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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rejections are stepping stones

I just cleaned out the hutches in my computer desk and found twelve letters. These were not just ordinary letters, but rejections from some of the best literary agents in the country. Now they sit in a Target bag, awaiting the walk to the dumpster.

In 2005, I began to send chapters of my novel The Kimono Lady Sings to agents. Postage was 39 cents back then.

Most of the rejections came in a form letter. Dear Author. One was a very light copied form letter, crooked on the page.

However, not all the rejections were tossed. One letter from a New York agency will remain by my computer. This agent took the time to explain why she was rejecting The Kimono Lady Sings.

She wrote:
Dear Alice,
Thank you for following up on my request and giving me the opportunity to read from THE KIMONO LADY SINGS. You have an eye for wry detail, and you write with great humor and pathos. Unfortunately, I'm going to pass. Though the situation confronting Nicole has the potential to be very inspiring, I had trouble connecting to her.

I hope another agent will feel differently, and wish you the best of luck in finding the right home for your book.

Because of this agent, I realized what was wrong with my novel. I had to make the narrative voice more compelling. While pulling weeds in my yard one afternoon, that voice came to me. The year was 2006 and by that fall, I had an agent to represent me. Bethany House accepted my novel, the title was changed to Rain Song, and in October 2008, it entered bookstores.

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