Wednesday, May 15, 2019

rejection dejection

The sun is shining; my heart is heavy. Four months ago, I emailed my memoir, the memoir I've been working on for 3 years or possibly longer and have paid to have professionally edited several times, to a successful, well-known editor I'd met socially, who was friendly and nice and said he'd be happy to take a look.

So then you wait, and of course, you fantasize. He's one of the most high profile editors in the country, but maybe this small book will appeal, you think. So, hardly daring to dream but doing so anyway, you wait some more.

You know what's coming, don't you? Today, he wrote. "You do write very well," he said. He called the ms. "well-crafted," "enjoyable," "readable." Well, "readable" - talk about damning with faint praise. BUT he cannot market a book with "its beautiful but gentle import," he said, "and your modest profile. This is not about the worth of your memoir, but more the sales mandate I have to reach with every title."

What that means is: Sweet little book, but who the hell are you? How can I sell this gentle little story by an unknown author? Thanks but no thanks.

Which was what I was expecting, but still, it hurts.

But there's sun today.

Further to my letter of the other day, some funny fallout - I got a reply almost immediately from a name I recognized. He wrote that he'd been a student of mine some years ago, had loved my course and gone on writing. He is also the partner of the man who bought my neighbour's house and evicted her tenant, and so is co-owner. And he went on in a much more unpleasant tone with his take on events, which was very different, as you can imagine, from mine. Fake news, I'd call it, a deliberate obfuscation of what actually happened, to let him, his partner, and the landlady off the hook from admitting their heartless behaviour. Amazingly, the 3 of them are blaming and demonizing another party entirely! However, we ended agreeing to disagree.

He was a nice person, as I recall, and a good writer. Too bad.

And, I've been told, I am a nice person and a good writer. Some days it doesn't help.

What is happening in this province defies belief. At least, it would defy belief if we hadn't lived through the past few years with the vile buffoon to the south. Now we have the vile buffoon of the north, destroying everything decent, every single thing. Including speed limits.

More importantly, the rise in fascism worldwide. I remember many summers ago walking home along Carlton Street and coming upon a meeting in the basement of a house. There was a big black and red flag looking like a swastika and 7 or 8 white men in on a roomful of chairs listening to someone speak. I realized, this is the house of Ernst Zundel, Canada's most famous Nazi. These people are Nazis.

The scene was almost laughable if it weren't so creepy. But last night I realized - Ernst Zundel would be in his element now. There are fresh new Nazis everywhere.

Heartsick today. But there's sun.

PS. A few hours later: no more sun and increasing drizzle.


  1. I'm sorry about your manuscript, Beth. I have to say that I find such language in a rejection kind of insulting. "Modest profile." Sometimes it seems to me that some levels of publishing have capitulated to the world of algorithms and robotic language. Surely any publisher or editor worth his or her salt would see the work as choosing good books, making room for them in a literary conversation that is best served by featuring all the voices -- the quiet ones, the loud ones, the politically relevant ones, the domestic ones. Deciding that no, we won't take this because the writer has a "modest profile" means we lose the quiet(er) voices and that's a huge loss to a vibrant and diverse world of books.

    1. I could not agree more, Theresa, though I do know that if you don't have thousands of followers on FB, Twitter, or Instagram, publishers are now not interested, mostly. I do find it kind of insulting that his tone is - who do you think you are, wasting my time? And, of course, I was. The thing is that some memoirs by unknown writers have achieved success, but they've tended to be about very dramatic subjects - abuse, catastrophic illness. Not simply changing your life for the better. Well - Wayson's favourite term was "onward," as you know, so that's what I'll do, as soon as I regroup. Thank you so much for being out there, fellow writer - though one with a great deal more success right now in getting out there!

    2. Yes, onward! The thing is, "success" is relative. I get rejected (by publishers, editors, every agent I've ever sent to) for the same reasons: a modest profile, a quiet voice. I'm grateful for the small publishers willing to take a chance on me but there have been plenty who wouldn't. The main thing is that I love the daily work of writing, of finding my way into and through puzzles, of finding ways to document individual lives against a (slightly) grander geopolitical landscape.

    3. I'd define success as people reading what you write, interested, engaged, moved. So - you are a grand success, my friend. Not to mention your prizes and nominations.