20 February 2012


by Fran Rizer

When I was a young divorcee, there was a very popular singles club where many of us liked to go listen to the live band. A young, fairly good-looking man stood outside the door every Friday night. When I went with a date, he ignored us, but when I went on girls' night out, he propositioned us as we entered.

"Wouldn't one of you like to save some time, skip this place, and just go home and spend the night with me?" he asked.

One night, I stopped and said, "Don't you think you're being ridiculous? Nobody's going to just meet you at the door and go home with you."

The man smiled. "You don't understand," he said. "Girls and women are hardly ever rejected. Men and boys face rejection frequently. I don't bother wasting a whole lot of time and money only to be rejected at closing time." He winked and ended his comment, "This might seem ridiculous to you, but sometimes I get lucky."

As I've interacted with other writers through the years, I've often thought of that man standing at the door, hoping to get lucky without investing time or money. In the world of writing, females are rejected as often as males, and we hope that acceptances are more than just "getting lucky."

Now, I could go two ways with this opening. I might talk about folks who write without investing time to edit and rewrite, then can't understand why their manuscripts are rejected, or I could take this opening in another direction.

The word - R E J E C T I O N - echoes in my mind to the tune of Elvis Presley singing "Suspicion." But, speaking of Elvis (young photo on right), does everyone remember that when he went to Nashville, the big dogs told him, "Go on home to Memphis and back to driving a truck.
You'll never make it."

When a publisher was presented with the Diary of Anne Frank (photo on left), the reader's response was, "a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances, and adolescent emotions." He also thought the characters were unappealing and lacked familiarity. Continuing to justify its rejection, he wrote, "Even if the work had come to light five years ago when the subject was timely, I don't see that there would have been a chance for it." His conclusion was that publishing wouldn't be worthwhile.

Am I the only one who was required to read The Good Earth in high school? The book won a Pulitzer and its author, Pearl S. Buck (photo on right), won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The manuscript was originally rejected because, "Americans aren't interested in anything to do with China."

George Orwell (photo on left) had his novel Animal Farm (1945) rejected because "Nobody will print this. It's impossible to sell animal stories in the United States." This allegorical novella, along with the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four have together sold more copies than any other two books by any twentieth century author. George Orwell was a pen name. His real name was Eric Arthur Blair. BTW, if you like biographies, his life is fascinating.

Many of you are familiar with the fifth-grader who cautioned me that Dr. Seuss was rejected eighteen times before his first book was published. In researching this, I found out Seuss was actually declined twenty-seven times for the first book and additionally turned down for some of his works after becoming successful. I'll save Dr. Seuss for fuller treatment on another day.

Several other Sleuth Sayers have already addressed the subject of rejection, and Rob wrote a fantastic piece about being turned down on February 1, 2012. Why am I writing about rejection? To me, it's personal today. A deal that was almost closed fell apart. I comfort myself with the tales of people who were rejected yet made it bigger than I ever even dreamed.

What will I do now? Exactly what all those others did. I'll just keep on keepin' on. Talent and craftsmanship count, but success requires perseverance as well.

I could go on with stories like these forever, but the night is late and I feel the need to call it a day so this can be posted on time. I entitled this NO NAME BLOG because I couldn't think of a good title. My brief tale about Mick Jagger and his picture to the right have given me the perfect name for this article.

When The Rolling Stones sought a recording contract, they were told they'd never get anywhere with "that ugly lead singer."

Here's Mick illustrating my title: THE LAST LAUGH!

Until we meet again. . .take care of YOU.


  1. R E J E C T I O N … I hear Aretha Franklin, but the words ain't sweet.

    A celebrated student in Terre Haute supposedly stood outside dance halls and crudely proposition girls… and seldom went home alone. Reportedly he based that on a W.C. Fields legend. Years later, Philip Roth (Portnoy's Complaint) alleged he had a 'friend' who was similarly successful, based on quantity, not quality.

    But that's an excellent observation, that conditioned guys routinely handle rejection, but it's upsetting to women who don't have that same training.

    Which reminds me… I recently received another polite rejection, but R E J E C T I O N nonetheless. (sigh)

  2. It sometimes comforts me to think that editors are a lower life form.

  3. "Girls and women are hardly ever rejected"??? Puh-leeze! I always knew those guys who stood at the door of clubs weren't the sharpest tacks in the box. It amazes me that anybody allows these morons to decide if they're young, thin, and well-dressed enough to get into these places.

  4. Thanls for the kind words, Fran.
    one of the many editors who rejected Tony Hillerman's first book advised him to "take out the Indians."

  5. Thanls for the kind words, Fran.
    one of the many editors who rejected Tony Hillerman's first book advised him to "take out the Indians."

  6. Fran, good blog. I just strolled down Memory Lane on some of my rejections. My favorite is the one from the Lawrence County Jail. I'm probably the only author rejected by a jail.
    I had submitted a biker story (under one of my undercover aliases) to an editor for his annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally publication. In the meantime, the editor had violated his probation for drugs, got thrown in the county clink and had all his mail forwarded to his new location. Next thing I knew, here came a double rejection from the Lawrence County Jail to my undercover post office box. First, the editor rejected my story, and secondly, the jail informed me they had a policy and I was not to send more than four pages of communication to any jail inmate. It's my favorite rejection.

  7. Ah, rejection. One of my favorites apparently places me in good company--I was told that publishers aren't interested in characters and stories set in other countries...in this case Mexico.

    Good piece, Fran. It always hurts, doesn't it?

  8. I enjoyed this, Fran. And I'm glad to see you're hopping right back on the horse, as usual.

    Love the bit about Animal Farm being rejected because nobody reads animal stories. lol

    Reminds me of a writer I once knew who wrote a love story set against the backdrop of the war in Viet Nam. She tried to sell it to a magazine in the early part of the war, and showed me the editor's old rejection letter, in which he said something to the effect of: This story is wonderful, but the Viet Nam setting is all wrong; that's just a little dust-up over there and by the time we brought the story out, all the fighting will be over.

  9. Having spent the day at the hospital with Mom, I didn't have an opportunity to get back to each of you during the day. (She'll probably go back to the rehab center tomorrow. She hasn't had a stroke, but she'd confused, calls me "Mama," and wants me there all the time. My son's there now.}

    Maybe our group project should be a book of rejection stories...just kidding. I wouldn't buy that myself. Thanks for sharing. You each brigtened a grim day, but I have to confess the most unusual comment had to do with getting two rejections from jail!

  10. It's a wonder H.P. Lovecraft sold anything. He apparantly submitted a lot of his manuscripts hand-written. A typewriter might have gotten him more regular sales and might have altered literary history. Better income, a better diet and H.P.L. might have lived a few decades longer!

  11. Great article Fran. Hope your Mom is better & getting help at rehab.
    I think Margaret Mitchell got something lie 39 rejections for GWTW, might be why she never tried again. And Rob is right about Tony being told to take out all that Indian stuff.
    One of my favorite rejections came from the mouth of an editor who read JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL. She said she threw it across the room & said something like, I'd never publish that trash.
    You just keep on trucking. Perserverance is the name of the game. Believe in what you're doing. The best will make it.


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