Monday, November 30, 2009

A Sure Cure for Rejection: Get mad, Then Get Published
by Judy Lockhart DiGregorio

Anger erupted in me like hot lava when an editor critiqued my manuscript at a writing conference. His insensitive comments irritated me so much I fled home after the session, sat down at my computer, and literally pounded the keyboard as I began to flesh out an article rebutting each thing he said. My fragile ego couldn’t handle honest feedback.
I wanted to be petted and stroked like my calico cat. I wanted to be tickled under the chin. Instead, the editor had informed me, in effect, that my writing had fleas. To work through my anger and frustration, I wrote an article about the experience called “Feedback: Who Needs It?” In the article, I addressed each criticism and suggestion the editor had offered during my evaluation.
After I cooled down, I realized the suggestions he offered me were invaluable. They were specific. They were accurate. They were true. I needed to hear them.
After several rejections, I successfully sold the article to (, an e-zine for professional writers. Then I sent a copy of it to the editor, thanking him for the suggestions that had enabled me to publish the article. I was still a beginning writer, but I had already learned one lesson. Accept criticism gracefully and learn from it. I wanted to be the best writer I could be, but I could not improve without help.
I continued writing and submitting my work. During a particularly frustrating period, I received 27 rejection letters in a row. Finally, I received a handwritten note scribbled on the bottom of a form letter from an editor at Field and Stream. The note chastised me for not paying more attention to the magazine guidelines.
Under the note, the editor had scrawled a word that electrified me -- “Retry.” This editor obviously recognized my talent, even if she didn’t accept this particular piece. I kissed the letter reverently and stuffed it into my pocket. In my excitement, I pulled it out to read and reread.
Unfortunately, when I scanned the letter again the next day, I made a startling discovery. The scribbled word at the bottom of the page matched the signature block on the letter. It did not say ‘Retry.’ It said ‘Betsy,’ the editor’s first name. In my desperation, I had misread the editor’s handwritten signature. My hopes of fame and fortune popped quicker than a balloon.
After eventually publishing several articles in regional and local magazines, I lobbied the editor of our local paper to give me a humor column. I informed him that I was dependable, funny, and cheap. He didn’t care. I left him sample columns and visited him every three months. After nine months, he finally gave me a column -- to stop my visits, I guess. Unfortunately, he took another job after my column appeared four times. The interim editor cut back on local columnists so I was once more columnless.
When a new editor finally started work, I employed the same strategy I had with the first editor. Again, I had to wait almost a year. This time the editor offered me a humor column in the newspaper’s supplementary publication, Senior Living magazine. I accepted at once. The pay was low, but the exposure was high. Since the magazine was distributed in hospitals, fitness centers, credit unions, and hotels, it gave me a great deal of visibility and added to my writing credentials.
Today I am a humor columnist who has published over 300 columns in several publications including pieces in the Army-Navy Times, ByLine Magazine, the Chicken Soup books, and The Writer. I’ve learned quite a bit since that first painful writing critique many years ago. Now I’m much better at handling rejection and accepting criticism. Patience and persistence enable me to survive rejection and successfully publish in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. You can do it, too.
Just be patient, be persistent, and be published!
Judy DiGregorio lives in Oak Ridge, TN. Celtic Cat Publishing published her collection of humorous essays, “Life Among the Lilliputians” in 2008. She is currently at work on her second humor book. Visit her website and blog at Parts of this column appeared in “The Writer” in April 2003.

1 comment:

Kory Wells said...

A great article, Judy! Just as I let a new poem or story "sit" for a while before I decide what further attention it needs, I also let any criticism sit for a while, too. I find that with time, criticism often becomes more meaningful, whether I first discounted it because of my ego, or because I simply wasn't at a level of craft to fully appreciate the critiquer's comments.