"We wish you luck placing this elsewhere." And the one that somehow deals the cruelest of bruises: THIS IS AN AUTOMATIC RESPONSE
So familiar had I become with these phrases and their many cousins that I had come to believe they were the only responses editors were capable of offering. And yet they all had good things to say (when they actually did say something). The writing was good, the description was good, the characters were solid, the voice was strong. Liked this, loved that. Just didn't feel my work fit with whatever issue of whatever publication they were putting out that month. So how do I overcome that, I often wondered?
Well, I'll tell you how.
I was staring intently at the stippled pattern of my desk - which thanks to an overactive imagination had formed a giraffe holding a balloon - when I realized that I hadn't submitted in a while. Not surprising since I was much more into my artwork at the time, had a number of personal and professional matters leeching energy from me daily and had no real incentive to pick the baton back up just then. But I remembered some words of encouragement that I had received two years earlier while expressing frustration online with my apparent lack of progress.
"Keep the faith. It's not a foot race, and if she can make it, so can you."
The commenter: Anne Rice. Yes, the Anne Rice. One of my all time favorite authors. She posted an article about a girl who had been granted a publishing deal from writing One Direction fan fiction (yes, really) and responded to me. So I started looking through every mag and zine that was accepting submissions at the time and happened upon one called Jitter. I'd never heard of it before but they were allowing authors to submit up to three stories for their upcoming October issue. I submitted three stories. The first was rejected. The second was accepted. The third was….wait...WHAT?
Hello Marcus Hawke. Congratulations on being published in Jitter (Issue #5). In this letter you will receive information regarding...
I must have read that e-mail ten times to make sure I had it right. Finally, after years, years of trying time after time, it had happened. It didn't even matter that the other two had been rejected because all it took was one.
And they had addressed me by name. My name. Not the one I was given at birth, not a nickname which is almost never selected by the individual. The one I chose for myself because that was who I most felt like and ultimately wanted to be. In that moment, I could have breathed fire and leapt straight to the Moon. And it's true what they say: you always remember your first.
And therein lies the secret, all ye who have ever put pen to page: perseverance. Read. Write. Submit. Repeat. That's it. There is no secret to being published, you don't have to be gifted by The Bard himself. Just keep going. Keep working, keep improving, keep submitting, and keep the faith. Not in fate or destiny or whatever god you happen to believe in (if you do), but in yourself. I know it's hard. I know you're tired. I know you're heartbroken and deflated and hopeless. But never give up. Victory is a spirit and it's only impossible if you quit.
By the way, that bit about the giraffe holding the balloon was made up. But it paints a nice picture and I'll bet a copper farthing that you remembered it.