Let’s Play the Schadenfreude Game! (A Writer’s 1st Rejection)

Maybe

Schadenfreude.…what a word.  

It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue unless you’re German, perhaps. I’ll have to discuss how to pronounce it when I meet with my German-born therapist. Dictionary.com’s definition of schadenfreude is “satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.” The word’s origin comes from “schaden,” meaning harm, and “freude,” which means joy. Ever since I began blogging, I’ve noticed that my posts with alarming titles which contain the most angst (another word of German origin) have received the most views and comments. I’ve observed the same phenomenon with many others’ blogs as well. Welcome to Schadenfreudeland!

What does schadenfreude have to do with this post? You’ll see. Well, you may be wondering what the writing rejection is all about. Let me back up to last November…take a breath, this is quite a spiel.  

In the chilly fall of 2014, I was hard at work writing my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder. While I knew it wasn’t the next Whitbread Book of the Year, I believed my concept was unique in that no other published book (to my knowledge)has focused on childbirth-triggered bipolar disorder.  

My original plan wasn’t to even think about searching for another publisher until I had a complete first draft. “Another publisher” isn’t a typo.  In 2013, during the beginning of a hypomanic episode, I submitted a book proposal and secured a book contract with a health publisher. I canceled the deal because I relapsed while tapering off bipolar medication. (Never again.)

“I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could have been somebody!”

Marlon Brando as “Terry” in “On The Waterfront”

After that mess, I wanted a fresh start with a more established publisher.  I was familiar with New Harbinger Publications, a publisher founded when I was three-years-old. New Harbinger has published books about bipolar disorder and bipolar memoirs, right in line with my material. I owned a few New Harbinger titles such as The Tao of Bipolar, Back from the Brink, and Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder.   Months before I had remotely considered pitching New Harbinger, they published Dr. Ruth C. White’s excellent book Preventing Bipolar Relapse. At that time I was writing book reviews, and I connected with Dr. White because I wanted to review her book for my International Bipolar Foundation blog.  

I was so impressed with Dr. White’s philosophy that I offered to help promote her book any way I could through social media and blogging.  She put me in touch with her New Harbinger publicist to help get the word out more effectively. When I decided to check if New Harbinger accepted unsolicited book proposals, I examined their website for submission information. It turned out that authors could submit a proposal without an agent, so I carefully reviewed their particular guidelines a zillion times.

I already had a completed book proposal but I had to tailor it to New Harbinger’s specifications.  Believe me when I tell you that I worked my ASS off on the proposal.  My husband Craig, a published author of the successful, critically acclaimed book Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West, reviewed my work and gave me great feedback.

Aside from Craig and my writing muse/puppy Lucy, I didn’t breathe a word to anyone about my plan in case my proposal was rejected. The New Harbinger website’s book proposal guidelines state, “Due to the high volume of proposals we receive, the evaluation process typically takes two to three months. In all cases, we will get back to you as quickly as possible with our publishing decision.” I assumed their staff would notify me whether or not they accepted my proposal as a courtesy and also as a confirmation that they received the proposal in the first place.  

I waited the requisite three months. I didn’t hear a peep. I knew that definitely wasn’t a good sign, but I told myself,  “Surely they’d email me a form letter letting me down!”  I also felt uneasy as I wasn’t 100% positive they got my proposal and reviewed it.  I wanted confirmation and closure so I could move on. I waited another month. Then, I emailed them inquiring about the status of my proposal.  

Crickets.

I decided to use my “connections.”I searched for the email correspondence I had with New Harbinger’s publicist and found it, complete with her direct phone line. I figured I had nothing to lose at that point except some dignity, so I emailed her asking if there was a chance she could check on my proposal status.

When I helped her promote one of her authors, she got back to me right away, but when it came to me, I didn’t receive a reply. Sadly, I wasn’t surprised, but I had to give it the old college try. As I inwardly cringed, I left her one brief, professional-sounding (i.e. not too desperate) voicemail message.

Chirp, chirp.

Then, for the hell of it, I emailed New Harbinger the proposal again.  Infantile, I know, but three days later I finally got a reply:

“Dear Dyane, Thank you for sending us your proposal. After careful consideration, we must, unfortunately, decline the privilege of publishing your book because it does not fit our editorial needs. Most of our books are step-by-step self-help guides. We publish very few memoirs. That said, we recognize that your book has the potential to help many people who have faced a similar situation, and we wish you the best of luck in locating just the right publisher. Sincerely, The Acquisitions Department New Harbinger Publications Proposals@newharbinger.com

YUCK! Their email noted, “We publish very few memoirs.”  Uh, duh! Before I ever contacted them, I gleaned their memoir listings.  While they were obviously trying to lessen the blow of rejection, I thought they came off as patronizing. I didn’t really care how many memoirs they published; it was a moot point, as I still believed they should have published mine!  My memoir wasn’t even a pure memoir, as I explained in my proposal, but a memoir with a separate section designed to help the reader with resources and other lovely bits.

While some of the New Harbinger memoirs looked good, other titles did not impress me at all.  “My writing and my concept is as good as some of their books!” I muttered in a futile attempt to bolster up my ravaged writer’s esteem. That’s the thing with rejections. Even if your writing is good or even excellent, a rejection will make you feel deeply insecure about your writing quality. I shouldn’t speak for everyone, but having my writing rejected made me feel like shit. Then anger and defensiveness washed over me…

F*ck THEM! I thought. It’s THEIR loss!  I discussed this situation with a sympathetic, tolerant Craig.  I explained to him, “I looked at their job listings, and they’re advertising for an Acquisitions Editor and a Senior Publicist, so something funky is going on there!  They obviously don’t have their act together!  I didn’t even have a person sign my rejection email, but a ‘department’.”  He listened to me patiently, agreed with me, and then ran away.

When I received the New Harbinger email, the timing was pretty rotten. I got it the night before my first support group met. That evening I was exhausted from a day filled with cleaning the house and firming up last-minute details. I had already known in my heart that my proposal was a no-go with New Harbinger, but to look at their email took the wind out of my sails.  

Then, I took a deep breath.  I remembered how my favorite author Madeleine L’Engle received so many rejections that she almost gave up writing when she hit forty! I knew that my sulking time with New Harbinger was now officially over. I had a brand-new support group to focus upon, and while I was nervous as hell about it, I was also very excited. Being rejected happens to every writer. No one was taking away my ability to write. Hell, I was even opening up to the idea of self-publishing someday!  It was helpful to get the closure I needed from New Harbinger, and it turned out the following day that the support group’s energy was the best way to soothe my wounded ego.  

As my extraordinary friend Greg Archer, a gifted author of the memoir Grace Revealed says, “ONWARD.”

Here I am with my first publishing contract – while it’s null and void,

I keep it to remind me that I have the potential for success, and that my writing doesn’t suck!

Photo on 2015-03-06 at 08.32 #2 “I coulda been a contender, people!”

p.s. This meme made me laugh, although I think it’s kind of stretching it a little when it comes to the schadenfreude concept. And are you wondering how schadenfreude relates to my tale of woe?  I almost forgot to explain how that fits in here, but you’ve probably figured it out!  I’ve always been fascinated about other writers’ experiences of professional rejection of their work.  I admit I undergo schadenfreude during those times – I feel like I’m not the only rejected writer on the planet. That comforts me.  While I’m not a total sadist —  I’m not happy about another one’s misery — I feel less alone in our shared experience of rejection.  

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“Gott sei Dank, es ist Freitag!”

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I am an Area Girl: Post dedicated to my dear Lady Dyane

This brief post is an amazingly beautiful, touching tribute from my virtual Fairy Godmother Marie Abanga.  Marie’s compelling tale of her journey & her vibrant photos (not to mention the other parts) brought tears to my eyes.

I couldn’t ask for a better way to start today.

Marie, you beautiful lady, thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul for this post. I just wrote the group’s agenda and during my welcome, I’m mentioning that you’re lighting a candle in faraway Brussels at the very moment we begin to help set us up for success!

I’m so deeply moved.  I rarely re-blog as you know, but I felt compelled to share the love and positivity that you, my “Area Lady”/Fairy Godmother possess.

Love, love, love,

Lady Dy,

a.ka. Area Girl

p.s.  the line “Their language and writing are another Discovery Channel of their own” is beyond-the-beyond! Fantastic!

p.p.s. The photo of you drinking the special Ethiopian coffee is sublime. I want some now! (please.) 🙂

 

MAG's Blog

Who is a proud Area Girl? Who is a proud Area Girl?

There are two main reasons why I dedicate this post to my dear Lady Dy over at Birth of a New Brain. First of all, she calls me a global traveler (l don’t travel that much to be honest, but am happy to be called one because l sometimes travel that far in my head). Secondly, I hope the post inspires her ahead of her support group meeting this afternoon. So my lady, if you face this meeting like an Area Girl, you’re sure to survive and why not thrive.

And so my story goes, I so was sent on a mission to Abyssinia (I learnt there that it was the Amharic name for Ethiopia). This Country is so unique in several ways. Ok, for a start their calendar is 5 or so years behind “ours “. Their time is 6 hours behind…

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Support Group Nerves & How-To’s – Part One

nerves

 

As thunderstorms roll in tomorrow afternoon, I’m meeting with a bunch of women I’ve never met before.

Each of them has a mood disorder including bipolar disorder, anxiety and/or depression.

This is not my the first time meeting strangers at a mood disorders support group.  I’ve been around the support group block three times before as a creator/facilitator.  I know I can get through this meeting in one piece! But I’m still nervous – it’s a similar feeling to stage fright because I’ll be in front of at least 36 unfamiliar eyeballs for part of our meeting.  

A ginormous plus is that I have three women attending who I do know – I’ve been friends with two of them for years, and they’ve stood by me during all my mood swings.  One of these gals has graciously offered to be my timekeeper during our self-introductions.  I could easily ramble on for ten minutes – just look at my blog posts if you doubt me – but if everyone does that, then we’ll have no time to talk about other topics.  Each member will have a few minutes to introduce herself to the group, and a way is needed to track her amount of time.  

Enter my faithful friend with her timer.  We also have a bull whip as backup.  (Just kidding.)

As with planning and executing any special occasion, be it a wedding or a music festival, you can’t rest easy thinking that the event will roll out effortlessly.  I planned our wedding and I used to work in large-scale special event production, so I know that for a fact. There’s also a given that something unforeseen will happen.  That’s what freaks me out the most, but I must kick that fearsome thought out of my brain and tell myself I can handle it, and ask for help too.

At my other support groups I arranged for us to meet at church social rooms or at non-profit community centers.  That worked out pretty well (although some of the complicated alarm systems totally frazzled me!), but those rooms were sterile or had a churchy vibe, which is a turn-off to some attendees.  So this time around, with visions of spring, I assumed we could meet at a beautiful spot in the redwoods.  I had it all plotted out until a few days ago.

Enter unpredictable weather.  I naively thought that rain wouldn’t be likely, and if it did rain I’d have a Plan B for an indoor location.  Unfortunately all the possible Plan B locations I scouted said they couldn’t help me. 😦  So Plan B is now my small home (which I had deep-cleaned back in November, but you’d never know that now.)  I’ll do some basic cleaning, but I’ll try my best not to wig out.  It’s not like members will walk around with white gloves testing for dust.

It’ll be, um, cozy!

Inspired by forming this group, I wrote my monthly post for the International Bipolar Foundation about forming space alien support groups.  Below is the first section in all its glory…if you’re on the fence of creating a tribe of your own, please check it out.  I’ll let you know how my adventure goes (without sharing details compromising the group’s confidentiality, of course) – I have a hunch it won’t be boring. 

Send me good luck please, and I wish you all a great weekend!!!

XOXO,

Dyane

Thinking of Creating A Support Group? You Can Do It! – Part I

During the past year I received wonderful online support from bipolar-themed social media contacts and bloggers.  As fulfilling as their encouragement was, I also craved real life support, connection and friendships with people diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

A peer-to-peer support group is a great place to do just that! 

The bipolar support group located closest to my home is run by the acclaimed organization National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI).  I found my local NAMI chapter by searching on their website at http://www.nami.org/Find-Support.   However, this particular support group has a Christian-focus (Please note: not all NAMI groups are religious-based). Despite the fact that the support group has a kind, experienced facilitator, it was not the right fit for me. 

As much as I wanted to attend a support group, I knew I had to wait until someone else created a group that fit my interests, or I’d need to form one myself.  Months passed by, and there were still no other local mood disorder support groups in sight.  After much deliberation, I knew the time had come for me to form a bipolar support group. 

Big gulp! 

Now, I should disclose that I’ve created a bipolar support group in the past.  I formed a chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) for our county, and I served as the primary organizer.  Unfortunately after two years I left the chapter when I had a relapse of bipolar depression, and my successor closed the chapter soon after my departure. 

I won’t lie.  Creating and facilitating a bipolar peer-run support group takes work.  I also have social anxiety, so it’s a challenge to take on a leadership role, even among kindred spirits with whom I feel comfortable.  But under the right circumstances, being part of a group of like-minded members is totally worth the effort.

I’ve learned a few valuable lessons from my support group experience that makes me hopeful that my new group will thrive over the long-term. (I’ll be sharing those tips with you in my March post.)

Before I did anything, however, I decided to keep the support group logistics as simple as possible.  Instead of re-affiliating with the DBSA, which I don’t rule out doing again in the future, I created a Meetup.com group for the time being.  In Part Two, I’ll discuss the nuts and bolts of how I created my Meetup group, and I’ll share how our first meeting turned out, making sure to keep all identifying details of the group confidential.  I’m nervous, but I’m very excited about this new peer-to-peer support group! Stay tuned!

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The link to this post on the International Bipolar Foundation website is: is: http://www.ibpf.org/blog/thinking-creating-support-group-you-can-do-it-part-1)