Monday, November 7, 2011

Coping with Writer's Rejection: Tips from Children's Writer Eileen Spinelli

If you're a writer, don't abandon your pen or computer when the rejection letters start rolling in. Even the most successful writers get them. Children's writer Eileen Spinelli gets rejections for her books. So does her husband Jerry Spinelli, a Newbery award-winning writer.

Eileen shared some tips on 'rejecting rejection' in a class I took with her last summer at the Highlights Foundation Chautauqua Summer Workshop:
    • Be sure to have at least one friend who is a cheerleader . . . who loves your work . . . who loves you. Call that friend.
      • Read the biography of any writer. See that you are not alone when it comes to rejection, bad reviews and general disappointment.
        • Move on to another writing project . . . one you are enthusiastic about.
          • Write a caring and supportive letter to yourself.
            • Ask for a hug.
              • Treat yourself to something special . . .a massage . . . a hot fudge sundae. . . an overnight trip.
                • Make something with your hands . . . a card . . . a knitted scarf . . . a pie . . . a bookshelf . . . and then give it away. Bask in the light of the recipient's smile.
                  • If you are so inclined, say a prayer. Ask for patience, hope, a sense of humor.
                    • Write something short and silly just for fun.
                    • Listen to your favorite music. Sing along.
                      • Do something physical. Tennis. Hiking. Dance.
                      • Vent: scream . . . punch a sofa pillow . . . kick leaves.
                        • Make a list of ten people you know of who have had a worse thing happen to them than getting a rejection slip.
                        • Next morning, look out the window. Note that, contrary to all expectations, the sun has done it again . . . it has risen.
                          Spinelli also shared a list of rejection experiences of famous writers. A few examples:

                          Steven King received dozens of rejections for his novel "Carrie."

                          Beatrix Potter's "Tale of Peter Rabbit" was rejected so often that she eventually printed it herself.

                          "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville was said to be too long and rather old-fashioned.

                          According to one publisher, "The Diary of Anne Frank" was scarcely worth reading.

                          George Orwell who wrote "Animal Farm" was told: It is impossible to sell animal stories.

                          "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle was rejected 19 times. It went on to win the Newbery.

                          "Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch" by Eileen Spinelli was rejected 25 times. It has won several awards including a Christopher award.

                          Finally, Eileen shared some encouraging words and assorted wisdom for writers:

                          Getting ahead in the arts requires avid faith in yourself. You must be able to sustain yourself against staggering blows and unfair reversals.

                          Your writing affirms your life. Writing is an embrace of life with all its sorrows and contradictions and an affirmation of the creative power within you.

                          Find out more about Eileen Spinelli and her books at her website.

                          Readers, how do you cope with literary rejection? Please share your tales and tips.

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