Sunday, May 15, 2011

Good Rejections

I received my first rejection letter when I was 12 years-old. I submitted a piece to a school offering a home writing program for students and those interested in learning creative writing. My rejection letter came with a very nice note explaining that though the story I submitted had promise, I was too young to participate in the program. The minimum age was 15. I waited impatiently until I was 15 and submitted again. This time I was accepted, but I couldn't participate in the course because the tuition was too high for my 15 year-old part-time job wallet to handle.

My senior year in high school I took a creative writing class. With the encouragement of my teacher, I decided to submit a novel to one of the New York publishers. I was 18 years-old when I got my first New York rejection. Not to be deterred, I had another novel finished, so I sent another, and then another. All nicely rejected.

In the meantime, I had the opportunity to attend my first romance writer's conference. What an experience that was!! I still remember every moment. Of course, I was so incredibly shy that I couldn't approach the writers who are my idols, such as Sandra Hill and Merline Lovelace. And, I stood at the sign-up table for a good 15-minutes debating on whether I should sign up for an editor meeting. My boyfriend (who became my husband) lost patience with my insecurity and took the pen from my hand and filled my name in a time slot. I had my first appointment with a Harlequin editor at the age of 19.

At this time, I had no prior knowledge of what was expected at one of these meetings. The internet was in its infancy, so all I had was my common sense and gut instinct of what I should bring and what I needed to talk about. Luckily, the editor I met was incredibly patient with me as I stumbled through my proposal. When I got home from the conference, I packed up my manuscript and mailed it to the editor. I waited and waited and waited. It seemed like such a long time, so I sent another letter, inquiring about the status of my manuscript. About a day later, I got my rejection from them. About a week after that, the editor I had sent my manuscript to called me on the phone. My letter requesting the status of my manuscript crossed in the mail with the rejection letter. It still stuns me that I received a phone call from an editor at Harlequin, even if it was to nicely tell me of their rejection.

It wasn't until I became Assistant Manager at the bookstore where I worked that I learned there are different kinds of rejection letters. I hosted a few romance author book-signings and I had the chance to interact with romance authors who knew the publishing business. They were shocked when I told them of my rejections. Until then, I didn't know there were different kinds of rejections in the publishing industry. Form letters and good rejections. I was told by these romance authors that I was a very lucky writer when it came to receiving rejections.

None of the rejections I received were form letters. In each instance, I had a note from the editor, explaining exactly why my novel was rejected. Even in the one form letter I did receive, the editor had penned in her explanation in the margin. This was not the standard practice for rejection. I was very lucky that in each case, the editor told me what I needed to work on to improve my manuscript. These are good rejections, and a practice that I'm very glad that The Wild Rose Press adheres to. Although I was saddened to not have my manuscripts accepted, I wasn't at all discouraged. Instead, I set out to improve my writing and I'm very glad I did. It took some time, but it was well worth the wait to receive my first acceptance!

-Tricia Schneider worked in a bookstore for 12 years, 6 of those years as Assistant Manager. Now she writes full-time while raising her three young children. She lives with her WWII re-enactor husband in the coal country of Pennsylvania. For more information visit her website, and to purchase her books visit her publisher, The Wild Rose Press .

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