Books are a forest and it’s hard to see the trees, except the tall ones or the old ones. But when you enter the forest, it’s the new growth that emits the sunlight....

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"I was born to reject rejection" - a tune Hans Christian Andersen might have liked

I’d hardly begun submitting creative work when I first heard the theme song of Oklahoma Crude, “I Was Born to Reject Rejection.” 
I saw the movie on late-night TV and then on “Film du Jour,” the afternoon films in the Twin Cities.  I can still hum the theme song melody, many years later.  Faye Dunaway was trying to work a laggard oil derrick. The hired man, George C. Scott, helped her grudgingly when Jack Palance, that great villain, threatened to take her property. 

AgentTracker is a site where you can record your rejections and have access to the websites, the statistics, and the feedback of agents and publishers.  If you only want to see positive information, the people who are considering your full manuscripts, you can just filter that.  But those round red faces of rejection.  After awhile, the tomatoes lose their impact.

Buying used books, I keep a mental list of what I want to read.  At the local library sale, one of my scarce finds was Hans Christian Andersen’s The Story of My Life, an 1871 Hurd and Houghton edition, possibly a First American Edition.  Although the book was sturdy, I’m afraid to read old books.  Sometimes they disintegrate in your hands.  When this book sold, I had to have a look before the buyer paid for it.

Then I had to keep reading until the last hour.  Hans Christian Andersen’s life was a fairy tale.  The son of a shoemaker, he described visiting a jail and then an insane asylum as a child.  His grandmother gardened for the asylum, a woman from a well-off family who married a comic actor.  Hans had a thing for puppet theatre and when he began making clothes for his puppets, his mother decided he should become a tailor.  This boy was off to see everything early and somehow he met Prince Christian who later become King Christian the Eighth of Denmark.  Hans wanted an education but Prince Christian assumed he would work in a craft, much to Hans’ disappointment.

He took off for Copenhagen as a teenager and literally knocked on the doors of every famous person in the arts.  He sang until his voice broke and danced until he found a mentor.  Then he wrote a tragedy, only to be told that he should stop writing until he got an education.  Somehow his benefactor obtained funds from royalty for his education. 

After publishing his poetry to acclaim amongst the poet friends he’d collected, he was terribly hurt by the cruel criticism that followed.  Somehow he obtained funds from royalty to travel.  He said no one wrote him, realizing his clownish reputation, and when he returned, he wrote Wonder Stories for children.  The Little Mermaid paved the way.  After that, Hans Christian Anderson continued to consort with royalty and traveled everywhere, meeting the Grimm Brothers, Mendelssohn, Dickens, and of course, Jenny Lind.

This guy never stopped.  I’d thought that writers were chosen.  Hans Christian Andersen was chosen to reject rejection.  Amongst the many insults he garnered was that of the Grimm Brother who had never heard of him.  He was really a whirlwind fairytale, shoemaker to castle.

It just goes to show that things haven’t changed so much.  I’m not so good at knocking on doors and I hardly know how to beg.  So I took the traditional approach in launching my fantasy book, The House in Windward Leaves.   I went to the reviewers and found a few good lists.  After submitting to editors and agents over the years, I found submitting to reviewers a very pleasant project.  It was a risk, asking for reviews from people who read a lot.  But published books are really about readers.  Of all the submissions I’ve ever done, I enjoyed these review submissions the most, however they turned out.  That became a bit of a spiral, finding people who wanted to read my book, and wanting to find more.