Tag Archives: rejection

#MondayBlogs: My Writer’s Story: Different to the One I Imagined

9 Nov


While many claim there is one publishing formula, there are hundreds, and the more writers you meet, the more variations of publishing journeys you hear. I find them fascinating, and I’m always eager to hear another’s story. Today’s writer is sharing his. Welcome author Shane Joseph.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest articles are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect my own. To show authenticity of the featured writer, articles are posted as provided (a.k.a. I do not edit them). However, the format may have changed.

My Writer’s Story: Different to the One I Imagined by Shane Joseph

Our times are generating many more writers than demand can bear. This is due to better education, improved health, technology, inflated egos in an age of “me first,” and due to our eternal quest for immortality. The ambition to be a writer usually begins in our formative years and is inspired by our favourite writers. As a teenager, I was greatly influenced by Greene, Steinbeck and Hemingway; I dreamt of sending manuscripts out into the world where they would become best-sellers and make me a reclusive millionaire. I would hide out in some remote island and submit more manuscripts and continue to dazzle the world with my brilliance until I was invited to a cold capital in Europe to accept the Nobel Prize. And I would refuse that honour, making me an enigmatic figure like Jean-Paul Sartre, Boris Pasternak or J.D. Salinger. It was nice to dream!

The reality, even back then, was different. I had chosen to gloss over the private demons my literary heroes had to overcome in order to achieve their fame: dual lives, alcoholism, drug addiction, persecution, shell-shock (called PTSD today), hypertension, depression, divorce, estrangement, chronic pain, and suicide staring out of the barrel of a gun. Not forgetting the early struggles with rejection and penury that they each triumphed over. These trials gave impetus to their work and are mentioned only in discreet biographies, not on the glossy covers of their books.

My writer’s story turned out differently to my idealized dream. For instance, I didn’t imagine that after hacking away at this craft in my early twenties in a developing country where English was a second language, and after having a handful of stories published, I would pack up my authorly tools and try something easier to earn a living – Greene, Steinbeck et al, be damned! I never realized that the “other living,” at a corporate job, would come so easily, and earn such a handsome income, that I wouldn’t bother with the writing game again for another twenty years. I didn’t realize that it would be the curse of “guilt” that would bring me back to reopen the dusty toolbox and start to catch up to where the literary world had evolved in the intervening years.

Once “Take Two” started however, the stories and novels came easily, and are likely to continue into the future, health permitting. It was like a dam had burst and all that had been stored for years came gushing out. But the publishing landscape had changed, drastically. Prizes sold books now. And the prize money was cornered among the “1% of the 1%” in the literary hierarchy. There was no middle class in publishing anymore – there was a huge gulf between the self-published and the best-seller, and the only way to bridge the two was with a stroke of luck.

But with every closing door there were others opening. There were now many ways in which to be published, I discovered, thanks to evolving technology that had finally demolished the dominant publishing model of eons, which was: publish a large quantity of paper books on ancient printing presses until unit costs become affordable, ship them across the land in trucks into stores that couldn’t keep track of them, receive most of them back after awhile to be shredded, then start the cycle again, and hope like hell that governments or private donors supported this inefficiency in the interest of promoting the arts. That was the model in which my heroes had thrived, and now it was dying, supplanted by DIY publishing, POD, electronic media, subscriptions services, free story sites, social media, and blogs like the one you are reading. And my heroes were dead too.

Shane Joseph

Shane Joseph

I enthusiastically tried all the models available, traditional and new, and discovered that they all had their pros and cons, but as their readerships’ were distinct, this lack of homogeneity helped plaster me all over the map, assuaging my guilt for having neglected “the gift.” There was also no way I could hide out in a remote island, I realized; I had to be front and centre in the global public domain (a.k.a. the Internet, which also never existed during the time of my literary heroes) selling my wares like a shoe salesman. I even started a publishing house, using the new technology, and have helped bring other writers into print, ones who may have been sitting for years in the slush piles of the Big Five (or is it Four, now – hard to keep track!). The joy of bringing others’ work into the world, to watch them stand on the podium reading from their debut novel at their book’s launch gives me immense satisfaction. I was doing my bit to restore the middle class in publishing. And I finally faced the darker side: the rejection, the shrunken revenue streams, the even further shrunken attention spans, and the need for that other source of income to fuel this one. None of this had been part of my teenage dream.

And so I have accepted that my writer’s story is different from the one I had visualized in my youth. Creative visualizers, take note: it doesn’t always turn out the way you paint it in your mind. But it can be a damned sight more interesting and surprising. Why go on a trip where every stopover is carefully laid out, predictable and boring? Where would the thrill of the unexpected lie? Isn’t that what we try to create in our work – the unexpected?

So Dear Reader, what was your writer’s dream, and how did it pan out?


(Shane Joseph is the author of four novels and two collections of short stories, and was the winner of the best fantasy novel award at the Canadian Christian Writing Awards in 2010. His short fiction has appeared in international literary journals and anthologies. His latest novel, In the Shadow of the Conquistador, will be released in November 2015. For details visit www.shanejoseph.com

Want to be a guest blogger? Now is the time to submit. I will be stopping guest blog posts in December, but before then, I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. Pictures, links, and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.


Writing Tips: How I Handle Rejection

23 Mar


Price Change: November Snow [NOOK] is now available for $7.99 via Barnes & Noble here

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In A Certain World: A Commonplace BookW. H. Auden writes, “For an adult reader, the possible verdicts are five: I can see this is good and I like it; I can see this is good but I don’t like it; I can see this is good and, though at present I don’t like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to like it; I can see this is trash but I like it; I can see this is trash and I don’t like it.” 41V1x246SUL._SL500_AA300_

While this is a great truth, it becomes a anxiety attack waiting to happen when it’s your writing under judgement, knowing one of these five results will happen. Unfortunately, I think many aspiring writers only accept one response as positive: “I can see this is good and I like it.” I wish this wasn’t the case, but it seems to be true the more I talk to writers. Rejection is hard, and it always will be, but we can learn how to handle it in a way that is healthy.

I have discussed this before. In my post Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection, I commended John Tompkins for his positive (and hilarious) attitude towards rejected query letters, but I failed to address how I personally deal with such instances.

However, I’d rather not talk about query letters and/or agents, because I look at that as business, and, for me, those rejections are easy to write off, because there’s always another approach to business, and I don’t take it personally. As I said before, it’s business.

BUT–I wanted to talk about another kind of rejection: the reader rejection. This is when readers read your work and respond negatively, often publicly, and there’s nothing we, as the writer, can do about it. I’m often okay with this. In fact, I advocate listening to critics, because I’ve learned some of my best lessons by taking a step back and listening, but I still have my days, and I wanted to show an example.

As many of you know, I’m taking a Nonfiction Writing I course this semester. Honestly, I thought it’d be more memoir writing than essay writing, but, nevertheless, I am in the course, and we turned our first essay in to workshop awhile ago. We were supposed to write about something personal and riveting, so I chose, knowing it’s still a sensitive subject, to write about my roommate’s recent death and compare it to my mother’s.

Here’s the piece: In Memoriam.

And here are my top three negative comments:

1. I don’t want a guilt trip. It seemed too forced, the pity was weakening the audience. I don’t know. Not that complex.

2. Too pep-talky. Blase ending took me out of the story. Very self-centered.

3. This is a nice sentiment, but we’ve seen it so many times before that it’s lost its effect. It almost feels like your trying to establish your authority as a writer rather than just letting the essay stand on its own. The first and last paragraph had nothing to do with the essay, bragging.

I won’t lie. At some point during my drive home, I was in tears, because I couldn’t believe that fellow students would find my dedication to turning grievance into passion was selfish and/or bragging. I felt like they had attacked my personal growth and everything I have been striving for since my mother died when I was eleven. Furthermore, I was astounded by the fact that many of these students didn’t say this to my face, but remained silent in the classroom. I would’ve liked the opportunity to ask them why they felt that way (because you do get a chance at the end to speak), but I don’t know if I could’ve spoken. I was too emotional, and, when I took a step back, I realized why.

I wrote about something I was not ready to write about. Even more, I immediately allowed my emotions to react; not my thoughts. When I took a moment, I realized their “bragging” statements were more directed at the beginning when I listed off accomplishments, which I should’ve explained as a conclusion. I also needed to consider my audience. It’s entirely likely many of my fellow 20-year-old’s haven’t lost a loved one to death. It’s also (more) possible that they have a completely different reaction towards death than I do, which is completely understandable. Even though the essay was an assigned personal essay, I think I made it too personal by focusing on me instead of the audience, and, in the end, that was selfish, but I’d rather call it misdirected. I’ve never written nonfiction essays before, and I’m learning how to do so still. Of course I’d be critiqued at the beginning; even if I was a professional I’d be critiqued. And I had to remind myself that before I imploded with misunderstood emotions.

So how did I cheer myself up?

After a healthy dinner with my father, I looked over everything again, but, this time, I concentrated on the good comments. I realized there were more “Great job!” than I thought, and I really focused on appreciating the complements, rather than the hurt.

Here are my top three positive comments:

1. Thanks for sharing! I know it must be hard for you to carry these loses with you for the rest of your life. I know it’s hard, but I also know how inspiring it can be as a writer. Keep striving for the preservation and ultimately your understanding.

2. I loved the candor with which you spoke about their deaths. Your level-headed recounting of events is incredible. You’re not bemoaning your life, which actually gives me greater sympathy. Really strong ending.

3. This is such a brilliant outreach to the audience. And to be quite honest, I needed to hear this. This was a beautiful piece to read. Consider sharing the title of your YA sci-fi novel because I’d love to read it. Looking forward to your other essays!

Next time, when rejection gets you down, try to remind yourself that one rejection doesn’t define all of your success. In fact, it only furthers your range of success by pushing you to achieve more. I have moments where my emotions take over, and I think that’s perfectly normal. After all, we are human, and we’re very exposed humans when we throw our art out for all to see. But we must realize that judgement will come, and it’s up to us to decide what to make of it.

As I took grieving and created passion, I will focus more on taking rejection and making success.

This is how I will handle it, and I hope opening up about my experience will help others see they are not alone, along with encourage them to continue to follow their dreams, even when they are hurting.

Another thing I love to do when I'm feeling down is to return to those beautiful moments in life when everything seemed right. This is me in Puerto Rico in May, 2012. It was one of the best trips of my life, and I know it's only a memory away from reminding me what happiness is like.

Another thing I love to do when I’m feeling down is to return to those beautiful moments in life when everything seemed right. This is me in Puerto Rico in May, 2012. It was one of the best trips of my life, and I know it’s only a memory away from reminding me what happiness is like.


March 25: Shannon Summary: Six Months In

Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection

26 Feb

Quick Update: My author page is now on Facebook. Please support me by clicking here. You’ll get the latest updates, and my current status has a surprise that isn’t on my website yet! I’m REALLY excited, so check it out, and you’ll get an advantage on other readers when I offer an upcoming competition ;]

Rejection is everywhere: we break up, we get fired, we lose friends—and we survive them all—yet, when our art is rejected, many feel completely defeated, and they never get out there again. This saddens me. This is how art dies.

Rejection happens to everyone, and, if it hasn’t already, it will happen to you—but you cannot let criticism get you down.

In terms of the writing industry, many writers, professional or not, already know about the long-hated query letter. My favorite metaphor for writing one is the ballerina having to explain why she can dance instead of showing off her abilities. However, whether we like it or not, we have to face the reality of the query eventually.

In the future, I plan on posting about how to write an effective one, but there are plenty of posts like that out there. Instead, I wanted to share one of my favorite blogs that handles rejection: Rejection Love Letters (Or How to Lose Agents and Alienate Publishers)

John Tompkins is a writer trying to get his book published. Currently, he’s sent out 93 queries, and he’s received 36 rejections—all of which are scanned for fellow readers and writers to see. Not only is this brave, but it’s encouraging. I say this because Tompkins does something I’ve never seen done before: he translates the rejection letters into a love rejection, causing the normally petrifying letters to morph into humorous material.

For instance, “Love Letter #28” is a rejected letter he titles, “In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m calling this one: If I’m not busy, I’ll call you.

Immediately, I’m in a fit of laughter, but I’m also astounded by Tompkins ability to shift rejection into humorous determination in order to move forward. This attitude is one of the most positive things I’ve seen from a writer in a long time. It’s a beautiful way of looking at an aspect of the publishing industry where many lose themselves.

So—in terms of this—I find John Tompkins to be a wonderful and daily reminder of how to be positive about something that can be extremely upsetting. Perhaps you can think of query rejections like rejections of love—“Find someone who loves you just the way you are” (Love Letter #34)—and remain positive as you move forward.

As Richard Bach said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit,” and we can all learn from Tompkins’ positive perspective to continue moving forward in the journey of our successful dreams.

Never give up!


This is just another hilarious example of his blog.

This is just another hilarious example of his blog. Check it out if you’re feeling down or you just want to laugh. It’s also great to read if you’re feeling a little alone in the query letter madness.

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