Monday, June 11, 2012


by Jane Harrington

New to this blog, I’ve been reading over prior posts and thinking about what writing workshop advice I can offer that hasn’t already, and so swimmingly, been addressed. What ideas might I stand on and spring from? What words of wisdom will land me in this pool with but a graceful ripple? It should be something gentle, coaxing, encouraging.…

Nah. I’m going with the cannonball, the big splash. Today’s topic: REJECTION.

Believe it or not, I’ve had good fun with this at author visits. After getting the How do you get published? question for years, I began keeping a list of publishing opportunities for young wordsmiths on my website. Eyes open wide when I scroll through this list and preview some of the print magazines that publish children’s writing and art (Creative Kids, Stone Soup), writing communities that allow kids to start their own serial novels (Figment), and social literary networks for book chatting and reviewing (Goodreads). And when they see a list of writing contests—well, the energy in the room is palpable. Then I tell them that they’ll probably be rejected.

At this point, I push aside my laptop and pull out the folder I have also brought, which is filled with rejection letters. And I point out that there are a whole lot more of these than books I’ve published. (Though, fortunately, the books represent more width on my shelf.) And I read some aloud, and then pass some around and tell the students to please not be careful with them. Drop them! Accidentally step on them! They are mean, awful things that made me feel terrible. But I also tell the students that when I get one of these I only let myself wallow in the bad vibe for the rest of the day. (It used to be a week, but I’ve gotten really good at being rejected.) I wake up the next morning defiant, ready to prove that letter wrong—to reshape that reject and resubmit it. That’s what you have to do as a writer, I say to them. You have to perch your toes on the edge of the board again, and turn a belly-flop into a swan dive.

Maybe by way of another belly-flop, but that’s okay!

If you too want to help young writers get rejected, check out my website for ideas: (click on the “yo, publish!” tab).

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