Saturday, 16 October 2010


Have you watched that scene in Cabaret, where Lisa Minnelli runs under a viaduct, waits for a train to roar over her head, then screeeeeeams?

First time I got a rejection slip, I wanted to do that. Sadly – no railway close enough, so I put on a DVD instead. It might even have been Cabaret; I’m a sucker for musicals when I’m down.

It felt like a surgeon had removed my stomach in an emergency gastrectomy and now he was contemplating pre-frontal lobotomy, because my head was buzzing so hard, logical thinking was impossible.

No chance of telling myself, with fingers still burning from the touch of poisoned paper, that rejection is common to every writer. Each editor’s desk is littered with submissions, even those of publications that pay badly, or not at all. Editors will – must – take what they like and send the rest back in boomerang time.

I was sure this editor had barely glanced at my manuscript before he placed it, with the horrid little rejection slip, into the SAE. And I was probably right. After all, he doesn’t have to take unsolicited work. He didn’t ask me to send it.

The movie ending was sad. I dried my tears and took a deep breath, finally ready to read the slip. Right at the bottom something was scribbled in black pen. A jotting, telling me why they’d rejected my work.

I clung to those words. They felt like a glimmer of light when you’re lost under the Mendips. I rewrote the piece, taking note of them. I did that a lot, over the next few years – the entire routine, I mean –rejection arrives in the the the slip...rewrite...resubmit...

Finally, a letter arrived. A cheque fluttered out.

I drove right across town to the railway viaduct and screeeeeeeamed....