Nurturing the Creative Life

I didn’t attend the New York SCBWI Conference this past weekend. Yes, it’s true. (Sometimes you’ve got to nurture your creative life and get down to writing. Plus I was just at a 10 day VCFA residency…).

Sara Zarr was the keynote speaker at the SCBWI Conference in New York, and I hear she was absolutely inspirational! She spoke about how to live a fulfilling creative life, even if you aren’t published. It was the speech she had always wanted to hear when she attended SCBWI events. I wasn’t at the conference, but the following link is an excellent in-depth account of the keynote speech and Zarr’s advice to keep you motivated and in touch which why you started to write in the first place. Go read it!

Notes From Sara Zarr’s Keynote Speech: Nurturing the Creative Life

If you attended the SCBWI Conference in NY feel free to share your blog and your adventures!

Rejection Rocks!

Getting a rejection letter for your book is a lot like a swift punch in the face from you mother who’s supposed to love you no matter what! It’s shocking. I mean you knew it might happen (the odds are it would) but some part of you was sure that the book was ready! And you love it! So why doesn’t anyone else?

The truth is, there’s a hundred reasons why an editor/agent might pass on your book. Maybe they hate stories about dragons. Maybe they have a similar story already on their list, or the voice isn’t strong enough, or they’ve never had a painful breakup and they just can’t relate. What ever the reasons, it doesn’t mean you should stop writing.

In the face of my current rejections I thought I’d compile a list of famous writers who were one day in the same boat as the rest of us, that’s right, wondering what to do as the stacks of rejection letters began to pile up. Could you imaging what the literary world would be like if these guys gave up?


Dr. Seuss – 27 publishers rejected his first book To Think I Saw it On Mulberry Street.

J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone was rejected 12 times.

Meg Cabbot – 17 rejections for The Princess Diaries.

Stephanie Meyer – 9 rejection letters and 5 no-responses for Twilight.

Steven King – 30 rejection letters for his fist novel Carrie.

Madeline L’Engle29 rejections for A Wrinkle in Time.

Alex Hayley – Author of Roots received 208 rejection letters!

William Goldling –Author of Lord of The Flies got 20 rejection letters.

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen: Authors of Chicken Soup for the Soul received 134 rejections.

John Grisham – 16 rejections for A Time to Kill.

Judy Blume – Judy Blume received nothing but rejections for two years and can’t look at Highlights without wincing.

And ain’t life a bitch… Jerzy Kosinski won the 1969 National Book Award for his novel Steps. Eight years later, he submitted his novel again under a different title and byline to test the plight of new writers. Thirteen agents and 14 publishers rejected it, including Random House which had published it eight years before.

Also check out these Letters from the Editor about why some of the above authors (and others) books were considered un-publishable.


Keep writing everyone! I like to remind myself that  no one will every write the book I am writing, and if I don’t write it…then it will be gone forever.

I Really Wanted to Love This: Seven Reasons Why Your Manuscript Gets Declined

Getting a rejection letter from an editor or agent is always a hard blow to take. This is your baby! Why doesn’t anyone else love your baby as much as you do?

First go eat some chocolate! Now follow it up with a good run on the treadmill. Get the negative energy out of your system! And once your ready…consider what Delcorte editor, Wendy Loggia, has to say about why she (and others) rejects manuscripts.

Seven Reasons Why Your Manuscript gets Declined

Loggia pre-empts this list with the disclaimer that she is talking about the  books that get very very close to being acquired, these are well written books, yet they still don’t quite make it. This is not about books that are just poorly written.

1) Nice Writing But No Story.

In these books the writing is sufficient and good, but the story or narrative doesn’t seem to make sense, or the plot is too slow, or she did not buy into the plot elements because they were too outlandish. In this type of submission the book lacks accessibility for the reader. Sometimes nothing happens in the book, or nothing changes in the book for the main character. Even though the writing is good, these books get rejected because the editor does not know the author and has no instincts about them. The editor doesn’t know if this author can actually revise and make the project better. The remedy for this is to create a compelling concept and plot that will be the vehicle for your writing. Ask yourself why someone is going to read your book.

2) The Submission is Too Similar to Another Novel the Editor Has Worked On.

For example if the editor edited: The Sisterhood of the Travling Pants (which Loggia edited) don’t submit The Sisterhood of the Traveling Scarf (that is a real submission she received). Also, be careful of comparing your book to a great novel, as there is a good chance your work will pale in comparison and the editor will be disappointed. Be careful of following a trend and creating something that is too similar to all the other books in that trend. Another pit fall with comparing your work to another book is you don’t know how well that book is selling. If the book you compare yours too is not selling well it can really hurt your acquisition. The remedy to this is to make the book your own! Make your subject your own!

3) The Editor is Unclear Who the Reader (Audience) For the Book Is.

If the editor does not see potential for this book to be sold to libraries, teachers, national bookstore markets, etc. then that can be a real problem. You need to have a reader in mind. Also, beware of too “quiet” a book. This book may not be commercial enough. Remember you must sell books to be a success.

4) The Writer Seems Like a Difficult Person to Work With.

When Wendy is interested in a book, she will do some research on the author. She will go and read your blog, look you up on facebook or twitter, and see what you are putting out there about yourself. Be careful of critiquing books in a negative manner as you may be insulting a potential editor for you book. Particularly if you are an unpublished author. Beware of complaining about the process. If you’ve been rejected a lot and you are publicly complaining about how editors don’t understand you – this can be a red flag. It also will make Wendy second guess her interest. If all these other editors are passing on your book, maybe she should too. Don’t be unprofessional! Don’t trash agents or editors on blogs. Be sure what you put out there is positive. If she sees you trashing an agent she really respects this will influence her decision to work with you or not.

5) The Editor Cannot Connect to the Voice.

Sometimes the concept or plot is good, but Wendy can’t seem to connect to the voice of the character. Show not tell! You need to be able to envision who the reader is.

6) Submitting Too Early, Before a Project is Ready.

Fully develop your story and revise, revise, revise! Due to the marketplace an editor really can’t take a chance on something that is only partially written, or under developed.

7) The Book Simply Will Not Stand Out on Our List.

Wendy has found this to be the case with more and more submissions lately. The books are good, but they are not great. If she fears a book will get lost on the list then she will pass on it.

Wendy Loggia is executive editor at Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. Delacorte focuses almost exclusively on middle grade and YA novels. Loggia is the editor of many books including: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Going Bovine, and The Gemma Doyle Trilogy. Loggia gave the above talk at the 2009 SCBWI Los Angeles Conference.