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AAS Q&A 4This month, I asked the All about Submissions team the following questions: How do you cope with rejections? What do you do with the rejection letters – even if they are just form letters? I shared some of our answers yesterday in Part One. Here are the remaining answers plus links to some excellent posts. Please feel free to comment and share your tips for coping with rejections. And remember, if you have questions you would like answered, either ask it in the comment section or contact me by clicking the “contact” button at the top of this page.

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Teresa Robeson, author and artist

teresarobeson.com

Rejections used to get me into a deep funk. I think that’s partly why I gave up writing for a while in the 2000s (that, combined with the stress of homeschooling two young kids during that period). I had some wonderfully encouraging, personalized rejections among the form ones, but it was still so depressing.

I think that, with age, I have grown a thicker skin and now rejections don’t bother me as much. They still do, but they don’t define my self-worth. Also, I’ve gotten fan letters and compliments (from readers and editors) on my published works, and that really helps to sustain me when I receive a rejection.

Because I’m semi-organized (more hypothetically than in practice), I save all my rejection letters in files, either real or virtual. I occasionally, like once every seven years, pull out the encouraging ones to look at, but I don’t do anything with them otherwise. No need to re-live the angst of the form rejections, and I hold the good ones in my heart anyway.

As much as rejections pain me, in today’s world of “we’ll reply only if interested,” I would rather receive a form rejection than no rejection at all!

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Sophia Mallonée, Children’s Writer

www.sophiamallonee.com

Rejections suck. Yeah, your skin might grow a little thicker over time, but there really is no getting used to the rejection process.

For me, my coping mechanisms vary from rejection to rejection. The best rejections are the personalized ones. With those, I like to pick apart the letter and try to view my manuscript the way the agent or editor did. Can I utilize their advice? I’ll pour over my manuscript and try to find any weak links that I might be able to strengthen. I take these rejections as learning experiences. Yes, it still sucks to be rejected. But at least in these cases (most often) I’ve received a little bit of knowledge as a consolation prize.

It’s the form rejections that are the worst. It’s more difficult to take away a great lesson when you receive an “It’s wonderful…but just not for me” type of letter. That always stings. It’s like a breakup where you’re never able to say how you felt in the end, and the closure is never had. Why? Just give me something. If it’s so wonderful, then why is it not for you? It took me a while to let go of those rejections. But I get it. I know that a manuscript can be good and still not connect with you – I read stories like that all of the time – for no particular reason. I understand that to respond to every single query/submission would be a ridiculous waste of time. But still, just because I understand the rejection process, doesn’t mean I have to like it. I definitely allow myself to have a mini pity-party, followed by a phone call or lunch with my critique buddies, where we all commiserate. After that, I’ll write something new. Nothing makes me feel more accomplished and happy than diving into a new story.

I like to keep my rejection letters. I keep all of my electronic rejection letters filed away (even if they’re form) in my email. That way, if I query or submit to the same agent/editor again in the future, I can reference back to any correspondence we might have had in the past.

I don’t, however, keep any paper rejections unless they’re personalized and mailed to me. I don’t have the time or space for extra paperwork.

I’ll mention that I also have a running “Submission Tracking” spreadsheet that I maintain. I track all letters received, dates and any specific notes next to the agent/editor info on this sheet. That way, even if I don’t have the letters themselves, I’m still able to reference specifics quickly.

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Cindy Williams Schrauben, Children’s Writer

Raising Book Monsters – kids who devour books and hunger for knowledge

http://www.RaisingBookMonsters.com

What do I do with form rejections? I log them (on my submission spreadsheet) and forget them. Done.

How do I cope with rejections? This question sounds very straight forward, but there are many variables. I can say, though, that my coping mechanisms have become much stronger over time and I can even say that I am grateful for them – okay, not grateful that they said NO, but grateful for the fact that they responded at all.

My first few rejections were very difficult – I, simply, didn’t know how it worked. I had written a story – a good story, so I thought – and put it out there for the world to see. Time for agents to start knocking at my door, right? Finding that others didn’t share my passion for this manuscript was, initially, really tough. I know now that it isn’t quite that easy. But I can say that I ALWAYS read a rejection like a critique, quickly the first time… let it sit… and then read it again later with less emotion and more objectivity.

Call it rationalization if you like, but I cope with rejections by asking myself a couple questions:

Was this a dream agent? If the answer is no, I tell myself that this rejection is just getting me closer to the right one. If the answer is yes, well, I blubber away for a while and then I eat some ice cream.

Another determining factor is the type of rejection – they are not all created equal. Form rejections, for example just suck; that’s all there is to it. There is nothing to learn from them other than perseverance and a tough skin. One way to help is to go to Literary Rejections and read about all the hugely successful authors who have been rejected hundreds of times.  Their tagline is: “helping writers persevere through rejection.” Their web and Facebook sites both offer commiseration and inspiration.

Personalized rejections are a different story entirely. I recently received one from an agent that included real reasons for rejecting my work. It wasn’t a copy/paste response like: “I wasn’t in love” blah, blah, blah, or “not a good fit” blah, blah, blah, but offered some constructive criticism.  I treat these rejections like gold. They are, in fact, critiques from someone who truly knows the business. Sure, it is just another opinion, but an informed one to say the least.

My final piece of advice/rationalization is to tell myself that I want an agent who LOVES my work. Period. If they don’t… well, they aren’t right for me.

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Sylvia Liu, Writer-illustrator

portfolio: www.enjoyingplanetearth.com

blog: www.sylvialiuland.com

Sylvia Liu is a winner of the Lee & Low New Voices Award. http://blog.leeandlow.com/2014/01/15/announcing-our-2013-new-voices-award-winner/

I am very practical and dispassionate about rejections. I figure it’s a numbers game and I will need to rack up many rejections before I find the right fit. I also look on the bright side. If I get deafening silence, I can imagine that the agent or publisher is still pondering the story. If I get a form letter, I get closure. If I get a quick rejection, I’m happy to move on. If I get personalized feedback, I am thrilled to improve my story and am buoyed by the prospect that it is one step further out of the slush pile.

The hardest rejections are after an agent has requested more work and they end up passing on my work. It’s hard not take that personally, but it does spur me to keep strengthening all my pieces.

I keep all my rejections. In the olden days, I’d get photocopies of form letters that I still have in an accordion file. Nowadays, I keep an “Agent Correspondence” file in my emails. My favorite rejection was one where my husband and I submitted a piece he wrote and I illustrated about six years ago. The rejection was addressed to him, but the line, “Tell Ms. Liu her illustrations are brilliant,” still sustains me today.

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Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

Before I share this month’s links, I want to make one point. Many of the All about Submissions team members mentioned developing tough or thick skin. First I want to say that a form letter rejection, a kind/helpful rejection, or the emptiness of no response from a manuscript submission can all be perceived as criticism. I believe one excellent way to develop thick skin and practice coping with criticism is to join a critique group. But here’s the thing about critique groups, a critique partner who is afraid of hurting someone’s feelings and therefore is not as honest as they can be about their crit partners’ manuscripts is doing a disservice to their fellow writers. Be honest. Tell what you see, think, feel. Critiques are like dress rehearsals for rejections. The author of the manuscript can decide if they agree with you or not. Of course, you want to give positive feedback as well. Ask your critique partners to help you out by honestly telling it as they see it.

Links:

From Jessica P. Morrell

Three posts (all appear on the same page – if you click on any one of the three links below, you will access the page):

What Editor’s Notice

Top Eleven Reasons Why a Manuscript is Rejected

Tips for staying out of the rejection pile

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From OneWildWorld.com:  SIX GUIDELINES FOR TURNING REJECTION INTO SUCCESS by Carol Despeaux

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From Distractify: 10 PAINFUL REJECTION LETTERS TO FAMOUS PEOPLE PROVING YOU SHOULD NEVER GIVE UP YOUR DREAMS by Averi Clements

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From Kristin Lamb’s blog: HOW TO TAKE CRITICISM LIKE A PRO by J.E. Fishman

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From MORE online magazine: KATHRYN STOCKETT’S “THE HELP” TURNED DOWN 60 TIMES BEFORE BECOMING A BEST SELLER

by Kathryn Stockett

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TOP 10 FAMOUS BOOKS THAT WERE ORIGINALLY REJECTED

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From Schuler Books Weblog: 30 FAMOUS AUTHORS WHOSE WORKS WERE REJECTED, by Michelle Kerns

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Romelle Broas shares a humorous post, REJECTION LETTERS FROM A POSITIVE PERSPECTIVE

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Tidbits from Alayne

Two responses to rejections that I see in the writing community that I enjoy are as follows:

Onword and upword! (spelling intentional)

Now I’m one step closer to publication (variations: signing with an agent, a book contract)

A list of all the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS posts.

 

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sub six series 2

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Read more about the Sub Six Series: All About Submissions Here

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Guest Post by Sylvia Liu

Contest and Other Submission Opportunities in 2014

Besides submitting work to agents and publishers, don’t forget to submit to contests, grants, or mentorship programs. These are great ways to get your work noticed and perhaps published, to improve your craft, or to help pay for your writing or illustration habit.

Here’s a list of contest and submission opportunities in 2014, for both children’s book writers and illustrators, with deadline dates ordered chronologically. When a range of dates are listed, applications are accepted only within that window. If a date is in parentheses, it is the date for last year’s contest because the new date has not been announced (but it is likely this year’s deadlines will be on a similar timeline). Click the links to find out application information.

A great resource: Be sure to check the SCBWI Event Calendar for local mentorship programs and awards. Just in the month of January, the following SCBWI regions have mentorship program or scholarship applications available and due soon: Southern Breeze (conference tuition for illustrators; AL, GA, FL, Feb. due date), Carolinas Mentor Program (Jan. 10 due date), California North/Central Digital Mentor Picture Book Program (Jan. 10 due date),

JANUARY

Jan. 1 – Jan. 31           Highlights Fiction Contest

  • What: best short story (up to 800 words) with a holiday theme
  • Who is eligible: anybody, published or unpublished
  • Prize: three $1,000 prizes or tuition to any Highlights Foundation course

Jan. 15- Feb. 3                        Rate Your Story

  • What: best manuscripts in three categories: Picture Book, Novel/Novella, Everything Else
  • Who is eligible: free to RYS members (Basic members can submit 1 MS to each category, Pro members can submit 2 MSs); $5/MS for anyone else
  • Prize: First place gets $50, a professional critique, and free Pro membership, 2nd & 3rd prizes available

FEBRUARY

Feb. 28           Sustainable Arts Foundation 2014 Spring Grant (application available Jan. 15)

  • Award: Five $6,000 awards and five $2,000 awards for writers or artists who are also parents
  • Who is eligible: applicant must have at least one child under the age of 18

MARCH

March 1 – March 31:  SCBWI Work In Progress Grants, includes:

General WIP Grant

  • Award: seven $2,000 grants in each category (Picture Book Text (Barbara Karlin Grant), General Fiction, Contemporary young adult novel, Multi-cultural fiction, Nonfiction research (Anna Cross Giblin Award)
  • Who is eligible: SCBWI members

Karen and Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award

  • Award: $500 and free tuition to any SCBWI conference
  • Who is eligible: SCBWI members, authors over age 50 who have not been traditionally published

Don Freeman Illustrator Grant

  • Award: two $1000 grants to illustrators (1 to a published illustrator, 1 to a pre-published illustrator)
  • Who is eligible: SCBWI members

March 15-April 15:  Student Illustrator Scholarship to SCBWI Conference

  • Award: 2 scholarships to the national LA SCBWI conference in August 2014, including the portfolio showcase and the illustrator intensive
  • Who is eligible: full time graduate or undergraduate students studying illustration

APRIL

April 15: Student Writer Scholarship to SCBWI Conference

  • Award: two scholarships to the national LA SCBWI conference in August 2014, including an SCBWI advisor to help navigate the weekend
  • Who is eligible: full time students over 18 at an accredited academic institution

MAY

May 5  Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition

  • Award: cash prizes, work seen by editors & agents, etc.
  • Who is eligible: anyone writing for all genres, including kid lit (fees are involved to apply for this competition)

JUNE

 

JULY

(July 31)       Unfortunately, THE CHEERIOS CONTEST WILL NOT RUN THIS YEAR  Cheerios 2014 Spoonful of Stories Contest

  • What: a national search for a winning picture book story
  • Who is eligible: unpublished writers (very strict – can’t have published in kidlit market, including magazines)
  • Prize: $5000 and publication & distribution in Cheerios boxes nationwide

AUGUST

Aug. 31           Sustainable Arts Foundation 2014 Fall Grant

  • Award: Five $6,000 awards and five $2,000 awards for writers or artists who are also parents
  • Who is eligible: applicant must have at least one child under the age of 18

SEPTEMBER

(Sept. 30)       New Voices Award, Lee & Low Books

  • What: a national search for a winning picture book story
  • Who is eligible: unpublished, unagented writer of color (can be published in kidlit magazines)
  • Prize: $1,000 plus standard publication contract

OCTOBER

NOVEMBER

DECEMBER

(Dec. 13)        Tomie dePaola Illustration Contest

  • What: annual search for a winning illustration following a prompt given by Tomie dePaola
  • Who is eligible: SCBWI members
  • Prize: trip to the winter New York SCBWI conference, award presented, and lunch with Tomie dePaola

Sylvia Liu is a former environmental attorney turned writer-illustrator. She is working on several picture book projects and is being mentored by illustrator David Diaz as part of this year’s Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program. Her art and infographics have been published on Huffington Post and other venues. She is inspired by aliens, cephalopods, bunnies, and pigs who want to fly. Check out her portfolio at www.enjoyingplanetearth.com, her blog at  www.sylvialiuland.com, her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ArtbySylviaLiu, and her Twitter handle is @artsylliu.

CONTEST ADDITION AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT SYLVIA’S  LIST FROM ALAYNE

On JANUARY 11, SYLVIA’S LIST WILL BE POSTED ON kidlit411. It will be updated on that site throughout the year. Kidlit411 is an exciting new website that my friends Elaine Kiely Kearns and Sylvia have put together with a little help from their friends. They are building it up to be “the” place to go for kidlit information. I hope you will check it out. They have done a beautiful job. Just before I published Sylvia’s post, I thought of another contest. Pockets Magazine Fiction Contest – March 15 – August 15. BEST OF LUCK TO ALL WHO COMPETE OR APPLY FOR THE FABULOUS OPPORTUNITIES. MORE ABOUT THE SUB SIX SERIES: ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS

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