Friday, February 15, 2008

Rejection Phone Call

I've received plenty of rejections in my writing life. But the best one ever came from Steve Meltzer at Dutton Children's Books.

I sent Mr. Meltzer an early draft of my Valentine's Day manuscript (when the chase still went around the globe, and the Valentine still jumped into a volcano). He responded with a revision request, and in his letter he asked me if I had been trying to do a fractured version of the Gingerbread Man story.

The Gingerbread Man??? That thought had never even crossed my mind!

My initial reaction was that this editor obviously didn't get what I was trying to do. Gingerbread Man stories were sweet and a little boring. I was trying to be edgy and fun. But then I went to the library and read every fractured Gingerbread tale I could find. THE STINKY CHEESE MAN was my favorite. And it inspired me to think I could write a fractured fairy tale and still be edgy.

So I went to work. Thinking in this new Gingerbread Man framework was the key to my success. When I sent Mr. Meltzer the revised manuscript, I had a really good feeling. I knew I had written something saleable. And when the phone rang five weeks later and the caller id said New York Call, my heart practically leaped out of my chest.

Mr. Meltzer has a kind soul, and the first thing he said to me was that he was not calling with good news. But he went on to say that he absolutely loved my revision. And that he had to take a pass on the story only because they had already contracted for a number of fractured Gingerbread Man stories at Dutton. He also said he thought another house would snap my manuscript up right away. (Turns out it was three years later, but who's counting?)

So thanks, Steve Meltzer! Thanks for the Gingerbread Man idea. And thanks for calling!

Have you received any really great rejections? Tell me about them in the comments!!


Lisa C. said...

I just found out you're blogging, and I am loving your stories about this book's journey, Brenda! I can't wait to see the finished project. You are right, there are not nearly enough good Valentine's Day books out there. It will be great to have another one!

No great rejection stories to tell yet, alas... I think I've been sending my manuscript into one blackhole after another. "Oh, um, yeah, we know we're taking a really long time to get back to you... but... we're still not going to get back to you! Please wait another 5 years!" That's what it feels like, anyway. :-)

Brenda Ferber said...

Hi Lisa,
Thanks! I'm glad you found my blog.
There is no doubt that the waiting is definitely the hardest part! I remember driving myself nuts trying to guess if a long wait meant something good or something bad. Turns out, long waits can be good or bad. There's no way to know. Urgh!
Think like Dori in Finding Nemo... just keep writing, just keep writing...

Jim D said...

Just saw your note on the listserv that you're blogging and had to check it out.

Enjoyed the rejection phone call story! (Still waiting for significant personal comments on a writen rejection here)

Jim Danielson

Jim D said...

Just me again -- forgot to share my best .... well possibly my worst rejection story. This was back in the before I joined SCBWI days and really was pretty clueless about the industry. Anyway, after prodding from family members that my first complete middle grade novel was great and I should try to get it published, I sent off a request for MS guidelines and SASE.

You guessed it -- my request for MS guidelines was rejected.

Looking back, the publisher wasn't accepting submissions at that time, but it was three or four years before I sent anything out anywhere.

Jim D

Brenda Ferber said...

That is really harsh! Glad you've gotten over that and are now submitting.

Kym Brunner said...

No phone call rejections, but I did have Krista Marino from Delacorte write me a fabulous personal note on the bottom of a rejection, saying she loved the voice, thought it was amazing (something like that- might just be my dream sequence of the letter, lol) but the story just wasn't the right type of story for her list.

That particular manuscript has now been completely revised with the help of my (our?) wonderful agent, Michelle Andelman, and is making its way around NY this week. (Deep calming breaths...)

Needless to say, I'm hoping and praying for my first "acceptance letter"(read: big-time contract) soon! :>) KYM

Lorijo said...

Hi Brenda,

I have to share this particular story because one, it’s a rejection story, but two, it’s also a Valentine’s Day story.

This story is going to make my husband look awful, so I want to note beforehand that my husband is also my best friend. He’s such a good friend that he’s actually read three entire drafts of my (epic) sci-fi middle grade novel. That’s a feat even my best SCBWI friends have never accomplished. He reads everything I write. He gives me feedback on my website, my school visits, you name it—he’s my go to guy! He’s also my biggest fan and shamelessly plugs my picture book (Floridius Bloom…) whenever he gets the chance. Enough said!

So… Thursday was Valentine’s Day. I have to admit; this holiday stresses me out a bit. Forced, mushy romance is not my thing. I write sci-fi. I like action adventure. But, my husband does deserve a little romance once in a while, so the night before I decided to create a Valentine’s Day video and post it on a special Valentine’s Day website created just for him. Then, in the morning, I’d email him the link and bowl him over with my grand romantic gesture. Which I did… sort of.

I did make an iMovie/video put to music compliments of Mr. Mel Tormé. I did post it on a website I created in iWeb, using lots of hearts, cherubs and a nice romantic note. And I did send him the link. I didn’t, however, get quite the reaction I expected.

Looking back, I wonder if I ask my husband to edit my work a bit too often… On Valentine’s Day morning when I returned from walking the dog, expecting my husband to greet me with lots of compliments like, “Wow, what a great wife… or this is so special,” I got instead:

“How was the walk?”

“Good. Did you read your email?”

“I did. I just looked at the website.”


“It just didn’t thrill me.”


“I think you could have done better. The video clips were just a bit too long…”


Yeah - that’s right! He critiqued my Valentine’s Day card and by the sounds of it—I was rejected!

Okay… so come to find out, he woke up with a fever on Valentine’s Day, and needless to say, heartily regrets his choice of reaction/words. (Heartily regrets!) And, no, of course I did not over react and make sure the rest of the Day was a complete disaster… I forgave him sometime around 3 o’clock the next morning. Oh, I guess technically that was the next day. But we’re still married—happily so. And… I am working on another draft of that sci-fi book.

“Dear, will you take a look at this for me?”

That’s my rejection story.

Brenda Ferber said...

My fingers are crossed for you. I love that rejection from Krista Marino. I wonder if those editors in NY realize how much their positive feedback impacts us!!

That is absolutely hilarious! Funniest rejection ever. Maybe it's a good thing that my husband never reads my work until I'm practically at the line editing stage.