Friday, August 12, 2011

Lucky Number 61

The other day, I read a story about Kathryn Stockett, author of the best-seller, The Help (coming soon to a theater near you..)

Now, I haven't read The Help (although my wife's book group did, and there was apparently discussion aplenty.) But what interested me in the piece was that Stockett soldiered on through three and a half years of years of rejections--60 in total--before hitting lucky number 61.

Here's what Stockett wrote in a piece for Yahoo!

By rejection number 45, I was truly neurotic. It was all I could think about—revising the book, making it better, getting an agent, getting it published. I insisted on rewriting the last chapter an hour before I was due at the hospital to give birth to my daughter. I would not go to the hospital until I’d typed The End. I was still poring over my research in my hospital room when the nurse looked at me like I wasn’t human and said in a New Jersey accent, “Put the book down, you nut job—you’re crowning.”


It got worse. I started lying to my husband. It was as if I were having an affair—with 10 black maids and a skinny white girl. After my daughter was born, I began sneaking off to hotels on the weekends to get in a few hours of writing. I’m off to the Poconos! Off on a girls’ weekend! I’d say. Meanwhile, I’d be at the Comfort Inn around the corner. It was an awful way to act, but—for God’s sake—I could not make myself give up.


In the end, I received 60 rejections forThe Help. But letter number 61 was the one that accepted me. After my five years of writing and three and a half years of rejection, an agent named Susan Ramer took pity on me. What if I had given up at 15? Or 40? Or even 60? Three weeks later, Susan sold The Help to Amy Einhorn Books.

The point is, I can’t tell you how to succeed. But I can tell you how not to: Give in to the shame of being rejected and put your manuscript—or painting, song, voice, dance moves, [insert passion here]—in the coffin that is your bedside drawer and close it for good. I guarantee you that it won’t take you anywhere. Or you could do what this writer did: Give in to your obsession instead.
All I can say is good for Kathryn Stockett. May those of you (us!) who are querying be blessed with a similar perseverance--or, at the very least, a Comfort Inn around the corner.

What do you think? Could you handle 60 rejections of your beloved novel?


8 comments:

  1. "Could you handle 60 rejections of your beloved novel?"

    Bwahahahaha! Sorry. It's just: I handled a lot more than that before I got an agent.

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  2. I'm glad she didn't give in. I read 'The Help' almost in one sitting and thought it was excellent.

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  3. Loved this book!

    I'm nowhere near the querying stage yet. Still tapping away at a first draft. But there are times when I feel like it's a piece of garbage and just want to give up. Stories like Stockett's inspire me to keep on going.

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  4. oh I love how she called the drawer next to the bed a coffin!
    now that's writing...and I did love the book too
    off to see the movie
    I hope they make The Hotel at the corner of Bitter and Sweet into a Movie
    I wonder how many rejections he got?
    good topic there Michael
    can't wait to hear more about your conference

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  5. I'm pretty sure I've already had 60. They're all my fault though, for querying like WAY too early.

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  6. My daughter has just finished the book and can't wait to see the movie! Stockett is a brave lady and I do admire her! I was neurotic by 10 rejections and I hate to admit that now! Great post for the day, Michael!

    Sylvia

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  7. I thought the average was 100+ She did good...And you can't live cutting off your voice...whatever love it is.

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