Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review: Other People's Rejection Letters

I think I was expecting something a bit different from this book, although if I had read the subtitle, I wouldn't have gone into it thinking it would primarily be about rejection letters received by other writers. The entire title is: Other People's Rejection Letters: Relationship Enders, Career Killers, and 150 Other Letters You'll Be Glad You Didn't Receive. The book covered a far wider spectrum of rejection than I was anticipating, but it was still a somewhat enjoyable experience to eavesdrop on other people's disappointments and rejections (I almost feel guilty saying that ... almost).

Although many of the letters are downright lame, I think my favorite part was a small section at the end of the book where several of the letters are explained more fully and the reader learns what happened after the rejection. For example, there were three hilarious Water Frog Certificates where the poor little girl was refused admittance to the next level up in her water training because she could not master the face float. She went on to earn an MVP title with her high school swimming team. The biggest belly laugh of all arose from eight rejection letters received by a Mr. Richard Barrett after he supposedly sent a manuscript titled, Insanity of War, to the most bizarre recipients (including Texas Instruments, Charlton Heston, Walter Cronkite, The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, General Motors, King Hussein of Amman, Yale University and the Vatican). One recipient actually responded with "We have reviewed the material and are unsure of your purpose in sending it to us, so we are returning it to you for safekeeping." Another man received fifteen rejection letters from NASA, but was accepted into the program on his sixteenth try.

By far, the strangest entry was a letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald, written to his daughter Scottie while she was away at college. The letter is sharp and critical and full of vitriol. But, the caustic tone isn't what renders it amusing. I was fascinated because the letter is so poorly written. He urges her to read it twice because he wrote it twice. You'd think he'd have communicated better after going over it a second time. You'd be wrong.

As with one writer who rejected the editor by failing to send any rejection letters, the topic of rejection caused me to think. She writes, "I don't have any rejection letters in my possession and it's not because I always have excelled at everything I've done, I think it's because I haven't put myself out there enough - haven't taken enough chances." In a similar way, I don't think I've put myself, or my writings, out there enough. I receive a few rejections and immediately withdraw from the process of sending things out. I must remedy this. The rejection needs to propel me to try harder (yet with wisdom, not willy-nilly like Mr. Barrett - ha) and to fail to shrink back from the repeated failure. Who knows? Maybe on that sixteenth try, someone will bite and a publisher will offer to take my work on. I mustn't give up at attempt number six. I must keep putting my work out there for consideration. And, I must keep writing regardless of any rejection letters I may receive.

No comments: