Writing Journal: Rejected Rhino

Recently, my first short story submission was rejected from a children’s magazine. I won’t say which one, but it’s very well-known and rhymes with “this bites.”

Honestly, I’m not bitter. I knew going in that I would have to send in 100+ submissions before getting my first acceptance; so I have at least 99 more to go. Still, this rejection stings. And I’m sure every single one thereafter will also.

Everyone gets rejected: from a choice college, a job, a boyfriend/girlfriend, a loan… Unfortunately, I’ve entered and love a field where rejection is the norm. I am (or trying to be) a fiction writer for children. And as such a writer who is finally trying to get published, I must psychologically evolve into a rhino, thick-skinned and always moving forward.

Though I’ve written for newspapers, I feel like I’m learning to write all over again. The children’s book writing world and the business around it has its own unique challenges. And I am learning.

So as I prepare to send my work to agents, I ready my rhino dermis and resolve. Right now, I am a children’s writing nobody and maybe always will be. The glimmer of hope is in knowing that other writers believe in me and in what I’ve written so far. And maybe one day, just the right acquiring editor will also believe in the works I produce.

In the mean time, I try to remember why I write: because God gave me this passion, it glorifies Him when I do it, it feeds my soul because that’s how I was made, and the stories that bubble within are worth sharing.

So bring on the rejections. It’s part of the life I’ve chosen to embrace. I consider it a privilege to enter the arena with masters who have gone before me, who were rejected more times than they can count (J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Herman Melville, George Orwell, Judy Blume, Beatrix Potter, Madeline L’Engle, Dr. Seuss…) They continue, if still alive, their rhino-like efforts to keep doing what they are good at and love and so will I.

Writing Journal: Got Critique Group?

Recently I met with three talented children’s book writers. We read each other’s works aloud, made comments and suggestions, while encouraging what worked — all over three intense days. I was the newbie trying to find my strongest voice between YA, MG, and picture books. Having the input and support of peers was invaluable (more on that later).

As a novice in the world of writing for youth, one thing I’ve learned thus far: writing quality fiction is far harder than it appears. Like in many fields, the pros make it look easy. It’s not.

And having a journalism background is good and bad. Yes, I can meet deadlines, put words together in an informative even entertaining way, and edit a little better than some. But I also have to break some common journalistic writing habits. I can’t give everything away at the beginning (crushing my inverted pyramid) and be overly descriptive (telling). I must trust the reader to follow the action and discover what they must, along the way (show). Easier said than done. I’m still trying to figure this out!

Having other sets of eyes, those who are honing their own children’s fiction writing craft, has helped me take a step further in improving my own storytelling. Experiencing feedback from a trusted critique group and giving it, gave me a vision for what I need to do in the following months.

So, E.J., Julia, and Jennifer, THANK YOU! (And you’re all so fun, too. I miss you already!) I wish we were closer to continue what we started. But at least a taste of what we had whet my appetite to want more. My goal in the next few months will be to find a local group that is going through the challenges and joys I face, as we do what we love: write for children.