Friday, February 15, 2013

Opportunity? You Look So Different...

The day had come.

The day for which I had waited six long weeks.

The day on which the second publisher to which I sent my novel finally replied to my inquiry.

(Sidebar: A few years ago, a different publisher read an earlier draft, and though it praised the novel’s “strong memorable characters and gorgeous turns of phrase,” it declined to publish my book. Don’t get me started on figuring that one out)

Anyway, the day had come.

The email had hit my Inbox.

I took a deep breath, glanced at Horace for strength, and opened the document.

(Let's just get to the good part, shall we?) 

The email said: “We regret to inform you that your book does not fit our needs at this time… We sincerely hope that you continue writing, and please feel free to query us with future projects.”

But I read: “You suck. Your book sucks. And no one will ever have any use for you or this monstrosity you call a manuscript. Please cease and desist with this notion of publishing it because you are only embarrassing yourself.”

Pretty much sums it up.
Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles /

I thought the publisher would envelop my novel in an angel-laden glory cloud and promise to get it to press within a month. And I expected that because, well, I’m adorably naive and think life is an extended outtake from a Disney movie.

But at the very least, I thought the publisher would express some level of interest in my book (and in me by extension) and offer one of their editors to help me tweak what minor issues the manuscript might contain.

I did not expect a bare bones form letter so polite I could hardly take offense at it.

Not by a long shot.

To my credit, I didn’t open my mouth after reading those devastating words, other than to read them to Horace.

And to hyperventilate when the tears would no longer hold.

Big, fat tears of dejection and disappointment.

My dream was dying, and those big meanies at the publishing house had killed it.

When I read that email, I literally saw all my hopes for my publishing future dissipate into nothing. Every promotional event, book club meeting, and e-chat…they vanished before my eyes, and I was left with nothing.

In a few seconds, with a few choice words, I lost my vision.

Then I recalled a verse from the number one bestselling book of all time: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18)

And another verse reminding me that “this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5)

And still another which cautions that in my tongue is the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21).

And I realized something:

My dream only dies if I let it.

And I am no murderer.

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles /
So I dried my face, clamped my lips shut, and used my figurative mouth to salvage the situation.

I reached out to the girls who held my hands during the writing/editing process – we call ourselves “The Sisterhood of Moo” (don’t ask) – because they’d worked hard too and deserved to know what the publisher said. I spoke plainly and without tears and thanked them for their invaluable hand-holding along the way.

And something amazing happened.

One of them was so taken aback by the publisher’s response – not the rejection itself but the lack of feedback in the reply – that she reached out to someone in the company.

And guess what I discovered?

They do not hate my book.

They do not think I am a waste of air and skin who is systemically ruining the English language every time I set pen to paper.

They do, however, have simple, helpful suggestions on how the novel could be improved.

And should I decide to revise the manuscript with those problematic areas corrected, they would be happy to look at my novel again.

In truth, I could have replied to their email and asked for these suggestions myself.

But because I was too weak to take care of myself, God sent me two angels care for me instead.

After my friend finished her conversation with the publishing company rep, the Moo girls and I spent the next six hours discussing the suggestions and dissecting my manuscript. They used words like “we can fix that” and “our problem was presentation.”



Five little letters representing five very important words:

“We are in this together.”

And four more besides:

“You are not alone.”

And as this celestial conversation continued, I recalled something I’d repeatedly said during the editing process: “I won’t be discouraged by their feedback—I can’t wait to hear it! Because if there is something wrong with my novel, I want to know what it is so I can fix it.”

So now I know.

But knowing is only half the battle.

It is the communal, communicative half. The half requiring me to trust in others who can do for me what I cannot do for myself.

It is vital and precious, and I am most grateful for it.

But there is another half, the half without which the first is rendered moot.

And that half is all on me.

It is the half requiring me to confront my first draft with purpose and fearlessness.

It is the half urging me to believe a better book lies within the lines and spaces of the one I submitted, if only I summon the courage to unearth it.

And it is the half demanding I shake off the shame of failure and see this development for what it truly is:

An opportunity.

And as they are rumored to knock but once, please pardon me while I answer the door.

But don't get up--I'll need some company on my journey to Yes.

Won't you join me?

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