– Greg Daugherty
Huffington Post reported that Dr. Seuss was so disappointed after 27 children’s book publishers rejected his first story, he was about to burn the manuscript when an old friend from Vanguard Press agreed to publish And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Imagine a world without a book called “too different” and “silly.” We may never have had Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in The Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, What Was I Scared of? and Oh, The Places You’ll Go.
Stephen King’ wrote four novels that were refused before Carrie was accepted. King didn’t mention how many rejections he received but ‘a book that’s inspired millions,’ Robert Pirsig’s Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was turned down 120 times.
Writers Write reported Beatrix Potter ultimately published The Tale of Peter Rabbit herself. Chicken Soup for the Soul was snubbed 134 times. But the record holder must be William Saroyan. The author of The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze and The Trouble With Tigers claimed 7,000 refusals before selling his first short story.
Rejection is part of life. For writers, perhaps more than most. J. K. Rowling fans know her Harry Potter story got the cold shoulder a dozen times. Editors thought the magical book was too long for young readers. Madeline L’Engle’s masterpiece A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times, yet went on to win the Newberry Medal. Tony Hillerman’s writing reflects his admiration for indigenous people, especially the Navajo. But on his way to producing best-sellers, Hillerman was told to ‘get rid of the Indian stuff.’
Here’s what successful authors have said about being turned down:
“I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.’“ – Saul Bellow
“Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.” – James Lee Burke
“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” – Ray Bradbury
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