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“Nine Steps for Writers Dealing with Rejection”

By Erica S. Perl

“It’s just not what we’re looking for right now…”

“I really wanted to love it, but…”

“I didn’t connect with it…”

I’m not going to sugar coat it. Rejection stinks. Given the choice, I’d pick a root canal any day.

But, like it or not, rejection is part of every writer’s journey. So, I’ve come up with a process to deal with rejection, and I’m happy to share. If you have the skin of a rhinoceros, maybe you’ll never need it. But if you’re human like the rest of us, it just might come in handy someday.

  1. Get mad and stomp around. Seriously! Let the rejection wash over you and feel the white-hot rage and indignation. It’s not a happy feeling, but it is intense and you owe it to yourself to feel it, if only so that you can use that experience for material.
  2. Write down all the angry things you want to say to the editor who rejected your work (on paper, so you don’t accidentally click “send” or “reply all”). Be creative!
  3. Crumple up that paper (feel free to uncrumple it later and save it, so when someone else buys your book and it wins prizes or sells a zillion copies you can frame it and hang it in your office).
  4. Complain to your most sympathetic friend. This can be a friend who is covered in fur or plush. Or a human being, if you want. Just make sure it is someone who will listen and let you rant as long as you need to.
  5. Go for a long run. Or a long walk. Or just go outside. Listen to something distracting, like loud music or soothing music or a podcast that has nothing to do with your book! Truly get your mind off your troubles and perhaps get your adrenaline pumping.
  6. Take a deep breath. Or several deep breaths. Or several days of deep breaths, away from your piece. It’s tempting to go right back in but time away actually helps.
  7. When you’re ready, read the editor’s comments again.
  8. See if you can find anything useful in them, to make your work better. There’s a really difference between “it’s not for me” and “the pacing felt off and the character’s voice seemed too old….” The latter may or may not ring true for you, but it gives you something to look at and consider, should you wish to revise. Also, if you hear the same kind of feedback from more than one editor, it might suggest an area worth addressing.
  9. Start to revise. There are always ways to improve a piece and this is an opportunity to look at your piece with fresh eyes. So, take the time to see if it needs anything else before you send it out again. Hopefully, doing another round of edits will remind you of everything you love about your piece… everything that, hopefully, the next editor will see.

I wish I could tell you that, after a certain number of successful books, you no longer have to deal with rejection. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Rejection and revision paved the path to all of my successful books, including my newest one: The Ninth Night of Hanukkah.

And actually, I’m grateful. Because sometimes rejection has a silver lining: it pushes you to take your books to new heights, and make them better than you ever thought possible. So, please, hang in there. It will make the editorial acceptance you eventually receive taste all the sweeter, I promise!

Published September 15, 2020 from Sterling Children’s Books

About the Book: A heartwarming picture book with a fresh twist on a Hanukkah celebration: celebrating a ninth night with new neighbors and friends!

It’s Hanukkah, and Max and Rachel are excited to light the menorah in their family’s new apartment. But, unfortunately, their Hanukkah box is missing. So now they have no menorah, candles, dreidels, or, well, anything! Luckily, their neighbors are happy to help, offering thoughtful and often humorous stand-in items each night. And then, just as Hanukkah is about to end, Max and Rachel, inspired by the shamash (“helper”) candle, have a brilliant idea: they’re going to celebrate the Ninth Night of Hanukkah as a way to say thanks to everyone who’s helped them!

This book is not only a heartwarming and fun story, it’s also an invitation to join in a beautiful new Hanukkah tradition!

There is a free event kit that can be accessed via this page on Erica Perl’s website, including all sorts of goodies to have your own Shamash Night this season—pennants, thank you cards, a cultural guide, a special blessing, activities, and more!

Erica S. Perl is the author of more than thirty popular and critically-acclaimed books for young readers. Her middle grade novels include All Three Stooges (National Jewish Book Award, Sydney Taylor Honor Book) and When Life Gives You O.J. (Sydney Taylor Notable Book, ALA Notable Book. Her picture books include Chicken Butt!Goatilocks and the Three Bears, and Ferocious Fluffity. She also writes the Truth or Lie!Arnold and LouiseLucky Dogs, and Craftily Ever After (as “Martha Maker) series. And she keeps an Instagram cartoon journal @espcrawl. Visit her at ericaperl.com and follow her online @ericaperl.

Thank you, Erica, for being so open and honest about rejection!

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