Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I’m going to tell you a little story about a boy named Theodore Geisel (shh, now don’t interrupt if you’ve heard this one). Theodore had written a picture book manuscript called THE HOUSE ON MULBURRY STREET. He shopped it around. He sent it to twenty-two editors and, after that twenty-second rejection, Theodore decided he would go home, shred his manuscript, and give up his dream.

On the way home, he ran into an old friend of his, who had become an editor. His editor friend convinced him to let him see his manuscript. The editor changed the name of the book to THE CAT IN THE HAT, and Dr. Seuss was born.

My mom gave me a print out of this story when I was twelve years old. I tacked it to my wall, next to my computer, and whenever I was in the midst of any sort of “Why do I suck at life, my writing sucks, I should just give up” breakdown, I would look at that printout – and try again.

There used to be a motto of, “you never know – you may be only 35 cents away from that acceptance.” Now, it’s more like, “you never know – you may be just one email away from ‘the call’” – which is totally even more worth it than 35 cents, by the way.

At the end of my senior year of college, I was convinced I wanted to go to grad school to get my PH.D. in English Literature. I spent months preparing, taking tests – and at the end of it all, I was rejected from every school. I was mortified, disheartened, an absolute wreck. I decided I would just “be lost for the rest of my life.” Being lost was ok, right? Lots of people are lost.

In the meantime, the more practical side of my brain tossed out an email to my old internship, asking them to keep me in mind for any openings. No matter what, I’d spent so many years with rejection (in my querying days, I got over 100 rejections, and still kept going) that I’d built up enough of a spine to not give up, no matter what I was mumbling over shots of tequila.

I could have painfully been making my way through THE CANTERBURY TALES – in old English – and writing papers to the light of the midnight oil at this exact same time this year. Instead, I’m rambling on online conferences, building careers, and reading client work to the soft glow of my Mac computer. I couldn’t be happier. I finally realized that the only reason I’d applied to grad school in the first place was because I was terrified of what to do next.

The universe works in mysterious ways. But it always turns out in the best way for YOU. It may not be what you want, or expect, but if you allow it to throw curveballs at you and don’t stomp off the field and demand them to be thrown straight (maybe a sports analogy wasn’t the best way for this princess unicorn to go…), trust me – you’ll be rewarded in the end.

Don’t believe me?

My client, Roseanne Thong, had her manuscript with her editor for six months. Not a peep. A letter arrived from a very lovely librarian, complimenting her last book with Chronicle. Two weeks later we had an offer.

Agent and writer Mandy Hubbard recently tweeted about how she sent out PRADA AND PREJUDICE to twenty publishers, before she completely re-wrote the book from scratch – and got two offers.

These amazing stories are out there because of perseverance. It takes guts to stick it out – but that’s exactly what you have to do if you want to succeed in this business. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to rant and moan and bitch and scream "Why do I SUCK at LIFE?!"

Just don’t. Give. Up.

Who knows – you may be an email click away from the next story on my blog. ;)


  1. I always like these stories. :) They soothe a ruffled soul.

  2. Loved this post because it is just. so. true. I had to re-write my second novel (the first was trunked) three times, and even then it didn't get me anywhere. I had to write another novel, and then another novel before I finally got "the call" and now I couldn't be happier. All the effort really is worth it.

  3. Thanks for this Natalie. I love the Dr. Seuss story. The entire post, though, has me inspired! You're too much fun. :)

  4. Hi Natalie! Thanks for the inspiring post. Love the blog. Why didn't you do this a long time ago? :)

    A PH.D in English lit? I'm so happy you decided to go the other direction!

    This was just what I needed to read tonight - when I should be sleeping - but your tweet 'check out my blog' made me postpone sleeping to see what wise publishing advice Ms. Fischer has to offer. And, as always, you didn't disappoint!

    Looks like my shredder will go hungry another day. :)

  5. This was a great blog post! And really something I needed to read right now. Thanks! I love this kind of stuff. :)

  6. Amazing post! I participated in your chat at WriteOnCon so I had to laugh at the "Don't You Dare" part of your title here. Great advice, Natalie. Hearing stories like this is what every writer needs every once in awhile.

  7. Great post! I have a Ph.D. and writing a book has been WAY harder for me than getting my degree/ writing my dissertation. I'm persistent though--I'm never giving up. :)

  8. This really resonates with me, Natalie! I too applied to grad school because I was scared of leaving school and figuring out my life. I did get in and spent another three years studying Linguistics. While I loved studying it, I knew it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life. It wasn't until I got married and pregnant with my first that I stopped trying to hide within the walls of academia. As a stay-at-home mom, I was able to get back to my first love--writing. And I haven't looked back since!

  9. I will come back and reread this post every time I feel like giving up - which is often! Thanks for the boost.

  10. I'm going to have to agree with Shelley here. Thank goodness you went to SDLA! :)

    And this is a very encouraging post. I'm glad you posted. :)

  11. Fabulous. You are made of inspiring win! Thanks for being an advocate for writers in all your online endeavors.

    I loved your story about taking a different path and finding it to be better than the one you'd originally chosen. I definitely believe the universe helps us in ways we don't now understand.

    Rejection doesn't always make me stronger. But it always makes me start again.

  12. Thank you, CEO Unicorn Princess, for sharing your struggles and your joys with us. It's what community is all about and it keeps us going! :)

  13. Thanks for this wonderful post! I think I'll be tacking this up next to my computer monitor! :)

  14. Wonderful. I don't think you should give up the dream of being a writer. Maybe your work will just be or look different than you thought it would. This post is a great example. Keep up the great and dream bigger dreams. Cheers!

  15. Loved this so much and I love it when people are generally positive. It's hard to stay focused and I think we tend to lose sight of our goals with all the negative feedback we writers are given.

    Thank you for this. Sometimes we all need a little positive reinforcement!

  16. Thank you so much for sharing, this is awesome! Very supportive!

  17. I just stumbled on this while browsing your blog. It has brightened my cloudy day. Thanks for the supportive words, Natalie!

  18. When your query gets rejected, or after they requested your full manuscript, and a rejection follows, (that happened to me with four novels), it does make you doubt your abilities. It makes you doubt yourself, because what you put into writing is the deepest part of yourself. Rejections are normally a stale form letter, (with so many queries who can blame the agent, atleast they are kind enough to respond) but deep down a rejection can give a kick to the heart of the writer.
    I did give up, but maybe you're right. Maybe I should send them out, one more time. Perhaps my novels were one email away from being published.
    Thanks for the supporting words.

  19. After sorting all my online rejections into a folder of their own recently ... I so needed to read this today. Thank you.

  20. Thank you so much for this, I'm an aspiring author and this is exactly what I needed to read right now :)