit thicker; it is, I swear. The encouragement I received after publishing my last rejection-themed post really helped give me an attitude adjustment. However, I still have room for improvement.
Case in point: Rejection #1
Yesterday I had a ridiculous hissy fit and it wasn’t pretty!
Two months ago I submitted a poem to our conservative mountain town’s annual poetry contest/public reading. This event is sponsored by the Friends of the Library. I used to work for another Friends of the Library organization, and I was also library clerk, so libraries hold a special place in my heart.
Ellen Bass, one of our local big shot bestselling authors (The Courage to Heal), judged the entries. This year’s theme was “What Have You Lost?” My “Out in the Milkweed” entry delineates what I’ve lost due to bipolar disorder. My poem reveals that I’m in recovery, so it’s optimistic. “Out in the Milkweed” doesn’t contain anything inappropriate (i.e. detailed accounts of suicide or cutting) for a public reading. It’s vanilla.
When I discovered last night that I was a big, ‘ol loser, I morphed into this:
I spewed vitriol right, left and upside down as Craig watched me with raised eyebrows.
I made sure our kids were out of range as I ranted, “Ellen Bass is a fucking bitch! A snob! I bet this rejection is about stigma towards those with mental illness!!! A lot of people liked my poem! She could’ve accepted it, even as a “mercy yes” if she thought it was shitty! This small-minded, closeted community needs mental illness discussed in public and I could’ve done that! I bet no one else contributed a poem about bipolar! I’ve lost all respect for Ellen Bass and the Friends of the Library! Assholes”
Then I sat in front of my laptop and wrote a bitter email to the contest sponsor and cc’d it to Ellen Bass. I reproached them for their obvious stigma towards bipolar. After I wrote a couple paragraphs, ten-year-old Avi walked in the room and asked me what I was doing. I gave her a quick summary, and that awesome kid said matter-of-factly,
“Mom, c’mon, don’t send it!”
That’s all I needed to hear to shake off my rage, and I immediately deleted the email. I knew if I sent it, my message about stigma wouldn’t be heard; they’d see it as a sour grapes/sore loser syndrome and lest I forget to add: a “crazy bipolar freak-out”. I’ve burned enough bridges around this town as it is so it’s good Avi was a sweet voice of reason.
After I calmed down I looked at “Out in the Milkweed” again. Right after I wrote it months ago, I thought the piece was truly good. Upon reviewing it yesterday I knew it wasn’t my best work. I actually felt embarrassed, since it was waaaaaaay too long and waaaaaay too wordy. It would have been hard to read “Out in the Milkweed” to an audience based on its clunky sentence structures alone.
What was the lesson I learned here? (Did I learn anything?)
That it’s okay to be upset upon learning one’s writing is rejected, but I must limit the sulking time, I can’t fire off any emails written in fury, and I need to move on.
I am proud to say I didn’t flip out upon receiving this rejection last Monday, but I was still really disappointed since it was for the Huffington Post. Okay, so it’s not the New York Times. However, I don’t mean to sound obnoxious, but if my submission had been published, I know the information would help some readers as the Huffington Post has a large readership.
Before I pitched them, I received awesome editing help and feedback from a seasoned HuffPo blogger/mentor. After receiving her notes, I spent a considerable amount of time improving the piece. I trust her with all my heart, and she wrote that my piece was good and worthy of publication. She’s not one to offer praise unless it’s warranted, so when I sent the final pitch and the article, I was feelin’ pretty damn spicy. I thought I had a chance.
Then I heard nada.
Last October I was profiled in the Huffington Post. Greg Archer, a regular contributor, included me as an “Inspiring Agent of Change”.* Archer gave me a ginormous compliment in noting that my writing had a “smooth creative style…by sharing her vulnerabilities and truths on living with bipolar disorder, she captures attention and wonderfully lures readers into wanting to know more about the illness…this is one to watch.” As cool an honor as that is, the Huff editors just weren’t into my pitch/article.
Boo hooooooooo! They are meeeeanannnn monsters!
At least I didn’t become Linda Blair, or eat all the chocolate gelato in the freezer. I knew that the HuffPo editors probably thought my topic wasn’t broad enough and/or they thought my writing wasn’t that great. Who knows?
I remind myself that Madeleine L’Engle recceived 26 rejections for A Wrinkle In Time. While I’m sure as hell not Madeleine L’Engle-caliber, I know I have some worthwhile writing to share. Gotta just carry on and keep the f-bombs to a low roar. Maybe next time I shoot for the stars and pitch The New York Times.
I have nothing to lose except my temper.