27 October 2014

An Honest Rejection Letter

Carla Damron
A Caleb Knowles Mystery
SleuthSayer readers and writers, please allow me to introduce a superb South Carolina mystery writer– Carla Damron. I've known Carla since we met at the SC Book Festival years ago, and our paths have crossed numerous times since then. Damron blogs on Writers Who Kill and in September she posted about rejection– not the usual "oh, woe is me, I got another one," but a piece she called "An Honest Rejection Letter." I thought those of you who have ever received a rejection (and I'm told that even the most successful writers have been on the receiving end of those little letters that tear our hearts out) would enjoy reading her blog. I'm going to share it with you, but, first, here's a little more about Carla.

Described as a "writer of social issues mysteries," Carla is a licensed clinical social worker and, like me, she's a true southerner born and raised in South Carolina. Her counselor experiences resonate in her three mystery novels: Keeping Silent (2001, mass market 2002), Spider Blue, (2005 trade paper 2006) and Death in Zooville (2010).

Caleb Knowles, a social worker who was described in a Charlotte Observer review as "a social worker with a delightfully dry sense of humor" is the protagonist in these first three novels. In Death in Zooville, Caleb and his deaf brother Sam become entangled in the world of poverty, addiction, and homelessness.

Some SSers may have met Carla Damron as she has been a featured speaker and panel member at many writers' conferences and will be at Murder in the Magic City, Birmingham, Alabama, in February, 2015. For more about her, check out her webpage www.carladamron.com

I am just back from a wonderful writing retreat among some very creative women. Part of our weekend included writing exercises. The following is one I completed—a story in a letter. Sort of. My fellow wild women writers suggested I share it, so here goes!
Dear Author,

Thank you for submitting your novel, A Long Road to Nowhere, to Acme Publishing. Unfortunately we do not feel it is a good fit for our company. It may have been a good fit, had I read it before lunch, and if lunch hadn't included two glasses of a very nice chardonnay.

Or maybe it would have fit if I hadn’t just read five chapters of someone’s else’s work, an Apocalyptic YA novel about transgendered vampires, that had an opening which I loved, but completely fell apart at chapter two. (Seriously? A transgendered vampire would not convert to Buddhism.)

And, you may not want to hear that we just accepted someone else’s work, a coming of age graphic novel, reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird, except that it’s set on planet Zargon and the protagonist has tentacled arms and drives a moon-ship. Graphic novels are all the rage this week.

And perhaps your work would have fit with Acme Publishing, if my boss, the assistant acquisitions editor, hadn't just handed me the novella written by our editor-in-chief’s thirteen-year-old niece, with orders that I find something in it that’s salvageable. “She did a nice job with her margins” was not, apparently, strong enough praise.

Your manuscript aside, I found your query letter striking. Interesting that you mentioned sending it to forty other publishing companies. Were we supposed to be flattered to be number forty-one? And, while I’m very glad that your mother loved the work and your writer’s group thinks it’s as good or better than Joyce Carol Oates, these opinions are likely biased. (My mother loved my high school performance of Anne Frank but you don’t see me on Broadway, do you?)

The inclusion of a bottle of scotch with your manuscript was a nice addition. Perhaps it would have scored more points with me if the editorial committee hadn’t snagged it before I saw the label. They’re in the board room right now singing Abba tunes.

As you know, author, the selection process is a subjective one, and you may find another publishing house that is eager to accept your work.

Best wishes,
Intern to the assistant acquisitions editor

PS. What's the most interesting or fun or depressing rejection you've ever received?
This has nothing to do with today's topic.  Melodie and Eve
wanted to see me in my clown costume.  Here it is.  I'm second
from left (as though you couldn't tell!) Hate I can't find a full-
length picture because my hot pink and purple cowboy boots
were magnificent both in Nashville and as a clown.

Until we meet again, take care of . . . you!


  1. Love the rejection letter.
    I remember one of my kind agents sending on a rejection with a note saying, " he must have been drunk."
    But lets face it, there are no good rejection letters.

  2. 30027
    Janice, I totally agree that there are no good rejection letters, but if we didn't laugh about them, I'd probably cry.

  3. Janice, I also meant to say your agent is a lot kinder than mine.

  4. Nice piece. An agent once sent me a note saying she was declining to represent my diet book. I had sent her a novel. Was she trying to tell me something?

  5. Rob, I think your rejection story is hilarious and depressingly sad at the same time. Thanks for telling us about it.

  6. I have a friend who received a rejection letter from a literary magazine for a short story he'd submitted. The rejection letter arrived the day after they had published the story!

  7. That was funny. Thanks for sharing, Fran. And, Mr. Lopresti, I hope there isn't a nutritionist out there somewhere living off your royalties...

  8. Carla, that's a hoot, but people (and computers) make mistakes to give us something to laugh about. Thanks for letting me share this!

  9. Rick, do you think Rob Lopresti's mystery book might help me lose weight?

  10. Boy, when I think about "an honest rejection letter" with respect to MY writing, I fear I imagine something like this (which is why I fear such a letter!): "Dear Madam, Why you apparently think you are a writer is beyond all of us here at EZ Publishing. Although I must say you gave several of us a good laugh this afternoon as we shared some of your more ridiculous similes and awkward descriptions. ("It was as dark as the inside of the trans-Bay BART tunnel in a power outtage" was one of our favorites.) We suggest that whatever it is you do to pay the rent, you keep doing it. And don't send us any more of your manuscripts. If, in fact (as our senior editor posited), the material you sent us was in actuality penned by your precocious 6-year old nephew, tell him not to send us anything more either. Sincerely and with my fingers pinching shut my nostils..."

  11. Well, I could wallpaper my office with rejection letters and have no paint showing, but, since I don't really want to feel suicidal EVERY day, I'll stick with wall to wall bookshelves. Sigh.

    Great picture, Fran! And I hope to see the boots at Bouchercon? And great post!

  12. Anonymous, I certainly hope you never get a rejection quite like that, but I fear that everytime I send something new to my agent.

    Eve, I agree wall to wall book shelves are the way to go. I loved those boots, but, alas, I lost them one weekend (no explanation will be forth coming).

  13. Carla, That's hilarious.

    And Anon, poor thing… may that never happen and you persevere in the face of adversity.

    Fran, knowing your impish (devilish?) personality and seeing the great clown suit… Well, my imagination is working overtime filling in the blanks about the boots story.

    My friends the May sisters (hi, girls!) opted for a 2nd (or 3rd) career and attended clown school. But sister Roberta hit upon an amazing offshoot. In full costume with attached white hair and rosy cheeks, she makes the best Santa you've ever seen as long as she cinches down her generous bosom. Her Father Christmas really is an wonderful and realistic transformation.

  14. Nice. The best rejection (email) I ever got was the one (for a sci-fi story) where the editor hated the story with so much vengeance and fury, it took him about 10 paragraphs to explain his anger. He didn't like the plot, the setting, the twist ending, or even like the character names. Nothing. Naturally, I later sold the story.

  15. Leigh, that's funny about the May sisters, especially since I used a Santa suit over the weekend to shoot some stills for Facebook about Callie.

  16. Stephen, thanks for reaffirming my belief that anything that causes a strong emotional reaction is a writing with strength. Did you let the writer of the rejection know when you sold it?

  17. Fran, no. But I like to imagine (with a wicked witch of the east cackle) that he was a subscriber to the magazine it got printed in.

  18. Fran, this was a really fun post. Thanks for brightening my day! And, why is it I suspect Tequila may have had something to do with you losing those boots??? LOL


  19. Stephen, I'll imagine the rejector was a subscriber, also.

    Dixon, I can't imagine why you might think I ever dated Jose. I can't put his last name because I can't spell Quervo.

  20. (Laughing) Actually, Fran, I was thinking of a recent hit Country song by "another Jose": Joe Nichols. LOL My wife often sings along to it when it's on the radio.

  21. Fran, I don't know if reading my novel will cause you to lose weight (spoil your appetite?) but i think you should definitely buy it and try the experiment..


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