novelist | journalist | istist

How writers cope with rejection


That’s the average number of books, three-point-six, writers produce before they are traditionally published.

It’s also the number of times I’ve nearly choked to death on a ham sandwich while laughing at a dirty joke.

Not-so-Fun fact: Mama Cass did not actually die choking on a ham sandwich. I know, everyone under 35 is saying, “Who the fug is Mama Cass?”

Other Fun Fact: “Fug” is the word Norman Mailer used throughout his novel The Naked and The Dead because his publishers were scared to use the word “Fuck” … in a novel about war.

And, yes, reading of soldiers who are about to die but who say “Fug” is as annoying and unrealistic as you might think.

Any-hoo, I happen to be on 3.2 (unpublished) books, or 18,500 words into my fourth novel. (Update: I’m on 60,000 words of my fifth unpublished novel. I likes to write em but I don’t likes to query em!!!)

I have no illusion that this is a magic number. Though, 3.2 is the number of twerks I can pull before I’m out of breath. (You pull twerks, right?)

I understand numbers like these are for demonstration purposes only and it could take me writing 99 books before an agent returns my emails with anything other than, “Thank-you Mr. Gonz but the Fancy Pantz Literary Agency is not currently accepting erotic space lizard memoir at this time.”

The hope I get from 3.6 is in seeing the quality of my writing change over the years I’ve been plotting fiction with seriousness and intent.

When I look back at my scribbles from 1999—the year I decided something I’d long considered: to become a writer—I naturally cringe. But I am also heartened by the difference between then and now.

I probably don’t do myself any favors with future publishers by saying I have a hard time being optimistic. After all, you put your thoughts on paper and tie the finished scroll to the ankle of a giant dove and send her forth to share the good news of your genius.

What often comes back is a nearsighted crow who got lost in the Ozarks for six months and had to resort to wiping its ass on your manuscript.

I know the notes from lit mags say, “Thank-you … not a good fit … best of luck in your endeavors.”

But I read:

Dear Fat-ass,

The entire office had a good laugh at your most recent submission entitled “The Sad Story That Was Actually Happy.”

We get a lot of crap sent to us by delusional troglodytes, so you might imagine our surprise when we come across something of supreme awfulness.

Next time you rip off one of the classics, try not using the same character names as the original. It kind of gave it away.

Not only was your prose stilted, but your premise was ham-fisted—by which we mean we believe you wrote this story while holding large pieces of ham.

This is the only explanation our editors could arrive at to account for your mishandling of the English language. At times it seems as if you were using a phone book instead of a dictionary.

Not only will you never be published in the pages of our esteemed publication, but we have notified our contacts at both Papermate and Hammermill urging them never again to sell you writing supplies.

In short, sir, if you were our dog, we would have you shot.

That said, we wish you the best of luck in placing your story—preferably under several pounds of cat litter—and hope for nothing but the best in your endeavors.


Our copy editor was wondering what brand of ham you used.

SO, for now, I’ll keep reading other people’s books, writing sad lines in my journal that, more often than not, end in FUG!, and putting in work on my sexy space lizard tales.

And to answer your question, it’s Boar’s Head Tavern Ham. And, yes, it’s gluten-free.

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