Thursday, October 28, 2010

The rejection sweater – a must-have fashion

Since we talked about cupcakes on the blog yesterday, I figure I might as well keep the topic going to infect you with the same cupcake lust that hit me last week.

Author Karen Amanda Hooper had a hilarious blog post in which she revealed a clever strategy for making rejections sting less. She and her writing pals decided to substitute the word “cupcake” for “rejection.”

I see the appeal. I just got three cupcakes from agents today has a pleasant ring, doesn’t it?

It reminded me of a habit several writing buddies and I adopted back in our earliest years of the submission game. This was before I sold my first book to Harlqeuin/Silhouette’s Bombshell line (which was canceled one month before my debut was scheduled to hit shelves…er, not that I’m bitter).

I had been waiting nearly a year for a response on a requested full manuscript, and the stress had taken a toll. One night, I had a dream I went to a big party attended by several editors. Since things always happen like this in dreams, I spotted the editor who had my submission.

I mustered the courage to approach her. “Have you made a decision yet?”

“Yes, of course,” she replied. “We’ve decided we aren’t interested in your manuscript, but we do have some lovely gifts for you.”


“Yes, here. We'd like you to have this apple and this sweater. Enjoy!”

I accepted the two items without question, since in the dream, it seemed perfectly logical to receive fruit and clothing from an editor.

When I told my writing pals about the dream, they were delighted. For the next year, each time on of us received a particularly heartbreaking rejection, the others rallied around her and bought an inexpensive sweater and an apple. We’d have coffee together and wear our rejection sweaters as badges of honor.

Even now – with countless rejections under my belt and a three-book deal to show for my struggles – I’m warmed by the idea of the rejection sweater. I know people say writing is a solitary pursuit, but I’ve never found that to be true. Everywhere I look, I see writers offering each other pats on the back and clever cupcake humor to cushion the blows.

Do you have any strategies for coping with rejection? Any interesting ways you’ve supported fellow authors in the face of a setback? Please share.

I have to go find my sweater.


Janet said...

I like the cupcake exchange! And a great idea about the 'badge of honor'. Interesting dream - wonder what the 'experts' would interpret that to be?

I have a Rejection Kit that I pull out when those cupcakes come.

Love the blog - I lurk her regularly :)

Janet said...

Or 'here' - 'her' just sounds creepy, doesn't it?

Claire Dawn said...

I'm actually looking forward to the day I have cupcakes of my own. Something must be wrong with me. lol.

Joyce Tremel said...

I think I'd have to build a new closet...

Karla Nellenbach said...

If they really were cupcakes, I'd probably weigh 982 lbs. just saying :)

Angela Perry said...

Aw, that's such a sweet idea! I sweater for comfort and an apple to keep going. Your subconscious rocks.

LR said...

Lol. I hate the word "rejection." Sounds so industrial.

Some lit mags and zines are now saying "declined" or "complete." Is supposed to lessen the blow. :)

Sarah W said...

Sometimes I think I have nothing but rejection strategies . . . if it's okay to link, I've collected some of them here.

Patty Blount said...

The comments are as great as the post!

Twitter. Michelle Wolfson's "tweet it out" post yesterday struck a chord in me. No matter what I'm feeling, I post it and someone out in the twitter-verse can make me smile again. I can always find someone who's 'been there, done that, bought the t-shirt'.

The key is to surround yourself with people who understand the pain of rejection. Or cupcakes.

Sonja Foust said...

That's really sweet! What a great group of friends. :) My writing buddies and I tend to allow each other 24 hours to wallow, whine, and generally be miserable. Then we buck each other up and ask where the new pages are.

Dominique said...

That's a lovely idea. Very sweet.

Delia said...

I have a favorite cupcake that I pull out of the freezer when lesser cupcakes arrive at my doorstep.

A while back, I received a rejection letter for a short story. Editors for short story publications are notoriously busy, so when I received a rejection which made it clear that the editor had read all the way to the end of the story (5800 words), made clear and valuable critiques, then ended by telling me the writing was solid, I was happy. Best. Cupcake. Ever.

When I get generic cupcakes, I pull out that old, wonderful cupcake and remind myself that I'm correcting my errors, my writing is solid, and someday the cupcakes of rejection will be replaced with the multi-layer tortes of acceptance. With ice cream.

Good lord that was a bad analogy. And now I'm hungry.

Roni Loren said...

Love both of those ideas! And I agree with you about the support of other writers. The writing community is one of the most positive and friendly groups I've ever come across.

Danica Avet said...

I love the idea of a rejection cupcake! Or sweater!

I had a rash of rejections last year, one after another and in my frustration, I decided to write my own rejection letter to myself. It went something like this:

Dear Ms. Avet,

We are sorry to inform you that your manuscript (insert title) has passed away. It fought the good fight, but after numerous slashes with the red pen, died from a lack of wit and plot. To save you the despair of burying your manuscript yourself, we decided to cremate it in an intricate ceremony complete with champagne and a weenie roast. The service was attended by all the editors here at (insert publishing house) and a lovely time was had by all. We're sending copies of the pictures from the service and the after party.


I thought it was funny. Then again, people do say I have a sick sense of humor.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I loved the cupcakes = rejection post! I've been calling them cupcakes ever since! I like the sweater idea, too. What a fun way to support each other. :-)

Sierra Godfrey said...

I strictly follow this formula:

1. Open e-mail and spot response from agent. Before clicking on it, I first open my Excel file and find her name so I can get ready to log the response.

2. Open the e-mail. If rejection, swoop it into a folder called "Rejections" that I don't ever look at again, and quickly log the rejection in the Excel file. I only read the rejection long enough to comprehend what it is: form, nice, or actually not a rejection at all but a request for a full -- in which case WHOOO HOOO!!!

In this way, I manage not to get my hopes up and then crushed, and then when it's good news, it's REALLY good news.

Jen J. Danna said...

You know, I have to say that I really like both the cupcake and the rejection sweater ideas. I'll have to remember them on days when the uh... cupcakes are coming fast and furious (Hmmm... where were you two days ago when I had 3 cupcakes in two days? ;) ).

And Danica, I love your letter! It made me laugh and that's something we can all use when we're up to our ears in query letters and rejections. Thanks for sharing your sense of humour with us...

Geoffrey Cubbage said...

Sounds healthier than drinking heavily, at least.

Jon Paul said...


Of course, one must be careful not get cupcakes on one's sweater, but sitting around wearing and eating badges of honor sounds like a pretty good time to me--especially when the alternative is considered. :)

Neurotic Workaholic said...

What a great idea! I think that getting a rejection sweater would definitely make me feel better. I wish I could say that I've helped some fellow writers in that way, but I don't actually know a lot of other writers (outside of the blogosphere, that is). Someday I'll join a writing group, and I'll tell them about your awesome idea for dealing with rejection.

Mary said...

Ha! Hum, I think I need a rejection sweater. Me, I had the agents' names on notecards and, when the sorry came, I stuck them in a drawer. Just a rejection drawer. Nothing cool.

But with this next go-round, definitely a sweater. Or cupcakes, though that could pack on the pounds...

Melissa Gill said...

Love the idea of the cupcakes and the sweater. I have a plan that if a certain agent that I've tagged as my # 1 rejects me, I'm going to buy a pint (okay, maybe even a half gallon) of pistachio ice cream and eat the whole thing. Obviously can't do for every rejection, maybe I should treat myself to something less fatning like a mani/pedi for rejections.

viewfromdownhere said...

I love the idea of the rejection sweater...totally makes the whole rejection thing much better!

lora96 said...

When I queried last fall I got nothing but "cupcakes" and I was keeping them on the refrigerator door so i could feel worse about myself and how I suck. My husband finally said if I didn't throw them away, he would.

They were invariable form-cupcakes, of the postcard variety.

I cried a lot.

That's not the kind of coping mechanism you were looking for?

Then I abandoned that book and started a new one. I'll go back to the first one because I adore it but I still can't LOOK at it without shame and terror.

Leona said...

I feel fortunate. Of the say 30 queries I've sent on 2 projects recently, I've only had like 5 (maybe less *frowns and tries to remember) form rejections. I have multiple--if you write something else send me a query-- from my fantasy query. I got a few send me more of stuff implications on a query I sent out that I didn't specify my low word count was aimed at an Harlequin impring. I've fixed said query. However, thinking of adding word count instead.

Anyways, I've been fortunate that so many people like my ideas and want to hear from me later. (I asked someone in business using the exact verbage if they meant what I thought they meant, and she said a resounding YES)

So, for me, it's only a matter of time, right?

:P I think how I'm dealing with it is to write write write and hope hope hope.

I like sweaters though...

Malin said...

I always get exasperated when meeting the prejudice that writers are solitary wolves - and I especially get that kind of prejudice from other writers. I'm the kind of person who are the most productive when I chat with people. Which means that if there aren't someone keeping me company in an IM, I have troubles writing (unless I'm really inspired).

Weird, perhaps, and it annoys me to be so depending on others, but it's the truth. When I told a writing friend about this, her immediate reaction was that I had to fix it, i.e. I had to change. I find it unfair. People demand silence and peace to write - why can't I demand joyous conversation?

Linda G. said...

Strategies for dealing with rejection? I like denial. As in, "Huh. Who wanted that one, anyway? In fact, I'm HAPPY about this rejection, because now I will be free to accept the totally cool offer that will be coming along later."

Yeah, I know. But it works better with a Manhattan. ;)

Matthew AT Banning said...

I usually just rant and rave on my blog over rejection. Most of them are the polite "not our style keep trying kind". I can see I have a lot of research ahead of me ...

Tawna Fenske said...

Janet, love the idea of the rejection kit! Too funny.

Claire Dawn, it’s true, “cupcakes” mean you’re making progress on your goals!

Joyce, we only got one sweater apiece (usually coinciding with the most crushing rejection).

Karla, LOL, they’d be a lot more delicious though, wouldn’t they?

Angela, I don’t know if my subconscious was really all that clever, but I like the way you think!

LR, my favorite term was always “passed.” As in “editor X passed on the green beans because she doesn’t particularly care for them, but editor Y sure does like green beans.”

Sarah, great strategies! Thanks so much for sharing!

Patty, I caught the tail end of the “tweet it out” thing. Michelle is always full of clever ideas like that!

Sonja, everyone needs a few tough-love writing buddies like that!

Dominique, the sweater, the apple, or the cupcakes? I guess they’re all kinda sweet, huh?

Delia, I have a rejection letter or two just like that! They always felt more like “almost there” letters, and I still have them :)

Roni, no kidding, writers are some of the most supportive people on the planet.

Danica, seriously spewed my drink on the keyboard laughing over your letter. Thanks for sharing!

Shannon, go forth and gather cupcakes and sweaters!

Sierra, I like your method! Works for me!

Jen, you can retroactively collect cupcakes and sweaters, you know :)

Geoffrey, oh, this is IN ADDITION to the drinking, of course.

Jon Paul, rejection sweaters look best with a little cupcake frosting smeared on the sleeve.

Neurotic Workaholic, nothing says you can’t build your support network entirely around online friends :)

Mary, um, yeah. The cupcakes and sweater are definitely more fun than the drawer!

Melissa, go for the whole gallon. You deserve it.

Viewfromdownhere, the sweater certainly keeps you warm for the wallowing!

Lora96, uh, yeah…not a very encouraging system you have there :)

Leona, it’s always just a matter of time if you keep at it!

Malin, I know I’ve seen studies that have found most writers are introverts, but that definitely doesn’t mean there aren’t extroverts like you who have needs that differ from the majority. Good for you for recognizing it!

Linda G, a Manhattan makes everything better :)

Matthew, hey, ranting and raving has its perks. I do it all the time myself.

Thanks for reading, guys!

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Thanks so much for the mention and link. :)

I love your sweater idea! Unfortunately that might get really hot down here in FL. Maybe we could offer each other a cute pair of flip flops instead.