Thursday, August 13, 2009

Getting Rejected

Everyone told me that when I left the lovely, cocoony writing stage that I would need to develop a thick skin. This seemed like a horrid, underfoot, planter warty sort of idea to me. My skin is not thick. I cry on my birthday. I cry when someone is angry with me. I cry if I am angry with someone. And my stomach churns in abject terror when anyone wants to read my writing. Not good.

"But that is the point," Leslie (known in the family as 'the Bun'), one of my oldest friends and a writer herself said. "Why else are you doing this?" Why was I doing this? Because I loved the fibrous, wordy feeling of constructing a story. Because I was not sure what else I wanted to do. Because I had finished my doctorate and did not want to teach. Because writing this book is what I seemed to be doing. There was a lack of volition about the whole thing. Not in an artist in the garret, in a blousey white shirt, dying in the snow in Paris sort of way but in a happening without my being able to do anything about it kind of way. Not as sexy.

I knew that there would be rejection at every stage: agent, editor and (cross my fingers) at some stage, reader. I knew this but was not prepared for the shocking, wind knocked out of me hurt of being rejected the first time. My wonderful, eccentric, quirky sister Tina (called Tuna in the family, which drives her bonkers) is in publishing. I can't quite get it into my head that she is out of middle school but I suppose that is how it is with little sisters. She met a quite high powered agent at a literary conference in Los Angeles, where I happened to be staying with my boyfriend Noah. On the spot, she told this woman about me and my manuscript and this woman invited me to send it to her personal email. Yipee! I was delighted.

After over-examining every word and just generally panicking, I emailed my cover letter, synopsis and the first 50 pages to her assistant, and put my painstakingly handwritten thank you note (a small, thick cream card with applique pink dancing shoes--seemed right at the time) in the mail. I was particularly delighted that this woman had said that she normally prefers manuscripts in the post but was so excited to read it she wanted me to email it right away. After two days of happy back and forth, chatty emails, she asked me if I would mind forwarding her the rest of the manuscript and giving her an exclusive for three weeks while their resident historical fiction specialising agent looked at it? Was it possible that I could just skip the much vaunted, horrific, soul destroying agent search? My boyfriend Noah and I went out with my sister to celebrate. I was over the moon and fizzing with relief.

The next day was a long, generous and detailed rejection sitting in my inbox like a great goose egg. The historical fiction agent loved, loved, loved my prologue and could not stop showing it to people but was not taken by the style of the book. If I would like to re-write the manuscript, change the format and re-send it, she would be delighted to take a look. It hurt.

"If she didn't understand the book then it would have been the wrong agent in the end" the Bun said. I did not believe her at the time. "It was only the first one! There are so many out there," Michelle said. I didn't really listen. "That sucks." Tina Tuna said. They were all right of course but at the time it was dreadful.


  1. I love the way you write, I think it is amazing.

  2. priya, this is wonderful! i look forward to following your posts! you write about this very personal journey in a very open, honest, and raw way, inviting us as readers to join you on both an emotional and practical level. thank you! as a fellow writer, new to the process, this is incredibly inspiring and helpful!

  3. thank you ariel! that means so very very much to me.


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