By , on December 22, 2011


There is a song that has been a sort of theme song for me in recent years. The song is called Flowers Bloom by Mandalay, and in it is the lyric, “Sometimes I look around the place I live, and wonder how I came to choose the things I did.” Later on, another lyric is, “Flowers bloom in desolate places.”


My life has changed quite a bit in recent years, but those lines have always held true for me. If you’re reading this, it may be because you were googling something like pickled artichokes and the search engine was having an off day, but more likely it’s because you know I wrote a book.


On May 30th, 2008, nobody would have been searching for me online, nor would they have any reason to care that I exist. But I was as much a writer back then as I am today. I just hadn’t gotten my foot in the door just yet. I spent hours studiously combing through the submission guidelines of literary agencies searching for the right match. I was buying stamps, perfecting my queries, and downing a lot of junk food to quell my anxiety and despair. During this time, I was also failing quite horribly at my array of day jobs, lamenting that I’d never move out of my mother’s house, crying “no no no NO” when my car let me know it was dying with its coughs and stutters, and finally, its last overheated sigh in the middle of a busy intersection on my way in to work.


When you’re a published author, believe me, you don’t forget where you came from. You also spend a great deal of time worrying that this is a Vanilla Sky type dream world and that you’ll wake up. Or maybe that last part is just me.


Last night, I was lounging about in my office, raving to a friend on the phone about this manuscript I’d had the privilege of reading before it’s to go into ARC form. As I spoke, I stared at a shelf full of foreign editions of my book, and I waved a laser pointer at my cat, who happens to be named for a character in those books, and at some point in the conversation, I said, “I feel so fortunate that I was able to read this manuscript, and I can’t wait to see it on shelves.” And he said, “Look at you, being an author and such.”


It really never gets old. I still feel like Cinderella in the pumpkin carriage, worrying over the twelfth chime. I will always be grateful to be a part of this world. I will always remember that, before I was gifted with early readings and author friends and the most phenomenal agent ever, I was puttering to work in a half-dead car, dreading the return of self-addressed stamped envelopes waiting in the mailbox when I came home.


It probably seems as though published authors just waft by on a conveyor belt, ready to be plucked off of the shelves, but we’re all just people. We’re nobody to anyone until we break through, and there’s never any promise that we’ll break through at all until we’ve somehow done it.


Today, I was rummaging through the organized chaos of my basement and the trunk of my car (which runs as it’s supposed to, thank you). I was looking for a bubble mailer. I promised a relative in Florida that I’d send along a copy of my paperback. While I was rummaging, I came across this:


My first reaction was sort of a giddy “I could blog about this!” feeling, and I skipped and giggled off to my computer. I don’t recall my exact reaction when I first opened this letter back in 2008, but I’m sure it eradicated any smile I might have had on my face.


Here’s the thing, though: this rejection letter was important to my journey as a writer. It was one of dozens, dozens to follow and precede. It is in response to a manuscript that ultimately never found representation. These rejections pushed me to write something new, and when that failed, to write again, and again. Wither didn’t exist until late 2009. In October 2009, I got an evening call from my agent, which was odd because I don’t think I’d ever heard from her after 6 PM. When I answered the phone, she was suppressing a laugh, and someone elsewhere in the room with her was doing the same, and she told me about the offer we’d just gotten from Simon & Schuster. I blurted something obscene and hysterical, and the rest you know…


The moment you break through, you feel it. It overtakes your entire body. It’s as though you’re standing on a mountain having used a rope of your own failures and epiphanies to reach the top. I love this rejection letter. I’m happy I kept it. It was a foothold along the way. It’s a piece of who I was, and, being honest, it makes me feel pretty much great.


I think I have the perfect place for it…


7 Comments to “Rejection letters and flowers and such.”

  1. ” It’s as though you’re standing on a mountain having used a rope of your own failures and epiphanies to reach the top.”

    I’m going to remember this forever. I’m still reaching. Can’t wait to step onto the horizon.

  2. Robin says:

    This is amazing. I really enjoyed reading your post. I love what you decided to do with the letter. I absolutely adore Wither and so do my students. As one of the fortunate that got an advanced copy of Fever, I have to say that you are one of my new favorite authors and I cannot wait for the third installment. My classroom bookshelves have a special place for your work. I look forward to many more of your future books. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  3. Wonderful, inspiring story for struggling writers! And lovely reminder for published authors to stop and be grateful for what they’ve achieved. Thank you for not giving up after that first ms. and moving forward to give us Wither.

    And I’m so glad you now have a working car!

  4. Bee says:

    It’s true, isn’t it? The saying – ‘A published author is an amateur who never gave up’. I keep hearing that ever so often. And this post – well, I’m gonna keep coming back to it, whenever I need to feel like standing with my head up. Even if it’s for a few minutes.

    • Lauren says:

      I hadn’t heard that saying, but it’s definitely true. I have close friends who are aspiring authors, and I tell them all the time that the only difference between a published author and an aspiring author is a book deal.

  5. Jen says:

    Your post crack me up

  6. Amber Argyle says:

    I have quite a few of those too. *sigh*

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