Rejected, Again

A couple of months ago I entered a short story I’d written into The Missouri Review’s contest, hopeful I’d win (or at least place).

The rejection letter came this week.

They had a lot of entrants, they said, and the quality was “extraordinarily high.” They wished me well on my writing journey.

Nice.

It would have been nicer to win — $5,000 plus publication would have made my day!

But at least I tried. I put my work out there, and someone (or perhaps many someones!) read it.

And I realized something about myself — before, early in my foray into creative writing, rejection hit me hard. I brooded about it for days, reading and re-reading the letter or postcard, wondering how I could have secured a better outcome. I saved my rejection letters in a file, too, mentally criticizing how some secretary had misfolded the letter. Or how somebody had worded the form response. Or how somebody hadn’t even taken the time to actually sign the letter.

No more.

Sure, rejection stinks. It stings, too.

But only for a moment.

These days I’m handling it better. More realistically. More maturely.

I’m not fixating on the rejection. Or the feelings at being rejected.

Rejection is what it is.

Somebody’s opinion of something I wrote. Period.

Maybe it wasn’t the best “something” I could ever create. Maybe, when lined up next to something somebody else created, it didn’t measure up.

Okay.

I still shared something of myself with a portion of the world. Not everybody who reads what I write is going to like it (shoot, sometimes I re-read something I wrote and I don’t like it!).

Writing isn’t math. You can’t just add two plus two and get four. As a creative outlet, writing is more like art or music.

Some people will “get” it and like it; others won’t.

Does that make our writing any less worthwhile?

Of course not.

If you haven’t been rejected lately, you haven’t been submitting (unless you’ve got a perfect batting record!). And if you haven’t been submitting, how can you expect to get published??

A Full Planner

Don’t get me wrong — I love my mom to pieces, but for the foreseeable future, it looks like I’m going to be hauling her back and forth between doctor’s offices.

And I’m NOT happy about that.

The human body, as we all know, has gazillions of different parts. Any of those parts can malfunction at any time. All of those parts periodically need examination by a member of the medical profession.

Therein lies the problem.

Rather than making an appointment for a “complete physical,” local doctors seem to want to “piece-meal” a person’s care. You know, check heart on one day, do lab testing on one day, check female parts on another day, etc. As of today, we’ve got nearly ten medical appointments scheduled in the coming two months. What’s up with that?

What if auto mechanics decided they’d work on our car’s transmission on Monday, brakes on Tuesday, muffler on Wednesday, and so on?

It doesn’t make sense, and we’d never stand for it!

Nor do we let our accountant do the expenses portion of our taxes on one day and the income portion the following week.

Brighter minds than mine should have long ago developed a plan for performing medical check-ups on humans.

Take Mayo Clinic, for example. There, a patient in for a physical exam will check in the day before the exam; they receive a note card with their appointments all listed, one following the other, for the next day.

You might be poked and prodded from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but hey, at the end of the day, it’s ALL done. Who wouldn’t like that? Talk about efficient!

My poor Mom, on the other hand, who still isn’t driving, must depend on me to chauffeur her back and forth to an appointment here, the lab there, eye doctor here, dentist there.

Inconvenient? Sure, for me and for her.

But doctors don’t worry about how their patients are going to get to an appointment. Nor do they care how many people are inconvenienced.

You know, it’s easy to feel put upon when you work out of your house. Nobody seems to believe you’re working if you’re not dressed to the nines and commuting to and from an office downtown.

Same goes for writing.

I’ve long tried to schedule everything (like taxiing my mom and running errands) on one day or maybe two; that way, I have the rest of the week open for my work and my writing.

But the medical profession, I believe, is out to thwart that.

And I’m really NOT happy about it!

Any thoughts or advice you care to share?

A Rose is a Rose…or Maybe Not

Red rose (image via http://www.freestockphotos.biz)

I’ve got a question — Does it matter to you what an author’s name is?

I mean, does Mary carry more clout than Ashley? Does Cheyenne sound younger than Dianne? And does it matter?

The reason I ask is that my first name appears on the nation’s Top 100 Baby Name Lists from the 1940s through the 1970s.

That’s a l-o-n-g time for a name to be popular.

And while I’ve written countless news stories under my name, I sometimes wonder if “Debbie” sounds writerly enough.

Perhaps because there were so many of us Debbies in my high school class, I’ve come to think of my name as a montage of the girls I once knew. Some were cheerleaders; some were “popular”; some were musicians; some were funny.

None were writers — except me, of course. And I was more of a closet writer, insecure about my talent and afraid to be considered “weird.”

High school is like that. We try so hard to fit in, yet when the annual yearbook-signing ritual arrived, we Debbies donned new personas in an attempt to stand out. We became Debby, or Debi, or Debee, or Debra.

Some even used their middle names, though Ann in one form or another is just about as popular as Debbie is.

Maybe it’s just a regional thing. After all, I hardly knew any Debbies in college, and I haven’t come across a new Debbie in ages.

We all know baby names are cyclical. Old-time names like Ava and Ella and Abigail are once again popular with new parents, while names like Lisa and Wendy and Laurie can’t be found anywhere.

Does a name date an author in an agent’s mind? Should it?

All the writing books and magazines I’ve read stress the importance of getting characters’ names right. You don’t want to put an Ariel, for instance, in the 1950s, or a Chrystal in the 1880s. It might have happened, but if so, it was a rarity, and you don’t want to flag your ignorance in front of agents.

But what about the author’s name? Does a Chloe sound too young to pen a serious novel? Does Jane sound too old to be alive for the long haul?

Maybe I’m stressing for nothing. Maybe nobody cares but me.

And maybe I could end the whole shebang by choosing a pen-name for myself, much the way I’d do for my characters.

What do you think? Do you judge a writer by his name? Do you even care?

Back to Campus Again

Ever since Thanksgiving, I’ve been fighting a cold (upper respiratory something) that’s offered me a range of delights from stuffy nose to runny nose, sore throat, cough, sinus pressure, and pain.

It’s been a nuisance.

But I’ve learned something about myself. Something I guess I’ve known all along but never really admitted.

Especially to myself.

I’m not a spitter.

You remember that scene in “Titanic” when Rose insists that Jack teach her “to spit like a man”?

I never had a Jack Dawson to teach me that.

So I can’t just hock it back and open my mouth to release it.

The mucus, I mean.

It won’t come out.

The nasty stuff drains down the back of my throat in a marble-sized ball, then slithers away like some kind of raw oyster, never to be seen again.

It’s not that I haven’t tried.

Spitting. Expectorating.

But the agony of choking something up and trying to release it is more than my poor body can endure.

My eyes tear up. My nose stops up. And I fear I’m going to throw up.

Something that’s on par with spitting.

Ain’t gonna happen.

Not in my lifetime.

I don’t do vomit.

Period.

I can count on one hand the number of times in my life that I’ve thrown up. Most were after anesthesia. Or the flu.

Imagine my dismay when, the night before Domer and I were to leave to return him to campus after Christmas Break, he came down with a horrid stomach virus.

The poor kid was “blowing and going” from both ends for a solid four hours.

I was ready to haul him to the hospital. He wouldn’t consider it.

“Vomiting is a sensory experience,” he told me. “You see it coming up, you hear it, and you taste it. Again. Then, you smell it and you touch it when you clean it all up.”

Right, I thought, as my own stomach knotted up.

Nothing like too much imagery ;)

Needless to say, we postponed our trip a day.

And, while he wasn’t exactly “well” then, we had to travel if he was going to start the semester on time.

So why, when I was doing the right thing for the right reasons, did I feel like “The meanest mom in the world”?

I mean, look at the likes of Susan Smith, who sent her two young sons to their deaths while strapped in their carseats. Or Andrea Yates, who drowned five of her kids in their Houston bathtub.

Now that’s mean.

Not hauling a kid back to a college he loves!

Watching While Time Flies

My son, AKA My Favorite Domer, was home over Christmas, and once again I was struck by how fast he’s growing up.

It’s not just that he towers over me (though he does!). It’s not just that his voice is deeper, or his features more angular than rounded.

It’s his grownup demeanor — his sense of responsibility, his assuming ownership of his day-to-day activities, his maturity.

I’m thrilled, of course, that he’s finding his way. Making what I hope will be lifelong friends. Focusing on his future by tending to his present studies. Not procrastinating when it comes to undesirable tasks like term papers, when he’d rather be playing video games.

We were at Mass, and I caught myself looking at his hands, remembering the baby fingernails I used to trim. Those pudgy fingers now have lengthened into slender, artist/musician’s hands, set off by his Notre Dame class ring.

I looked at his sneaker-clad feet and was transported back to his infancy. When I took him in his carrier to my obstetrician’s office, everybody wanted to hold and kiss those soft little feet with the tiny, perfect toes.

I looked at his profile, the Roman nose of his Italian ancestors, the twinkling eyes and dark coloring of his Irish forebears. How fascinating to see the family traits come together in a unique way!

Now, all this looking happened in the space of just a few seconds. No young man wants his mom staring at him in public.

But after he goes to bed at night and is deep in sleep, I tiptoe to his door and stare.

Drink him right in. That’s a parent’s prerogative, you know.

It reminds me how fast time flies, from infant carriers and diapers, to Legos and school projects, to senior pictures and high school graduation.

Sure those young child days sometimes seem to last forever, especially when you are casually turned into a taxi service, a place for them to dump fears and worries, even a grocery store or fast food outlet. But those days just FLY by, really. Blink and before you know it, they’re grown and out of your house.

So may I make a suggestion — Enjoy every second with your precious offspring. When the going gets difficult (and it does, for all of us!), remember, This, too shall pass.

Does anything make a mom’s heart burst with love the way watching her sleeping “baby” does?

I think not.

I’m so Versatile!

The Versatile Blogger award

My friend Karen over at The Kazual Kreative recently bestowed an award upon me, and I thank her for it most sincerely!

Now I’ve seen these doo-dads around for a while, usually on blogs I enjoy reading because they’re posted by writers I’ve come to respect. To join their ranks is a humbling, yet exciting, experience.

As with any prize, there are rules attached to its full acceptance. I suppose one could simply grab the award and run, but where’s the fun in that??

I digress.

The Versatile Blogger award requires a nominee to:

  • link to and thank the person making the nomination. Check.
  • add the Versatile Blogger image on their blog. Check.
  • list seven things about him(her)self.
  • link to 15 blogs to “tag” as future recipients. Spread the love around, you know.

So, without further ado, I present 7 facts you might (or might not) know about me:

1. I wear silver-colored metals better than gold-colored ones.

2. I have never liked balloons.

3. Or clowns.

4. Once I rode in a hot-air balloon (totally cool and totally unlike party balloons!)

5. I also flew in a single-engine airplane. (But not at the same time as #4. Obviously!)

6. I don’t particularly enjoy being wet. Either from rain or from a swimming pool.

7. I won’t eat lima beans.

Phew, that was challenging. Who knew a person could make such a fascinating list, huh?!

Moving on, here are my nominees for the Versatile Blogger award. They’re listed in no particular order. And yes, I’ve checked to make sure I’m not repeating (wouldn’t want anyone to have to come up with new facts and links after they’ve done it once!).

Wait a minute. Linking to 15 previously non-rewarded blogs is more time-consuming than I’m willing to tackle. So I’m changing the rules. I herewith present eight nominees for the Versatile Blogger award. Anyone who regularly reads my blog and wants to be included in my list can e-mail me. Or just assume you’ve been included and thank me with a nice link!

Note to those who “control” this award: No, you may NOT take it away from me, just because I failed to find 15 blogs to link to! I tried, really. But this thing has been around the block a few times now, and while I should be miffed I wasn’t among the first to receive it, better late than never. Face it — it’s mine, regardless of whether I followed the rules. And I’m NOT giving it back!

To the following lucky bloggers, Tag, You’re It!

1. Memoir Writer’s Journey

2. One Sister’s Rant

3. The Whatever Factor

4. My Odd Family

5. Any Shiny Thing

6. Dawn King

7. Down the Road

8. Janna T writes

Beware the Stalker!

My son and I got into a discussion that turned into a disagreement the other day.

I brought up the subject of blogging, how much I enjoy doing it, what interesting people I’ve met online, and how we’re all getting to know one another and support each other.

‘You ought to be more careful when you’re using the Internet,’ Domer chided me.

‘Huh? I am careful,’ I retorted (probably a bit huffily, for he was quick with his response).

‘No, you’re not. You don’t really know any of those people you’re talking to every day.’

‘You don’t know the people on Facebook either.’

‘But I do,’ he protested. ‘I only talk to my friends. People I actually know. Not like you. Your “friends” might be stalkers.’

Stalker cat (image thanks to http://www.icanhascheezburger.com)

‘No way. Some of them I know. Some I’ve met in person; some I’ve met through others. I’ve become friends with them over time.’

‘Right,’ he scoffed. ‘But you’ve never actually met them. You don’t really know them.’

‘Sure I do. Some are poets or writers like me; some are moms; some have dogs.’

Domer squinted at me. ‘Uh-huh, and most are probably liars.’

‘Nuh-uh,’ I said. (Like the way I switch to kid-mode when I can’t think of anything clever to say??)

‘Bet they are,’ he continued (Was he just trying to push my buttons??). ‘They’re probably perverts. You know, the kind that drive around in dirty panel vans with a sign on the front door saying “Free Candy” or something.’

‘They don’t either. We all have our photos posted. . . .’

‘Yeah, and photos aren’t available free for any pervert who wants to use one. Your “friends” probably don’t look a thing like their pictures either.’

‘But we’ve come to know each other. To learn each other’s likes and dislikes. To feel the truth through hundreds of words. To form a community.’

Domer kind of pursed his lips and nodded. ‘Whatever, Mom. But I still think you need to be more careful.’

I’ve tried to be prudent, I tell myself. I know the rules about not giving out full names or addresses or other personal information. About not broadcasting plans for being away from home. About not actually meeting online “friends” in anything other than very public places. About not posting intimate details or photos I wouldn’t want to share with a stranger.

Safety — my own and that of my family — is paramount in my mind when I post or comment. I want to be true to myself and real to my friends, but I don’t want to be accessible to the stalkers and creeps in the world. Shoot, my desire for anonymity and privacy is one of the reasons I don’t do Facebook and Twitter; the other is lack of time!

Still, the little imp probably has a point. One just can’t be too careful nowadays.

Do you ever relax and enjoy the online experience, or do you still find yourself censoring certain details?