Rejections and the Business of Being a Writer

“I would go home in the evening and write short stories and mail them to magazine editors in New York. The stories, no matter how many times I rewrote them, were always returned, usually without comment, with unfailing promptness. I received so many rejection slips, and such an interesting variety, that I passed them neatly into a stamp collector’s album.  The only consolation I ever got out of them for many years was in visualizing how big a celebration bonfire I could make with them when I had my first short story accepted and published in a magazine.” Erskine Caldwell, “Call it Experience,” in The Creative Writer



Many many years ago – circa 1964 – I read The Creative Writer (quoted above), which is out of print now. You can find old copies, not that you necessarily need to. Much is outdated but at that time, I found it helpful. The book, a collection of instructional and inspirational essays, was published by Writer’s Digest. The magazine was my go-to place to hob-nob with writers and publishers, a publication I read through high school and even into my son’s grammar school years. He told me not too long ago that as a child he found it rather magical that it showed up no matter where we moved. My other go-to magazine was The Writer.

These magazines didn’t so much teach me how to write as offer me some knowledge of the business of writing.  The articles I read instilled a sense of perspective, reasonable expectations (do NOT read lowered aspirations), and determination. I discovered that sending my writing out into the world is like applying for a job. I do my homework and refine my technique. That improves the odds but it is still a numbers game.

Reading what others had to say about the business of studying markets, writing query letters, and submitting work helped me to understand that I had to keep on keeping on. This was a good thing. My first poem was published when I was seventeen and that created some rather unrealistic expectations. I thought I was such a hot-shot that my seventeenth year was also the year I submitted a short story to Mademoiselle magazine (closed 2001) for its annual fiction contest. The contest was for college students. I was still in high school. I lied and put Brooklyn College on the entry form. Joyce Carol Oats won.

All this is to say that while writing is our art, it is also our job and every job has its downsides. “Rejection” is one of downsides of the business of writing. Don’t let it stall you.

Apropos this post, note Victor Villaseñor’s dedication in Macho!: “To my parents …. after ten years of writing and 260 rejections – my first one! …”


Jamie Dedes:

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“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

How to Write a Limerick by Esther Spurrill-Jones, The Word Artist

An illustration of the fable of Hercules and the Wagoner by Walter Crane in the limerick collection “Baby’s Own Aesop” (1887) under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I’ve seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.
Leonard Feinberg, The Secret of Humor (Rodopi, 1978)



There was an old man with a beard,
Who said: ‘It is just as I feared!
Two owls and a hen,
Four larks and a wren
Have all built their nests in my beard.
-Edward Lear

Most people have heard or read a limerick, even if you don’t read poetry as a rule. A limerick is one of the most fun forms of poetry, as it is meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

Lear by Wilhelm Marstrand / Public Domain

Edward Lear is probably the most famous, or at least the most prolific, limerick writer. He is credited with popularizing the form. His pieces are pretty much pure nonsense, while other poets often create “bawdy” limericks.

A limerick is a five-line poem with a strict rhyme and rhythm. The rhyme scheme is aabba and the rhythm is anapestic (dadaDUM). This gives the poem a bouncy feel that suits the light subject matter.

Lines 1, 2, and 5 are anapestic trimeter and lines 3 and 4 are anapestic dimeter. This means the first, second, and last lines have three stressed syllables, while the third and fourth have only two. With the two unstressed syllables for each stressed, the lines don’t feel overly short. There are nine or ten syllables in the longer lines and five or six in the shorter ones. There is some variance in syllable count as you can drop the first unstressed syllable of each line if you like.

Technically you can use the limerick form for any subject matter you like, but if it’s not silly, is it really a limerick? Here’s one I did with more serious subject matter. Does it feel like a “real” limerick? I don’t know. I don’t really think so.

Spring is a season of birth,
As winter lets go of the earth.
The days become longer;
The light becomes stronger,
And we put off our furs and go forth.

The style doesn’t really lend itself to the subject matter that well. Nonsense words fit better, don’t they? But you can do whatever you like if you write your own.

Here’s a better one I wrote recently:

Overdrawn

If you don’t have the money to cover,
And the debits come out and go over,
Be sure that the fees
Will advance your unease,
And assist you in going e’er lower!

It’s not nonsense, but it is a kind of dark humour.

You’ll notice that I used some near rhymes rather than exact rhymes. For more information on how to do this, check out my article on rhyming HERE.

Now, it’s your turn. Find something silly or annoying or whatever to write about and try your hand at crafting a limerick. Have fun!

Originally published in The Writing Cooperative, a Medium Publication. Shared here with Esther’s permission.

© 2020, Esther Spurrill-Jones

ESTHER SPURRILL-JONES (Esther Jones, I Just Live Here) is a poet, lover, thinker, human. She tells us, “I am not an open book although I wish that I could be. A part of me is all you see—the rest is hidden deep inside. Words have always been my art. They dance for me and sing for me. They laugh for me and cry for me. They are my paint and brushes. They are my clay.”  Connect with Esther: FacebookTwitterMediumInstagramBlog; Email; Amazon.


Jamie DedesAbout /Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook / Medium Ko-fi

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

My Muse Is Not A Demon by Karen Fayeth

Photo by Paulo Carrolo on Unsplash

“My mind is like a carnival?” Karen Fayeth



I don’t know what to write I don’t know what to write I don’t know what to write.

Is exactly what I wrote when trying that age old advice for writer’s block:

Sit down and write something, anything. Just get words on the page.

I’m not saying it is bad advice. Quite the contrary. But repeating the sentences isn’t working.

Oh, I know, I’ll try my old trick of using a random word generator.

*click* The word is: carnival.

A juicy word! Here we go.

Heeeere we go.

Go.

Ugh.

My mind is like a carnival?

That’s it, that’s all she wrote.

It’s more like the carnival that left town. Quiet. Dead. Random bits of debris blowing around.

That was almost lyrical and then it wasn’t. A sudden gust of wind that just as suddenly went still.

So goes the ongoing wrestling match with my demons. Well, not demons, that’s an unfair characterization. My Muse is not a demon and my demons are not Muses.

There are those who would say that having writer’s block is simply lack of discipline. Just sit down and write words is the cure.

I get the point but I think it’s unfair. I have always prided myself on being a disciplined writer. I don’t take for granted my ability to quite easily write a thousand words a day. It takes me about twenty minutes.

So when I say I’m blocked, it’s not for lack of words. Knocking out a thousand words with no purpose is unfulfilling. What I yearn for is that pull, that feeling of being in the flow, when the words that flow from my fingertips are not just words but a cohesive chain with something to say.

I have read the experts like Natalie GoldbergAnne Lamott, and Julia Cameron. They are all right and they are all wrong. Their guidance matters and at some point they have all helped me.

The best thing for me to remember is that the good words don’t go away forever. Writer’s block isn’t permanent. That is the focus that keeps me going, knowing they will return and we will flow together again.

But until that happens, I am both thirsty and hungry and yearn for pretty words and meaty thoughts and the satiation I can only feel after feasting on a good turn of phrase.

Until then, I will keep ahold of that good juicy random word. I will work it over like a bad tooth until I find the story that flows from the word carnival. I’ll carry it around in my virtual rucksack until I figure out how to build the word and sentences and phrases that go beyond “my mind is like a carnival.”

Somehow. Somewhere.

My carnival awaits.


Karen Fayeth (Oh Fair New Mexico): Raised most of my life in New Mexico, my job brought me to Northern California. I don’t usually identify myself as a Californian, simply a New Mexican living in California. In the first couple years after moving, I distanced myself from my home state thinking it backward and remote. Then I began to visit home more frequently and truly learned a love for my home state that only comes by gaining perspective. I’m a writer, a crafter, a photographer and labor at a “real job” during the days.

Pumpkin, Pumpkin: Folklore, History, Planting Hints and Good Eating

Noteworthy comments on publishing experience, which you will see if you link through to Anne’s site. (The automatic reblog feature didn’t pick up on that part of the article.)  Thank you, Anne Copeland. Well done.

All in a Day's Breath

Courtesy Amazon.com

Pumpkins are magical. They herald in the autumn; they fulfill our needs to create art related to the season and to celebrate it. We fill them with light to welcome others to our homes, and to provide the way from home to home as we gather treats for the season. We have all kinds of celebrations for them from competitions for the largest or best pumpkin to the best decorated pumpkins to pie baking and pie eating competitions. We listen in awe to their amazing history and laugh at their folklore. We begin to invite friends and relatives to luscious dinners featuring this wonderful orange treat. Pumpkins warm our hearts as the autumn begins to bring the chill air. We invite you into the welcoming pages of this book, and to fill your souls with all the good things you remember, and your stomachs with the most delightful…

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