Wednesday, February 9, 2011


THE ART OF REJECTION by Diana Raab past weekend I attended the annual AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) in DC, the largest writing conference in the country. There were 5000+ attendees. I was honored to moderate a panel discussion entitled, “The Art of Rejection: Giving and Receiving.” My esteemed panelists included Molly Peacock, Philip F. Deaver, Geeta Kothari, Wendy Call and Kevin Watson. Each panelist made a presentation on various aspects of rejection.I introduced our topic by thanking all the editors and publishers in the audience who in the past have rejected my work, which inspired me to pull this panel together. Here’s a glimpse at my introductory remarks:Rejection is inherent to many aspects of life, and the literary life is no exception. Rejections happen to emerging writers, published writers and literary greats. For example, Normal Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead was rejected by 11 publishers before it was accepted; Elie Weisel’s classic book Night was turned down by at least 15 publishers. Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead—which now sells 150,000 copies a year—was turned down at least a dozen times. If we let them, rejections can suck our spirits of their very essence. So, why do we torture ourselves like this? The reason is that rejection is a rite of passage in an author’s life. In order to ease the sting of receiving a rejection letter and to grow stronger as a result, it is important to understand what they are and what they are not, how to cope with them and how to move on.A rejection slip says nothing about your potential. It is not a rejection of you as an individual nor the value of your writing endeavors, but rather, it is the rejection of a piece of work submitted for possible publication.If you’re an editor or publisher and also a writer, the task of giving a rejection can be equally difficult. When I owned a small publishing company back in the 1980s I made sure each writer received a personal rejection letter, because I understood what it was like being on the other side.Saul Bellow says, “Rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, “To hell with you.”The panelists all had wonderful insights and we finished with a lively Q & A session. I was delighted that at the end of the panel a gentleman came to the podium and reached out to shake my hand. “I just want to say that I was not one of the editors to reject your work.” I looked down at his badge and it was Jay Rubin, the editor of a wonderful publication, Alehouse. I smiled and thanked him for accepting my essay some years back called, “The Poet’s Notebook.” Thanks again, Jay! Thank you for the opportunity to serve youShirley A. RoeManaging Editor,Allbooks Review

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