Friday, May 14, 2010

Seeds of Knowledge

Snowflakes from Heaven

I’d like to chat about rejection letters. Are they the demons and bitter pills and a writer’s worst nightmare? Every writer has traveled this long and winding road, and if you’re having a bad day, receiving a rejection letter might just be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Rejection letters make us doubt our writing ability, our creative muse, and ultimately, ourselves and our purpose. With the devil perched on our shoulder, better add the why was I even born syndrome to the mix. Before long, chins are dragging on the floor and the poor poor pitiful me party is just getting started.

After a long bout with progressive blindness, due to diabetic retinopathy, my life took a severe nose dive. I went from being a legal secretary for a judge to not being able to see the paper, let alone the print. But worst than that, I could no longer pursue my passion of painting. With a strong creative muse and nowhere to channel it, life became as dull as my existence. But when I heard about a computer with adaptive software, converting text to synthesized speech, hope soared. With a new outlook and a new direction, I challenged myself to write a romantic suspense.

Once I’d written my first full length novel, I envisioned agents and Hollywood movie producers beating a path to my door. With this happy little fantasy in mind, I whipped out twenty-one submission packages to top New York agents. Then I sat back, waiting for the phone to ring off the hook. It never rang. But slowly but surely, all agents responded to my romantic suspense, each a rejection letter. The worst of the lot said simply, “Your project does not excite us.”

With that little devil perched on my shoulder once more, my first reaction was to fire back an email of attack. Everything in me wanted to scream they’d be sorry when what they so carelessly pitched in the trash wound up a New York Times bestseller. But my psychology classes kicked in, and Freud’s ego component mediated between the devil and the angel. I orchestrated a new plan of attack. I enrolled in creative writing classes, joined critique groups and attended conferences. It didn’t take long to realize why my novel was rejected. Using knowledge as power, I learned to accept criticism from group members. And while attending a conference, The door to Wild Rose Press was opened. One more grain of knowledge to add to the list. I was marketing my novel in the wrong genre. While it had elements of romance, it did not fit the standard romance category and was rejected once more.

Unwilling to ditch the dream of having my first novel published, I set it aside on my hard drive. For the next two years, I focused on short stories of romance and had several rosettes published by White Rose Publishing. Looking back now, I view the petals of the white roses as snowflakes from heaven. They were sent to me as messengers, reminding me that writing is a gift that takes time to craft. The old saying came to mind. “Stop and smell the roses.” Before my rosettes could blossom into full-grown roses, I needed to nurture them with tender loving care. God knew this and forced me with His loving hand to take time to smell the roses.

After more writing classes and critiques, I felt ready to move onward to a mission near and dear to my heart. I self-published a book about my struggles with diabetic retinopathy, giving a percentage of proceeds to JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) fight for a cure. More confident in my writing skills, I wrote a full length romantic suspense which was contracted. Now, it was time to attack my first novel, still sitting pretty on my hard drive collecting dust.

While polishing it to the best of my ability, I recalled the words of a teacher in my writing class. She said the first book written is rarely the first book sold. Truer words were never spoken. After twenty-two rejection letters, three title changes and numerous rewrites, my first novel has a home.

So are rejection letters really the bad seed we make them out to be? You betcha. But that one straw that could have broke the camel’s back made my back stronger. Writing is a learning experience. The key is keeping up with the continuous changes in the writing world and knowing the market in which you are targeting. Rejection letters hurt, but for every rejection there is acceptance. The secret to all of this is faith. Faith will open doors. God knows what we need and we must trust Him to put the plan in motion. What’s the most valuable lesson I’ve learned through all of this? I’m a better writer today than I was yesterday, but not as good as I will be tomorrow.

Sharon Donovan lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her family. Prior to the loss of her vision, she was a legal secretary for the Court of Common Pleas where she prepared cases for judges in Domestic Relations. Painting was her passion. When she could no longer paint, she began attending creative writing classes and memoir workshops. After a long and winding road, a new dream rose. Today, instead of painting her pictures on canvas, Sharon paints her pictures with words.

Sharon writes stories of inspiration and suspense. She has certificates in business and medical transcription. She is a published author with The Wild Rose Press, White Rose Publishing, Whimsical Publications and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Echo of a Raven is a CTRR recipient, and The Claddagh Ring is a CAPA nominee. Lasting Love earned readers pick of the month at Find a Great Romance. To read excerpts and reviews of Sharon’s books and to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website:


Donna B said...

Nice post Sharon. I love the rose petals quote!

Robin Bayne said...

Yes, thought-provoking : )

Sharon Donovan said...

Thanks, Donna and Robin. Much appreciated. Writing is hard work and as with all things, God has a plan.

Sharon Donovan said...

Oh, it's the Duke to the rescue...and right on time. Hang in there Mary! Lyn and I are rustling up some broncos! Hi Celia, a white tablecloth at a barbecue? Blame it on Oliver and BTW, good gues about all the exes living in Texas. LOL
Jan, what a wonderful and fun guest you've been. Thank you so much for participating. Have a sleep under the stars and we promise you'll be safe! LOL

Marianne Evans said...

Fantastic post, Sharon - God takes even the things we see as negatives to teach us, and mold us into what He wants us to become - according to his always GOOD and loving will.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Marianne, truer words were never spoken. All of life's little mysteries slowly unfold in their own place and time under God's plan.