((Yes, Snoopy. When was the last time you saw Snoopy on Jungle Red? It was a dark and stormy night...)
So you know book conventions, right? Panels of authors talking about new ideas and new books and writing and reading and..stuff like: voice. But at Bouchercon in St. Louis a week or so ago, something very strange happened on one of the panels. "Voice" took on a whole new context.The panelists...wait for it...SANG. SANG! Would you have the moxie to sing your answers?
Just call me crazy…
I must be a glutton for punishment. That’s the only explanation for my career choices. I’m a professional singer and actress. I might even dance for you if you pay me enough. Both the singer and actress fields filled with oodles of rejections. So, of course, I decide to pursue the next obvious choice - an author.
Can someone please tell me what I was thinking? I have to admit that I’m not sure I was thinking at all. Becoming an author was never one of my childhood dreams. I was a reader not a writer. Every day I hauled my backpack filled with text books and at least one novel to school with me. My local library was a favorite destination. But never in all my childhood daydreams did I think I would one day write a book that would sit on a library shelf. Then one day, I sat down one day with an idea for an opening line for a novel in my head and I started writing for my own pleasure. To see if I could. To see what would happen next.
What happened next was that I learned I liked the challenge of filling a blank page. (Yep, there’s that ‘glutton for punishment’ theme again.) So, I decided to try to write a real book. Once that book was done I decided to start submitting it to editors and agents. That’s when the rejection started. I wrote another book. More rejections.
Funny, but my other professions made me ideally suited to the rejection that inevitably comes along with writing. Sure, there are some writers who get their first manuscripts published. (This was so not me. It took me five attempts to finally get the call.) But even those published-out-of-the-gate writers get rejections on later manuscripts or in the form of bad reviews. Rejection is something that comes with the territory. And I traveled lots of that not so happy territory in my myriad of careers.
Funny, but I’m really grateful for those rejections. Yeah, I realize that my gratitude for being kicked to the curb makes me slightly unbalanced. I’m okay with that. But one thing I know is those rejection letters is that they made me a better writer. They also gave me time to figure out what kind of stories I really wanted to write. See, when I started writing, I decided I was going to write emotionally driven women’s fiction. Perhaps because some of my favorite books are ones that tug at my heart strings and make me cry. Well, I tried. I really did. I wanted to make people sigh and weep and feel as if the author was a close friend who understood their problems. Some of my best author friends are fabulous at making me read with a box of tissues close at hand. I wanted to be them when I grew up.
Instead, I wrote about a dead body in a roller rink toilet, an ex-circus camel that wears hats and a grandfather who impersonates Elvis. Yeah – so much for growing up into a hard-hitting women’s fiction writer. Trying to become one was like putting a triangular peg into a round hole. A miracle girdle hasn’t been invented yet that could squash me enough into the right shape and size. The agents and editors who read those attempts probably understood that.
Today, I sit behind my computer screen and write whatever off-the-wall thing pops into my head and I enjoy every minute of it. And those rejection letters? Well, I wear them as a badge of honor and am thankful for every one of them. For good or for ill, they made me the writer I am today.
So how about you? Rejections make you stronger? Or just make you feel--rejected? How do you deal with it? And how have you changed?
And we're giving away a copy of Joelle's book to a lucky commenter!
Joelle Charbonneau is the author of the Rebecca Robbins and Paige Marshall mysteries
Skating Over The Line ~ Out Now! ~ Minotaur Books
Murder For Choir ~ July 2012 ~ Berkley Prime Crime