The Agony of Rejection, and Picking Oneself Up

I know the writers whose books I buy had a ton of rejections before anyone offered them agent representation or a publishing contract.

I know this. It still sucks.

Today I got another one, from an agent I had allowed myself a glimmer of hope for.  Ah well.

Man, it stings. I can’t help but look at myself and say “Dude, you went to VP.  And for two years since then it’s all rejections.  You suck.” But I know that guy.  He’s the same stupid bastard who’s been shit-talking me since I was a kid.

He’s an asshole.  And he’s also an idiot.  Because I still have options.

It’s time to look over this query, polish the pages and synopsis, and keep going.

I don’t have nearly enough rejections to quit now.

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VP Directory Project

Fellow VPers! Some have expressed interest in a VP Alumni Directory. In an attempt to get that started, I’ve created a Google Form to collect data.

Required fields are Name, VP year, City, State, and Email. I didn’t think it was useful to let those be optional, though if people have an issue with that I can change it. Phone number is entirely optional (I didn’t put mine in).

The downside of this form is that it’s open to anyone with the link, but there’s just no way to control for that without requiring people to sign in to Google. I felt this way works.

Right now only I can see the results; my plan is to compile the information into a directory available only to VP Alums and Staff. If enough people would prefer the underlying spreadsheet be available I can do that, too.

If you have any suggestions or critique re: information sought, please do talk to me.

The form can be found at the end of this link.

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A Note for Writers: Angry Robot Books

In case you’ve somehow missed it, Angry Robot Books, publishers of Wesley Chu’s Lives of Tao trilogy and Ferret Steinmetz’ Flux series, among others, is holding an “Open Door” period from 1 December 2015 to 31 January 2016.

Here’s all the details. 

I plan to get my submission package ready to send off well before the period opens. Getting in early probably won’t mean a faster response, but it will mean I know I got it in there.

Still a fairly minor chance of getting picked up–this is not, non writer friends, a sure thing. But it’s a cool chance.

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Checking in from Queryland

My novel has now gone out to a total of 9 agents.  That’s really not many at all, but I’m holding now until I hear back from a few more.  Otherwise I get overwhelmed.  Also, doing research on good prospects takes time.  Setting aside the obvious bad idea scam agents, there are some agents who are probably good, but not quite what I want at this point in my search.

Anyway, I’ve had two hard rejects (where I actually got a rejection note) and one “soft” reject (“If you haven’t heard from us in a month, we’re not interested”).

To give non-writers some perspective, I know bestselling authors who got upwards of 300 rejections before they ever got something accepted.  So I’m still in the beginning of the process.  But man, I’m hoping most of those were short story submissions, because I’m not sure I can handle 300 agents.

But, well, nothing says this book will be the one to sell.  Might be another one. And, well, that’s okay.  I mean, I’d prefer it be this one; it was fun to write, and the beta readers liked it well enough.

Of the agents currently holding my query, the shortest length of time is 1 day, the longest is 63 days.  From what I understand, the two agents at 63 days could take months before I hear anything.  That’s what this business is like.

One of the agents has had it longer than his average turnaround time for either rejections or representation offers.  It’s hard not to read anything into that, but I’m trying my hardest not to–for all I know he’s been busy and hasn’t even looked at the query yet.  Or maybe he didn’t like it but knew someone else in his agency might and is having them look.  Or maybe he’s thinking about it.  Or maybe it got lost in his spam filter.  See how damaging this can be if you think about it too much?

At any rate, I’m still working on a crit I am way behind on.  Once I get that done, I’ll be returning to work on The Ceremony of Innocence, book 2 of The Remembrance War (titles, of course, subject to change).

Onward and upward.

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State of the Teacher/Writer/Father


One of the frustrating things about teaching–and there are many frustrating things–is that I am often working with students who have a completely different set of values than my own.  I’m really really good at connecting to students who come from a similar class background to mine–middle class or higher.  But I’m somewhat less good at connecting with kids from “the hood.”

One of the things where we just don’t connect is that I cannot conceive of physically hurting someone unless it was to directly prevent harm to someone else.  But some of my students think even getting looked at in the “wrong” way is enough to launch into a full-on fight.  I can intellectually understand their thought-chain, but I will never truly “grok” it.

So, yeah.  Quite frustrated with that stuff today.

Further teacher weirdness:  Didn’t get an interview for a position I applied for at a school that I believe would be a better fit for me (same kinds and range of students, but staffed by people more like me).  Three out of our four admin team members left the school, leaving us with one experienced member and three newbies.  I can’t say more in a public place.


The search for agent representation continues.  So far I’ve had one actual rejection and one “silent rejection,” which means the agent basically says “If you don’t hear from us in X weeks, we’re passing on your submission.”  And it’s been twice that time.  Still out to several others who have response times of two to six (six! six! six!) months.

So, the search continues.  Every few days I decide on someone else to query and send it out there.

In the meantime, work on Remembrance War 2, currently titled The Ceremony of Innocence, proceeds.


My poor daughter is having a rough time in school.  It’s getting better, but it’s frustrating to see her struggle with math, as I did.  I do my best to help, but it’s hard to maintain my perspective sometimes, and I finally get my dad in ways I never did when he was alive.  Wish I could talk to him about it.

Her eighth birthday is coming up this weekend.  Looking forward to that.


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On Race, Microaggression, and Teaching the Wrong Lesson

Like almost all white teachers who work in “urban” (which is EdSpeak for “mostly PoC and poor”) schools, I’ve been accused of racism for things like asking a kid who was being disruptive to stop and do his work.  Now, I don’t do that to only PoC, but when it is a PoC, sometimes they feel that I’m singling them out.

I’ve always scoffed at that accusation and made a joke about it.  But after today, I can’t do that.

See, Justina Ireland tweeted something today:

Now, I’ve heard this before, but I’ve always taken a bit of issue with it.  So I decided to ask:

Now, I’ll freely admit that question might be a little clueless, but hey–I’m speaking, and living, from my position of privilege.  And I’ve asked this question of others, and almost always got a reply that was utterly useless, consisting of just repeating what was originally said and expecting me to just accept it, with no attempt at explanation.  And while I know where that kind of response comes from, it’s not helpful. So I decided it was worth looking a little stupid if necessary to get a real answer, and I’ve grown to trust Justina’s commentary on this kind of thing as being pretty balanced.

Her reply was illuminating:

And I thought: Oh good!  Since that’s NOT what I do, I’m not being racist!  Keep in mind, you can say or do racist things and not be a racist person–in other words, and perhaps more clearly: You can think all people are equal and deserve equal treatment, but still say or do things that are racist, either because you never learned better, or because you just don’t think about it that way (but honestly, you should).

But then she said:

And that got me.  Because I have almost always said “Oh, don’t be ridiculous” and moved on.  And maybe sometimes that’s OK, because the kid isn’t being serious in their accusation.  But most of the time, I’d say I’m doing more harm than good with that response.  Because as soon as I tell the kid they’re being ridiculous, I’m telling them their concerns aren’t worth listening to, that they’ll get nowhere with me if they try to engage me on that level.  In other words, I’m acting like a racist.

What a lightning bolt.

I’ve known teachers I considered to be racist (not at my current site, but in the past).  And I’ve always been sure I was better than that.  Clearly, I wasn’t. In YEARS of inclusivity training, classroom management training, diversity training, it has never been explained to me in the right words to make me understand that.  But Justina got it to me in exactly the way I needed to see it.  And now I wonder at how much damage I may have caused in the past.  And I see why some kids just shut down and wouldn’t talk to me anymore.

So what does this mean?  It means that, this year, I need to work harder at not being That Guy.  I need to make sure I don’t just tell a kid they’re being silly, and ask them instead why they think that–maybe not at that moment, but before the day is out.  And I need to open my ears and my heart, and really listen.

I’ll fail, from time to time.  But I’ll keep trying.

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Synopses: The New Hell

Before attending Viable Paradise, I would finish a novel, realize it was bad, and trunk it.  I did that four or five times.  Most of them have long since been lost to the vicissitudes of changing formats and the modern lack of floppy drives, and that is more than likely a good thing.

Now, I’ve finished The Widening Gyre, and rather than trunk it, I’m actually going to send it out.  I’m sure I could dither about with one or two more beta cycles, but the truth is, I don’t see a whole lot changing at this point.  I had six people take a look at it, and I utilized the vast majority of their feedback–I think there was one thing from a couple of readers where I said “Meh, that’s not something I agree with,” but most of the feedback I got was incredibly helpful and made me sit up and say “Oh, wow, she’s right.  I better deal with that.”  I’m sure that if an agent bites, I’ll need to do more, and if an editor bites down the road, still more–but for now, it’s done.

Which means I have to write the synopsis for agent queries.  And I’ve never actually had to do this before.  All the agents in my first round want 1 to 2 pages of synopsis, then a variable number of pages.  I did not like my first attempt at a synopsis, so I did it again and I like that one a little better, but now I’m paralyzed with fear that all the agents in the world will read the synopsis, roll their eyes, and reject it out of hand.  Which is probably silly, but what can I do?  Self doubt is my busiest demon.

Anyway, I’m currently on a ten-minute break from cleaning my office, and my time is about up.  So I’m going to go finish that job, and then come back to getting this thing ready for submission.  The sooner I do it, the sooner the rejections will come, right?


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