Sunday, February 24, 2008

Who’s Superstitious?

Well, I am. Just a little. I always start a new story as a “save as” file of a story that did well, for example. And maybe it’s a writer’s thing—magical thinking would be, right?--because Alison Tyler admits she’s superstitious, too.

One of my superstitions is that I don’t talk publicly about a story acceptance until I hold the published book in my hands. (A novel is different because you have to promote it starting like years before you write it--honest!) Now, given the vicissitudes of publishing, this is probably more just a matter of prudence. Alison told me she’s the same way and she mentioned something about lots of rejections and as she says in her blog I did in fact write back: “Rejected? You?”

I mean come on, what crazy loon would pass up the chance to publish an Alison Tyler story? She’s like the Goddess of Erotica!

But, of course, rejection is part of this business, so much a part of it. I stopped counting but I know I’ve piled up hundreds of rejections (some nice, most impersonal, a few quite gratuitously nasty and I haven't forgotten you, you jerks, yes, some day you'll be sorry!) and for stories that later went on to fame. It all has to do with taste and editorial needs and other factors beyond our control. I guess there is a part of me that likes to fantasize that some writers never face rejection or they work their way up the ladder to a shining and glorious land of eternal acceptance. Rather like those erotica stories where complete strangers have sex and they're so perfect together, they come ten times in two minutes.

But Alison’s acknowledgment that even she gets a “no” now and then reminded me that rejections are also a badge of courage. We take the risk of baring our soul on the page, sending our masterpieces out into the world and subjecting them to the callous scrutiny of all-too practical publishers, agents, editors. And often enough the bastards say “no.” But we keep on with our work anyway. If that’s not courage, I don’t know what else is!

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