Rejection: Thanks, Linda! I’m VERY happy to be here. I’ve known many of you Mayhemmers for a long time. (Howdy, Caroline Starr Rose!) As a matter of fact, Linda, you and I go waaaay back.
Me: Hold up…. Let’s get something straight. Yes, we’ve known each other for a long time, since the early 1990’s, tbh. But that doesn’t mean we go way back. Going waaaay back, in my opinion, denotes a certain level of friendliness. And you, Mr. Rejection, are no friend of mine.
Rejection: Oh, touchy, aren’t you?
Me: You should know. You’ve made me cry a few times, haven’t you?
Rejection: A few times? Girl, please. I made you cry a whole lotta times.
Me: And now you’re bragging about it?!?!
Rejection: Not bragging. Just stating the facts. Here’s the deal, sweetheart. My job is to make people better, more specifically for the purpose of this conversation, to make you guys better writers.
Me (under my breath): Do you have to be so ruthless about it?
Rejection: I heard that. And the answer is yes. I can’t let you guys off easily. No pain, no gain, baby. I mean, would you have ever written Midnight Without a Moon if I had let you get that little funeral home story published?
Me: Hey, don’t make fun of my funeral home story. I love that story!
Rejection (under his breath): Obviously, you queried it for five and a half years.
Me: I heard that.
Rejection: Good! I’m glad you heard it. I hope you learned something from all that pain I put you through. Otherwise, my time has been wasted.
Me: Oh, I learned plenty. Thank you very much.
Rejection: Such as?
Me: Don’t get stuck on one project, no matter how much you love it. And regardless of how many agents have requested the full and provided positive feedback, or how many pitch contests the project has won, I should have been seriously writing more projects and querying them.
Rejection: But you did write more manuscripts. I remember doing my magic to make sure those were under my spell too. You didn’t get anywhere with them.
Me: I know. But I realized I had gotten to the point where I wanted an agent more than anything else in the world. My focus was all wrong. I was writing to get a “yes” instead of writing to tell a story that I felt like people needed to hear, or read, rather.
Rejection (smiling broadly): Awww. I feel like a proud papa. That’s exactly what I was hoping to accomplish by putting you through the wringer the way I did.
Me (rolling eyes)
Rejection: What else did you learn?
Rejection (clapping): Bravo! Another score for Rejection! I really know how to knock the pride out of you guys!
Me (under my breath): And the wind too.
Rejection (laughing): Sorry about that.
Me: Sure you are.
Rejection: Remember that time I made you break down and cry right in front of your computer? I mean, that rejection stung so hard that you hadn’t even finished reading the email before you started bawling.
Me: But, I survived.
Rejection: Yes, you did. You were a real trooper…simply unstoppable.
Me: Well, I don’t know about unstoppable. I think I was ready to quit. If you hadn’t stopped coming at me in 2015, I might have given up.
Rejection: Wait! What?!?! You mean I was THAT close to breaking you?
Me: Yep. You sure were.
Rejection (slaps forehead): Aw, man! One more year, huh?
Me: Yep. That’s what I was giving myself.
Rejection: You’re saying that now, Linda. But as I recall, you said that every year. “Just one more year. If I don’t make it this time, I’m quitting.”
Me (chuckling): I did say that, didn’t I?
Rejection: Yep. Every year. Actually, you said it after every full request, too. You said, “If this one isn’t ‘the one,’ then I’m done.” Then I’d show up. Then you’d cry. Then you’d go listen to some inspirational song or read some inspirational post. Then you’d be right back at it the next day.
Me: I was pretty stubborn, huh?
Rejection: No, honey. You were resilient. (Gestures around the Mayhem blog) You all were. I tried to break you guys, but you just kept going. You were all so determined.
Me: Why, Rejection? Why do you put people through all this? I know you said to make us better writers and to make us humble, but why make it so hard? Don’t you trust that we’ll improve our skills and appreciate our success without so much pain?
Rejection: You read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, right?
Me: I did.
Rejection: Remember what he said about brick walls?
Me (Googling): He said, “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.”
Rejection (wiping tears from his eyes): I’m sorry I hurt you so badly, Linda. I’m sorry I hurt all you guys, Mayhemmers. But do you now understand why I did it? You guys wanted this badly enough to take everything that I threw at you. You were unstoppable. And I am very proud of you. But please know that my job is never completely done. You will still face rejection. But I know you will persevere. All of you, because you are winners.
Me: Thank you, Rejection, not just for being here with us at Project Middle Grade Mayhem today, but for being present with us during our writing journey. Thank you for showing up when we needed you even though we didn’t want you there. You were like a helicopter parent who knows what’s best for her kid even when the kid doesn’t realize it at the time. You made us better writers. And because you humbled us, we don’t mind helping others along the way. No offense, but you are both hated and loved at the same time.
Rejection: No offense taken, my dear. I’m just happy to do my job. Now I must leave you guys. I have some dreams to try to crush. Good bye.Me: So long, Rejection. I’m not looking forward to seeing you again any time soon.