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During my blissful Sunday at the Toowoomba Lifeline Bookfest, I stood back for a few minutes and took in the seemingly endless tables holding close to a million books. You have to smile at the hundreds of people intent on finding personal treasures as they methodically sort through the boxes. Bookfest is one of my must go events every year and record sales in 2018 proves lots and lots and lots of people still adore printed books.

I was relieved to notice there were less crowds on Sunday than the manic Saturday so with a strong sense of camaraderie I joined the throng searching for a special volume. A couple of hours later, I sat  enjoying a cup of coffee and debating with a fellow book lover how many of the thousands of books stacked along the tables had actually been rejected before being published.

I couldn’t help but wonder about rejection the word that sends chills up an author’s spine. But is rejection good for us?

Rejection is a fact of life for writers, artists, in fact for anyone who pursues an artistic existence. Most of us know the gut wrenching tug to our heart when rejected. But speaking for myself over the last decade I’ve consciously made a big effort to never allow the fear of rejection prevent me from taking a risk. One of those risks would have to be my choice to independently publish my novels.

I made this decision for a variety of personal reasons but being an individual who’s always followed the untrodden path,  whether it was breeding Arabian horses or publishing my books I felt no concern in throwing caution to the wind.

I realised early during the years of breeding horses that  you cannot please everyone so firstly you must please yourself.

These days just over eight years after the release of Tails Carried High, I’m now very grateful for that original choice. Changes in one’s life and health happen and these days I know I would never have been able to work to any form of deadline. At the time the constraints of a job and breeding horses proved quite hard to drop everything and travel without careful prior planning.

It’s a strange sensation to look back at those first goals and  observe with a sense of amazement that my life unfolded as needed.

Although many may not, I now strongly believe that rejection makes you stronger. With over 40 years of breeding Arabian horses behind me, rejection is part of the course, you get used to hearing the bad things about a horse before the good. I don’t mean this in a negative manner, it’s just the way competitive fellow breeders behave. So in saying this, it means I should be thankful to my fellow breeders for teaching me to take rejection in the right way. If you learn to do this, you can actually come away with a new perspective and understanding of the big picture.

If rejection is the curse, confidence is most definitely the cure and these famous authors had some astounding rejection letters.

Emily Dickinson: Your poems are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are generally devoid of true poetical qualities.

Ernest Hemingway (regarding The Torrents of Spring): It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.

Can you believe these phrases from famous author rejection letters? It’s amazing the authors actually persevered. These comments show us that famous author rejection letters are no different than             not-so-famous author rejection letters! Can you imagine if these authors had stopped writing and submitting. They took a second, third, fourth and upwards chance to get published. If they’d given up    we would’ve missed such important literature!

I came across some more very interesting statistics. (please remember regardless of how hard one searches there still may a chance for error.)

Famous Author Rejections: 

1. John Grisham’s first novel was apparently rejected 25 times.

2. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) allegedly received 134 rejections.

3. Beatrix Potter had so much trouble publishing The Tale of Peter Rabbit, initially she self-published it.

4. Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) received 121 rejections before being published and went on to become a best seller.

5. Gertrude Stein spent 22 years submitting before getting a single poem accepted.

6. Judy Blume, beloved by children everywhere, received rejections for two straight years.

7. Madeline L’Engle received 26 rejections before getting A Wrinkle in Time published. It went on to win the Newberry Medal and become one of the best-selling children’s books of all time.

8. Frank Herbert’s Dune was rejected 20 times before being published and and we all know what a cult classic it became.

9. Stephen King received dozens of rejections for Carrie before it was published. Then it was made into a movie!

Why not look at rejection as an opportunity to come face to face with our ego and recognise we may need to look more closely at what we’re creating. After all, most of us learn from life experience.

There’s no doubt if rejection is associated with anything we put our heart and soul into is painful. But again it’s mainly our ego that’s bruised? If we can turn rejection inside out and consider it important and a positive life experience we can overcome the disappointment easier and easier every time it happens. There’s always a second chance or a new direction to prove ourselves and make the push towards a better, stronger and more powerful us.

Note: The Toowoomba Lifeline bookfest has been going for 20+ years. It’s on in March every year, in the Founder’s Pavilion at the Toowoomba Showgrounds.  Make sure to remember for next year – it’s not always widely advertised.  Give it a Google in February each year to get the exact dates.

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