5780 in Writerly Review

Two years ago, in September 2018, I read a piece that changed my life, Kim Liao’s “Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year.”

At the time, I was struggling to figure out how I could make my career as a writer work. I have a severe anxiety disorder (which I’ve alluded to in most of my personal essays, as it has shaped the course of my life). Rejection isn’t easy for anyone, but for me, it was almost intolerable.

This was especially true as I queried Queen of All. Finishing this book, which I had started writing as a lonely, self-hating tween, was my gift to other sad gay girls, my motivation for recovering from anorexia, and my farewell to a challenging childhood and adolescence. The fact that seemingly no one wanted it was more than I could stand, and every form rejection could send me into days of depression. It wasn’t sustainable, and some friends and family lovingly advised me to give up.

I was at a crossroads: would I give up on my lifelong dream, or continue to make myself miserable pursuing a goal that felt impossible?

Then I stumbled across Liao’s essay, and everything changed. What if I could shift my goal? Instead of jumping right to “publish a book,” what if I shot for something more attainable, something that was in my control? What if I started aiming for rejections?

I set the goal: one hundred rejections in a year. I decided to use the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, as my start date, just because it was the closest. And I made myself a spreadsheet with two tabs: “Pending” and “Rejections.” I wrote, and started sending out, short stories.

The first response I got was an acceptance, for “A Summoning…”, a short story I had written in a single day.

I sent out more work. I got some yesses. I got some nos. I got closer. I got 53 rejection letters that first year, and four publications.

It was natural that this year I would try again. I hadn’t made it to my goal.

This year, I got only 40 rejections–the last one arriving just under the wire, this morning.

I also published three short stories in paid venues, got two offers from publishers that I rejected, had eight literary agents request full manuscripts, got encouraging personalized rejections from some of the best science fiction and fantasy magazines in the world, and received an offer of publication for Queen of All, which will be on bookshelves and in readers’ hands, after 15 years, in Summer 2020.

I am blessed to have come across Liao’s method, which has changed my life. And I can’t wait to see what 5781 will bring. I’ve got 18 submissions in the pending column–better get writing if I want to beat last year’s record!

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