Tuesday, January 20, 2015

When the Branch Breaks: A Post about Rejection

The last year and a half has been pretty awesome. I’ve entered a program in school I’m really excited about, Leah’s on the adventure of a lifetime in Australia, and we’ve written a new novel that we’re in love with.

However, there was one big thing we focused on the last year: acquiring an agent to represent our young adult novel, JANE UNWRAPPED. But we weren’t querying, entering Twitter contests, or doing any other typical things an aspiring-author might be doing. Since the fall of 2013, we had been engaged in a review and revise with a certain agent, and throughout the year, focused only on these revisions.

This agent turned the book from a gigantic pile of word garbage to a fast-paced epic. We were flabbergasted at how she knew the story better than us, and we were so excited about every new draft. The notes she provided were extensive and detailed, and although we hadn’t signed, in the back of our minds, we thought there was no way she would spend so much of her time and energy on our manuscript without intention to sign.

But then, we didn’t hear from her for almost fives months.

It’s submission season, we said. Then: it’s the holidays, no one works during the holidays! Then: it’s after the holidays, so she must be catching up on other stuff. A week after sending our second nudge, we received a reply.

The agent replied that her client list had grown too large and she no longer had the time to dedicate to our novel.

Reading the email was like a blow to the stomach. I’ve never had an issue with rejections—in fact, they’re something Leah and I collect like badges of honour, laughing at each new one. But this was different. We had dedicated a year and a half to this one person’s vision of our book, and in our minds, we already considered ourselves a team.

It felt like I had been climbing a tree, clambering up the branches, and finally, I could see the top. I was still a few branches away, but the sunlight was streaming through, and I was reaching, reaching, reaching, just about to grab that last branch—

And then someone sawed off the branches I was holding onto, and I tumbled down towards the earth, collapsing on the ground. And all I could do was look up at how far there is to climb…

My significant other—a musician, so no stranger to creative rejection himself—said to me, after I gave him my tree-climbing analogy: “Turns out the branch snapped because the tree was rotting and you couldn’t tell that from the bottom. So now you can go find a new, healthy tree to climb, and you’re like five times better at climbing.”

As much as I want to dwell in my sadness, anger, frustration, and disappointment, it won’t make the agent change her mind. The book is miles better than it was this time last year, and the waiting time gave us the opportunity to write our new novel, which we’re super stoked about.

So what happened when I received that rejection? I sat and stared at it for a while, and then I cried that powerful, ugly kind-of cry that you save for only the worst occasions, and then I dried my face and sat down at my computer and wrote a new query letter.

I start climbing.


  1. Oh, no! That would be SO heartbreaking! I'm so sorry about the rejection, especially you put so much time into your rewrites. I do love your husband's attitude, though, and he is so right -- you learned a ton from this experience, and not only is this book far better than it was, but I bet your new one is better than anything you could/would have written before. Best of luck you you both as you query again!

  2. Thanks for the message, Caryn! Yeah, you're definitely right...the book has improved and we've learned a lot from the experience!

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