Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sitting On A Rock Will Get You Noticed

I have been away for a week at a writing conference. It will take me a while to fully process the experience. There are layers that I must peel away like an onion and that will make my eyes sting as I prepare to slice through them. The experience changed me, as I needed to be changed.

On Thursday I met with the most distinguished man of the literary world that I will ever meet. It was as if I knelt at his feet; my offering of twenty pages stained with innocent ink, and hope littered in its white spaces. The chair he offered me was broken; a single cheek hung precariously off the one safe edge, my dignity struggled on the other.

He gazed at me through midnight transition lenses. Were his eyes making the glass darker or were his glasses turning his almond orbs into tiny spotlights revealing my absolute ineptness? Inept: That was the word he used to describe my story; or was it my writing, perhaps it was the author of it. He spoke to me as if it pained him; like the tin man grinding his un-oiled jaw, he was able to squeak only, “Drivel, folksy, backwoods.”

I felt the tears as they crawled up my organs, gaining momentum from all the emotional exercise I give them. I set my own jaw, knowing in this one heart beat of my life that I would not let the king of self-importance see my spirit leaking. I asked him a couple of questions: What did he think of the brother’s voice? He paused and for a split second his jelly-donut face oozed a cream-filled doubt. I asked him about my main character’s age and muteness, and he himself suddenly could not speak. If I could have moved my wooden hand, I would have slapped my forehead: He had not read beyond the first page-and-a-half.

He admitted it and told me he thought there was no market for my story and that he wasn’t sure anyone would understand it anyway. To make up for this slight, he picked apart my lack of a comma and a poor word choice until I understood my proper place once more: I was nobody. I understood it very well and a drawer shut in my mind. My story was placed inside and covered with a linen cloth.

I stood up when I had had enough; oh, and when he told me that he would only answer any questions that were related to what he had just discussed with me. There were none…only the barbed ones slicing through the sinew of my soul. I offered him my hand and thanked him for his ten minutes of time; twenty minutes less than we had set aside.

I left him in his unbroken chair.

My feet carried me away in a strange town. The tears marched their armies down my face until my lack of tissue was a problem. The bathroom was beside where he still sat. I unabashedly used my arm; it was a very ‘backwoods’ thing for me to do, maybe even a little ‘folksy.’ I decided not to tread too far from the afternoon session of the conference. My two sweet friends were saving me a seat inside; a seat I wasn’t planning to fill.

I chose a rather secluded bench and sat down, resting my aching pride. An elderly couple approached me and asked if they could have the seat. I obliged and stood outside the building my friends were in, until a camera man who was filming the conference set up his tripod right where I was standing. I found an unassuming rock and I did the only thing I knew: I wrote furiously in my notebook. I looked up and the camera was facing me.

I flinched. “Oh, am I in your way, AGAIN?”

The camera guy smiled, “Oh no. I’ve actually been filming you, if that’s okay. You are the epitome of what this conference is about.”

What irony. The conference, which hires the man, who breaks my heart, which causes me to write my sorrow, which prompts a person to be inspired, and include my moment in said conference’s video.

I opened that drawer in my head and took the story back out again, and I placed his words inside that drawer instead. And now I keep going; grateful for the experience, hungry to prove myself. And in my liberal use of the movie Pretty Woman:

Big Shot Editor: Yes, can I help you mere peasant person?
Rachel: I was here a few years back, you wouldn't read my story.
Big Shot Editor: Well, I never...
Rachel: Your literary journal prides itself on finding the best stories?
Big Shot Editor: Of course.
Rachel: Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go write now.

23 comments:

Kristina P. said...

Oh, Rachel. I am so sorry. Why would he be so cruel. Isn't he there to help lift up novice writers?

Christie Gardiner said...

I love this post. You know that you are a genius and that has to be enough. That's what I've decided in regards to myself as well. If it isn't enough that WE know we are great, we will always put stock in what the nobodies that think they're somebodies have to say.

**the muirs** said...

Rachel, I could read your writing for hours! Don't ever give up! One day I will walk into a bookstore and see you as a featured Author, and I'll be able to say, "I knew she would make it big!"
(I really want to use a line from Land Of The Lost right now, but I'm not sure its completely appropriate.)
In any case, just know that there are at least 41 people (your followers) that are HUGE fans of yours already!

Lara said...

That makes me angry for you. Seems completely pompous to judge a story without having read it in its entirety, and especially to only read 1/20th of it. I'm sorry you had to go through that.

This was beautiful, and I think you are an incredibly talented writer.

clan of the cave hair said...

"backwoods" eh? Well, sometimes that's just what the public needs, a voice they can understand. What if the chair were a test to see just how much you'd put up with? hmmmmm

clan of the cave hair said...

oh, AND, how ironic is it that you found yourself sitting there, looking the epitome of the conference only BECAUSE you'd been rejected. I actually think that's kind of cool.

mindij said...

Nice! I am so full of righteous indignation on your behalf! I want to find this guy and kick his a**!! I can't wait for the day you can have that conversation with him. The camera guy was right, you are what that conference was all about! I am sorry if that guy tainted your experience this week at all! You know you are better than this guy tried to make you feel! I say you not only put his useless words in that drawer in your mind but take it out to the shredder!

Christine said...

The nerve of that guy! Your ability to find the positive in the experience is inspiring. Good for you!

I'm glad you found your own rock, so to speak. Keep on writing. I would love to see the look on that man's face in a few years!

a Tonggu Momma said...

Kenneth Grahame once received a rejection letter which described The Wind in the Willows as "an irresponsible holiday story."

About The Diary of Anne Frank, a publisher once sent a rejection letter claiming that "the girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level."

Sent to George Orwell, about his book Animal Farm: "It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA."

And a publisher once wrote to Emily Dickinson that "[your poems] are generally devoid of true poetical qualities."

All of this to say... keep writing.

Robin said...

I read a review a long time ago about "The Age of Innocense" by Edith Wharton. The author of the article didn't like the book because the man's integrity won out in the end and so there was unrequited love (with another man's wife). That negative review spurned me on to read the book about a man with values, a man who had self-mastery.
It's all in the mind of the reader and we are all so different.
I'm sorry you had to go through this wretched experience but it is through writing that you found the only postivie thing about it.

trish said...

Keep on writing Rachel, I love it

Erin said...

Oh. My. Word. What a pompous, cruel little man. I love your Pretty Woman quote at the end. The fact that he didn't even give it a chance shows how little he actually cares about his profession! That is just plain ridiculous.

And you ARE amazing.

rubberbandgirl said...

So interesting that he thought he could just stop at a page and a half and not read on.
Inept? That's just mean.
And Johnny! Ugh! Huge mistake! (love the PW quote here, it's perfect).
I wanna know what Clara was doing to him in her head as you walked away.
This post was great writing and Mr. Almond-eyed, transition-lens guy is obviously a misogynist.

Lara said...

Sorry. That doesn't sound like the kind of experience you were hoping for. I admire you for putting yourself out there and at least trying. That is more than I am doing. And you are a great writer!

Btw, I was reading in Mormon Doctrine under "Book of Life" when I read some of the info that I shared with you in another comment. It is an interesting read.

The Kooky Queen--Rachel said...

Um, I would be happy if you would publish your blog with it's liquid jelly donut cream filled words (did you really say that? I almost laughed even though I knew it was sad!)!!! You are amazing and you *will* get noticed! Find an agent immediately!! Keep trying!!!!

Donna said...

What a jerk! I've had experience in the publishing world in Manhattan, and it can be pretty cut-throat. But that editor was out of line. Editors can be far kinder and more attentive than that. I hope you were able to get some good stuff out of the conference anyway. You are talented and don't let Mr. Big Shot tell you otherwise!

Kerri said...

Oh, what a hard thing to have to go through. I personally think you are a great writer. I only wish I coul dthink of the things you ddo and express myself in the same way you do. Don't give up. You can do anything .

Tink said...

Crap-o-la woman! That just sucks! How heart-wrenching to be torn apart like that! I so admire your spirit and determination cuz I would have crawled in the gutter and thrown the book away. I did that once and regret it to this day. I love the quote by Thomas Edison where he says: "I have not failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." You will succeed and I cherish the day you can put it back in his face!

Kellie said...

I'm sorry, Rachel! What a terrible experience. What conference was it? I can't believe someone was full enough of himself to not bother reading your manuscript and then tell you it was "folksy". Wow. Hey, do you have a critique group? I was thinking about starting an online one. You are welcome to join if you want.

Melissa said...

I personally adore your writing, especially this post. Your similes are wonderful. I really hope you find success. With all the other crap that DOES get published, you certainly deserve a chance for your, uh, non-crap :)

Jeana said...

Rachel, you really are a great writer (but I don't need to say this because I'm person 21 commenting on your blog saying it). Anyway, he was out of line and someday he'll be sorry. You'll be telling a room full of people about the way he rejected you after he introduces you to read. I still stand by loving your story and if he can't see the beauty in it, then poor him!

Shauna said...

Hope you have a Happy 4th of July weekend :) ♥ HUGS ♥

Finding Joy in the Moments said...

What a world we live in. I guess we get to experience all the emotions that go with opposition in all things. I know your self confidence will rise above is remarks. One day things will change for you.Then we will have to pay money to hear your stories. Remember what Albert Einstien said. When you fall, you get up again and again until you acheive what you were working for. I will always belive in you.