I wrote in secret for many years, lying to my friends and family about how I was spending my time, and lying to myself about being able to do it alone. Why? Because I didn’t want to fail. And, if I did fail, I didn’t want anyone to know I’d failed.
Back then, manuscripts were printed out and submitted by snail mail. The savvy author sent along a self-addressed stamped envelope for the editor’s response, and a post card for the editor to return acknowledging receipt of the manuscript. Once the postcard was returned, the wait began. Would I get a letter saying we want to publish your manuscript? Would it change my life? Would I be a success? Well, no.
When the entire manuscript came back, it was heartbreaking. I knew before I opened the package that it was a pass. But, it wasn’t. Not exactly. The first manuscript I ever submitted was to a romance publisher, and it came back with a letter asking me to revise and resubmit. I didn’t really understand what that meant. To me, a no was a no. I tore up all three hundred pages of that manuscript and threw it in the trash. Then I started on a new one.
The same thing happened three times in a row. After that, I started to catch on. I took the editor’s advice and revised the manuscript. I worked on the parts she said were weak, and left the other parts the way they were. I sent it off and promptly received a form rejection. It hurt worse than the previous four rejections combined. I did what any intelligent person would do, and quit.
Just kidding. I quit for a little while. Then I tried again. While I was waiting to hear something about my fifth romance manuscript, I ran into an old friend. She told me she was a writer, and I blurted out that I was too. It was the first time I’d told anyone about my endeavor to become published. She told me about a short story contest and suggested I write something to enter. I did. Even better, I won the contest! Which meant my story was going to be published, and my secret would be out. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.
My friend encouraged me to join a professional writers’ organization. I joined Sisters in Crime, and I wish I had joined sooner. The writing community is generous and supportive. I quickly learned how fortunate I had been to receive a request to revise and resubmit my first manuscript, and how foolish I’d been to rip it up and delete it from my computer. I learned more about the craft of writing, made some writing friends, and leaned how to navigate social media. Mostly, I learned that everyone gets rejections, and that rejection isn’t failure.
I’ve been hooked on writing short stories since that first contest win. I’ve been published more than a dozen times, and every time is a thrill. But, I still get rejections, too. Writing will always be a solitary pursuit. Luckily, I have readers to share my stories with, and other writers to share my rejections with. The point is, whether I receive a rejection or an acceptance, I no longer try to go it alone.
Since winning the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Short Story Award in 2014, my stories have appeared in over a dozen publications including Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Spinetingler Magazine, Flash Bang Mysteries, Crimson Streets, and several Chicken Soup for the Soul volumes.