At night, I turn on my laptop and create characters and stories that I hope readers will enjoy. Before completing my master's in library and information science, I worked in the field of education. I shelved books and created reading programs as a media specialist for an all boys high school for two years and then I did the same thing for an all girls high school for another year. Tucked between those two jobs, I worked as an after school coordinator for middle and high school students. The principal and I designed the after school program to help students who were not meeting academic standards or were finding it difficult to achieve success.
One thing I learned about kids is they don't handle rejection very well. They are quick to step away from a situation where they feel they might be rejected or embarrassed. To be perfectly honest, I don't think any of us, adult or kid handle rejection particularly well. That said I wanted to do something to boost my students self-esteem and help them become stronger students and hopefully successful adults. To that end, I brought in my rejection file from my first manuscript, As Long As There Is Love. My goal was to show them that my road to publication was shaky at best. Though all of my rejections, I eventually got the book published by BET.
My students were in awe because I wrote books. Often I would explain to them how very few authors are overnight successes. It took a lot of hard work and dedication. First you have to learn the craft and then apply what you've learned to your story idea.
As I displayed each letter and explained what led to my sending a query to the agent or editor, I discussed my feeling upon receiving each rejection letter. I talked about the methods I used to distance myself so that I could read the letter objectively and hopefully gleam important information. After a few days I would reread the letter and try to understand why the agent or editor rejected my manuscript. Each letter offered something different. Some were humorous, like the one sent by an agent who printed "Not for me," on a scrap of paper. At the bottom of the 1/16 of a piece of paper, she added her name. I teased my students with comments like, "She couldn't afford a full sheet of paper."
Some letters were disappointing, sad or provided less than an ounce of information. Yet others handed me a line or two of encouragement that helped build my self-esteem and kept me sending out proposals.
I wanted my students to understand that it takes hard works and sometimes you'll get your feelings hurt. That shouldn't stop them from continuing to pursue their goals. I encouraged them to learn as much as they could and if possible take rejections or low test scores as a learning tool. Review them, find the weak points, and reevaluate the information until they understood it. If they took nothing else from their time with me, I wanted them to remember that rejections were just part of the story. I wanted them to take what they could from any kind of rejection, but don't let them stop or define who they were or allowing them to keep you from doing what you want.
The same can be said for new aspiring authors. Learn your craft and continue to grow as a writer.
I'd love to hear from you. Let me know what you think. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember, don't be a stranger.