Wednesday, March 5, 2008

rain, relapse and rejection

a few years ago when i was speaking at a writers' conference, someone asked me how i deal with rejection. i drink heavily, i replied deadpan. for the space of about a heartbeat, i think the room believed me.

the reality is that rejection hurts. yesterday, true to the writers' adage that says good news comes by phone, bad news by mail, i heard from jenn that the house she'd sent Seventh Son to back in january declined the book. i can't say i was surprised - i didn't think a major sf house would be interested in a work that i characterize as literary fantasy, but what do i know? im only the writer.

when i was first starting out in writing, i happened to be a writers' conference where the keynote speaker was an agent who had worked for many years in publishing. i've been an editor, an editorial assistant, a first reader, a proofreader and now im an agent, she said. i guess i can't go much lower. you could be a writer, i quipped, just loud enough for her microphone to pick it up. that remark brought down the house.

but in the interface between the writer and the publisher, in between the writing and the world, is a cold brutal abyss where the name of the game is money. the truth is that publishers would far rather publish what they know will sell than take a chance on a book that might not.

just yesterday the story broke about how a reputed memoir written by a 33 year old woman who claimed to be the survivor of horrific gang violence and other abuse, has turned out to be - haha - fiction. why didn't she just publish the book as fiction, someone asked me.

probably because she couldn't sell it as fiction, i answered. desperate people do desperate things. i know how that desperation feels. i know that thing that gnaws at the center of one's soul, that drives one to carve out a little piece, put it on a page, and hang it up for sale.

my manuscript is now on the desk of another editor. i am among the fortunate, who have a reputable literary agency to do my legwork, my selling and my negotiating - who stands in the first line of fire, takes the first hit and then listens to me weep. to any writer who wants to know if i think they need an agent, my answer is an unequivocal yes - at least if you want to publish.

it poured yesterday, last night, and this morning, a flood of spring rain that calms and soothes and works its way into the fractured crevices of my soul. in the words of my poor rejected hero - there is a balm in gilead, there is, there is, there is.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

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