I got my first rejection from my first real live agent last week. It was kind of fun in a morbid way. I mean, on the one hand it was a rejection, which sucks, but on the other hand, it means that I actually had something (in this case my young adult novel “Lost Angels”) for him to reject; this in and of itself is a pretty thrilling thing.
The fact that I didn’t effortlessly slip out of the birthing canal and swoop into a world of success and acceptance is no shocker. You’re talking about a woman who spent 25 hours in labor and pushed out a lovely but deeply squished baby with the help of some kind of newfangled version of a toilet plunger and two doctors, while both best friend and husband each clamped desperately down on one of two spongy bloated legs.
The very notion that things should come easy and smooth is so foreign to me that it’s just about laughable. Let’s just call my labor a metaphor for my whole life and save ourselves some time.
If you take the laws of attraction into consideration, my attitude and expectations are probably not a help. Then again, the laws of attraction are nice, and we can all agree that being positive goes a long way, but honestly, I think that theory is horse shit. I reserve the right to blog in-depth about that later, but for now I’ll leave it at that.
Again, probably not helping myself but there you go.
Nevertheless, the rejection was appealing to me for a couple of reasons:
One, I can get with a little struggle. I come from an entitled family, and it doesn’t seem to serve anyone, really. I always learn from my wrestling matches with the universe, and as of this moment, I still really have no idea what the hell is going on in the world of writing, so it only seems right to have to pay my dues.
And two, it was kind of a great rejection. I hope they’re all so nice. I was lucky enough to have Barry Goldblatt of Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency read my novel, thanks to my mentor, Sharon Darrow, who did NOT dump me when I stopped paying her, as most would have. I know what a privilege a full read is, considering my greenness. And, although I hear rumors that he is an unforgiving and brutally honest hard ass, Mr. Goldblatt was pretty complimentary. Provided his rep is not all bark, I should be as happy as I am.
He did give me pause, though. He said that although he thinks I’m talented and he likes my book, my overall tone was too adult, and there was too much sex and violence to place in the YA market.
I wrote this book for teenagers from day one. Maybe it’s a testament to my Taos, New Mexico adolescence, where people flail off the side of the road and die all the time, and homicide abounds- not to mention the rampant drug use and flagrant sexuality among the youth -that has tainted me and made me unfit for the young minds of today. I’ll allow that not everywhere is as magically delicious and dangerous as Taos. Maybe I have been ruined and my perspective is off.
But wait, did I not just hear something about blow job parties, bullying so extreme that kids are committing suicide, and incest and rape stats through the roof? Those are the realities of what teenagers are going through, but people don’t want kids to read about that.
As a writer friend of mine says, we’re writing for the adults who decide what teenagers should read. She regularly receives hate mail, which she says goes mostly, “Blah blah, inappropriate for the inappropriate blah.”
So now I have to wonder, is this going to be the insurmountable obstacle that I have to add to the fact that I have no MFA, no experience, and no idea what the hell I’m doing? Or am I actually going to have to rewrite it and take out the sex, tone down the harshness?
I guess it’s nice to be able to say I’m controversial, so I don’t
have to think the damn thing is just worthless. I don’t think I could face that.
I started a folder called “rejections”. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to put in it, but hopefully one day, I’ll look back and smile over my strenuous labor that finally births my novel. Even if it does get a little squished in the process.