(We’re in our 4th day of power and water outages here in TX but I had written this just before so I’m posting it now via my phone:)

I understand when people submit work to the publishing company I work with and they are rejected and feel badly. I understand because there is a formula in the publishing world that goes something like this;

If you are the IT person of the moment, if you possess the right age, gender, skin color, ethnicity, immigration status, political affiliation, tattoos, etc., etc., then you might get published on that basis alone. Whether good or bad, you are the dish du jour.

If you are not the above, then you either graft away for years, building a network until you are published. Or you give up.

But in between those extremes, there are those like myself who work long full time jobs and still want to occasionally publish something. We submit to submission calls periodically and many times are astounded at the rudeness of rejections. Or watch as less talented folk get published because of ‘who they know’ or they fit a criterion.

When we produced The Kali Project, we were told by many, that we were ‘so polite and thoughtful’ which saddened us to think (and know from personal experience) how unkind the publishing world can be and how it doesn’t have to be.

Why would you want to tear someone down just because you can?

We receive some really ‘poor’ work but we always treat people with respect. It’s surprisingly easy to do. Many ‘poor’ writers end up becoming quite accomplished, if you give them encouragement to improve.

Recently I was recommended to a publisher by an agent friend of mine, as being a good place to submit my own fictional book. The response to my submission was: “We did not find this interesting at all and have no wish to pursue.” Granted, that must be their opinion and they absolutely have a right to it, but could they have said it differently? Given 3 large heads in publishing pushed me to try to get the book published, I’m pretty sure it’s not without merit. There are just better ways of responding.

A dear friend of mine who is a famous, published writer, told me one of her first books was reviled by over 100 publishers before a small publisher took a risk and now, she’s a worldwide best-selling author. So, if this happens to you and trustworthy people have said you have talent, don’t let it stop you.

It is so easy to tear someone down and so easy to build them up. I don’t contribute as much as I would like to this world but I hope I support others and encourage them if nothing else. Obviously positive-criticism has a strong place at the table. But cruelty should not.

99 Replies to “A dying art”

  1. I agree 100% with this. There are ways of rejecting someone that preserves humanity of the arts. One doesn’t have to tear another down to reject the work. This is a solid post, Candice. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Which brings us to this…It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Good post. Be safe, hope your conditions in Texas improve soon.

    1. Oh it’s been an adventure, nothing too bad really but I do feel sorry for those who don’t have left over clothing from living in Canada! I count myself very lucky comparatively I know they get it worse in DALLAS. Hoping everyone in your family is all right.

  3. Hi Candice – as ‘old & bald’ I don’t fit too many criteria! I’ve taken a chance or two to talk face to face with agents and publishers at the London Book Fair over the years – formulistic I’d say a common trait – I did enjoy their double-takes though when multi-million seller authors said ‘Hi’ to me – connections built over years – and like you, knowing one or two when they were just starting out. You take care – it’s been a while I know – but once known you always are. Eric.

    1. Very true. I have seen middle aged white men turned down because they are middle aged white men and that saddens me as it’s so politically correct and missing of the purpose which is surely the quality of writing. But that’s the way it’s always been and I do understand it’s about what people want as a writer as much as what is being written. That said, the real issue is how a rejection is phrased. It doesn’t take much to be kind and hopeful. xo xo

    1. Thank you very much. I worried about saying anything as it’s almost a subject we are bid never talk of, but there are ways of doing things that are humane and that’s what I think we should always aspire to xo

  4. You are so right. There is a way to do things and still show compassion. Prayers are with you going thru the Winter storms. My family in San Antonio TX, they’ve never seen anything like this before. Happy writing as I too find myself going thru rejections but, still here I am.

  5. And now I know, where does this positive spirit of yours comes from. Because you have tasted the sins. Because you have been there! You know, that harsh methods always tear someone apart. I see Rupi Kaur and I fucking laugh on the fact that people call it poetry. It can be anything, affirmations, quotes BUT POETRY! And you my friend, what a stunner you are. Yes, these people don’t know the essence of kindness, staying humble maybe. Its a sad sad world with kindness no where. And then, people like you shall win. They shall make it, no matter what!

    1. thank you dearling I do think it’s a shame that there’s this cult of personality or whatever it is. but we know it’s not indicative of talent because we’ve all seen those with true talent been passed by. I just think if we are decent with each other and kind it goes a long way!

  6. It is an all too frequent sadness to observe how dismissiveness and even cruelty are used when kindness and respect would be as easy, and especially in the arts, when small acts of mentor-ship and encouragement do help the beginner. Few, even among those who grow into masters, begin with works of genius.

  7. Great post Candice! Reminds me of a song or album title – “A Ten Year Overnight Success!”. People forget or don’t know how many people turned down J.K. Rowling and “Harry Potter” or those that rejected album deals with The Beatles. The best inspirational advice in the world is akin to your post here – NEVER GIVE UP!
    xoxo 😘💕🌹

    1. JK Rowling’s story is a once in a life time and those who want to be like her, may be better to think of the percentages of people who succeed like her, but I agree my friend its always good to never give up! xo Thank you so much for writing

  8. I’ve thought about this post for a couple of days. You’re right. I’m not sure if it’s psychology or tradition that can make people so cruel. But by nurturing someone doesn’t mean you are adopting them. It ultimately keeps art alive. The oddest rejection I got was from a magazine that I’ve loved for years. They said something like, “We don’t exactly know how we come up with our picks.” I didn’t know if I should have laughed. But it was amusing. Thank you for being thoughtful.

      1. Sometimes I find that the world is so disrespectful, it surprises me when I see the opposite. It’s almost like learning something new.

        1. perfect way of seeing/saying it. I agree. I tend to think EXACTLY that. Respect like a man’s/woman’s honor/word where your word is your bond, you only have your honor – without respect how can you be this? How can you achieve this? But somehow being respectful is antiquated or redundant? And people have such galvanized joy in being disrespectful? I don’t get that. I’m really glad I don’t get that!

          1. How can I learn to be honorable in a world that feels so split? Sometimes it’s hard for me to track whether or not I’m honoring myself. In the long run, humans seem kind of out of control. I really could go on about this topic. But eventually I just sound like I’m complaining. Then it’s followed up with “I wish…” which really is sort of weak, you know?

          2. I really could go on about this as well so I know where you are coming from. It seems to me humans ARE out of control. Because we think we are the Apex who have some type of right, where we really don’t anymore than the cockroach which at times we really resemble. People quash those views, saying they are reductionist and negative, but we do more harm than most, and propel ourselves ever further, so how can that not be worth mentioning? Truth doesn’t have to be negative, just realistic. I understand what you mean. People say you are complaining because they are happy putting their heads in sand. I would say you are truthsaying and that is entirely different and has much worth. For what it is worth. I also know that saying ‘I wish’ does sound ill-defined but I wouldn’t say wish sounds weak – anymore than John Lennon’s Imagine. Which really when you think about it, isn’t weak. It’s brave.

          3. I think I could talk with you for hours! Well. I think it’s all worth considering and bringing out into the open. Even now, people want to move past the pandemic and back to normal. The keyword is “back.” I’m certain our best lives haven’t even been conceived yet.

          4. Ha! I like that thought. I do hope our best lives have not be conceived yet. We should strive for better without going mad I agree. It’s all a case of perception. If you don’t consider it worthwhile discussing, how does anything evolve and improve? See? That’s not negative 😉 Tell your friends that next time they chide you!

          5. Thanks. You and I are definitely of similar thought. Let’s keep the conversation open in the world. Maybe someone will be inspired. 😊

          6. Right! The only way to understand how to direct the self is by doing it. It’s interesting, though. If we can cleanly and effectively lead ourselves, that is also looked on favorably by society, maybe. What do you think?

          7. Independent thinkers ARE respected but they are only respected if they are the the ‘right’ independent thinkers. Those who don’t fit the current idea of what that is, aren’t given a chance. It comes down to optics and popularity, which means it can never be completely objective. Maybe nothing ever is. Maybe as humans we’re incapable of that. I would like to believe we could appreciate another vantage point even if we don’t share it, based on how it’s presented, but our intolerance and penchant for judging seem to usurp any idea of the right of the individual. That said, I do believe we can lead ourselves, but those kinds of people are the outliers, as most wish to follow without question.

          8. Hmmmm sounds like a tribal thing, which is conceivable. I’m guessing any possibility of breaking out of our current rut is going to have to be pretty special.

          9. I wonder. I’m a chronic daydreamer. So I think of storybook ideas on how we might improve as a society.

            What is “too late?” How many times has humanity saved themselves? Would it take a single unique thought beyond our present capabilities to elevate us all to level two?

            If the introduction of humanity to this world is like striking a match, will we reach a point where we calm into balance or ignite the planet? I think it’s easier for people to imagine disaster because there’s not really a future for us, if we follow known scenarios.

            Generally, I can understand this without a lot of emotion. I tend to get more angry when I look at individuals like Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, telling obvious fictions. Without any knowledge about who he is, I wonder if he is mentally impaired. I seriously thought that this morning. Many of his statements hold us all back from a better life. Adversely, it might just take one person to discover something completely amazing to turn us to a better direction.

            I know this is a fiction. But it’s how I operate sometimes. What, that people have developed, is not corruptible?

          10. That’s good you sound like you have faith in humanity. I don’t. I am a dreamer like you but have very little belief in humanity as part of that dream! I do hope we will step back from the brink. I would say it’s harder to imagine dystopia because whilst it’s ‘exciting’ to write about, most of us are inculcated with the idea ‘humans will always win’ and so to imagine actually not winning, I think that is hard for most. I find it incredibly easy to imagine the myriad ways we will blow ourselves out of existence. I hope we don’t but if we do we deserve it. I agree if you try to hold others back from a better life you are just a damaging asshole and should step aside. I like the idea of trying to make things better it’s all we can do and what possible reason do we have for not doing it? I don’t know Ron Johnson but I will read up on him

          11. It’s nice talking. Hah! I actually don’t have faith in humanity, just have hope in potentialities. It’s the difference Between probability and possibility. As I walk down the street, I see that even the nicest people tend to be ensconced in the accepted and dysfunctional system. I probably said it earlier, we are capable of being so much more. The struggles we make for ourselves are blocking our potential. Do you wonder why some of the most enlightened people are the ones who isolate themselves on mountain tops? To live in a dystopian world is likely to be different than we can imagine. Only if we can change our current nature will we have paradise, dystopian or not. The way I see it, people will scramble back to the old ways. It’s all we know. Now. If we could open our minds to developing our own potentials, that might either be a catalyst for change or a seed for a sustainable culture…imo

          12. Potential is a better thing to bank on than maybe one species (humans) because who knows? And potential is always a good door to leave open because to close it really is grim. I agree with you ensconced is the word du jour because they’re too comfy in not questioning anything – letting the system take them. Marx predicted all this. You gotta give him that. I think they isolate themselves because they ironically SEE more than most and despair at it and so take themselves off to a place where they can stand to live without the mad whine of perpetual egos etc. You’re right, paradise isn’t impossible, and I agree, being somewhat of a luddite myself I think the ‘old ways’ are perhaps the best. But we can’t go backwards we have to go forwards, and not be afraid. Potential to maybe expand what we think is possible. It is possible.

          13. This is our homework. What I’ve thought in recent years is that with such connectivity in our world, we should be able to to more easily share possible solutions to our problems just as easily as pointing out the problems, which we are very good at. We could take that anger and frustration and put it to problem solving. Certainly there are trolls and special interests that try to mess things up. But with enough people in the conversation, solutions could happen. The conspiracy theories are enticing though. I’m not sure how to solve that.

          14. A bit like that very young 13 I believe, Indian girl who invented something incredibly useful, and shared it with everyone because profit wasn’t her motive. I love stories like that. I just read THE FIRST CELL by Azra Raza and I must admit I think profit and big business and big pharma is what holds us all back and actually murders people because they’d rather make money with people being sick than HEAL so if you apply that theory to everything else you have the reason’s it doesn’t happen. I personally think that is very wide spread having done a great deal of reading on those subjects but some have a more positive view and really believe people are trying.

          15. I think we could spend a lifetime on this topic. Money is holding us back as a culture, technologically, and is ruining the environment. People put off change because they believe that things won’t fall apart in their lifetimes. Oh yes! I’m a contributor to our fall. I don’t know how I would survive without my work, though. But I don’t consciously hold back medical cures because it would mean a long term pay cut. I’m guessing that a lot of people, good people, know what’s happening but do nothing about it. What can we do? By the way, off topic, (I’m getting my threads mixed up now), you mentioned moving to another planet. As it is difficult to imagine living well on Mars, my next story has some off the hip ideas on rebooting its atmosphere. I think we might have enough brain power to do this sort of thing. But we really need to also reboot society. I’m guessing it would have to be a structure that we haven’t thought of yet. (This is my default answer for most things right now, “we haven’t thought of it.” But, maybe like medicine we have thought of it. But it’s been suppressed.)

          16. Exactly. People need to realize that believing ‘it won’t happen to me’ isn’t a good way of thinking and it’s selfish. People don’t bother to make changes because ‘it won’t affect me’ but it does. It affects us all. Rebooting society is a GREAT idea if that were possible, and why not? If we think computers are translations of our minds by our minds then it must mean they are built in our image, if you can reboot them you can reboot us. So many people have great ideas and nowhere to go with them. That needs to change.

          17. You said, “So many people have great ideas and nowhere to go with them. That needs to change.” I totally agree. It might just be money that is holding us back. Money in itself isn’t the problem. It should be a means for progress. But instead it is an end. The same with religion. It should be a step up to personal spirituality. Instead it is an institution, a business.

          18. It is money and access. I think some people are trying to get it out there, but it’s stymied by so many things. that would be the answer. To just let the inventors INVENT THEIR STUFF without any type of rule attached aside don’t make things worse.

          19. I get your point. I think there’s so much talent in the world. Artists, musicians, writers, inventors, innovators, your right. It seems like there are a special few that are appreciated by the world. Imagine what a fun world it would be to unloose the creatives!

  9. I was looking for my last response and it might have disappeared. I really don’t have a lot of confidence in humanity. But I do have hope. And I guess what I mean is that something might crop up to save us, in the end. Even still, in order to survive, dystopian or not, we have to live in ways that we have never thought up. Somehow a discovery on how to be a sustainable has to be made. Otherwise we are doomed to repeat the same old disasters. It’s probably a combination of thought, way of being, and social structure. I’m not sure I make any sense. How do you see our future?

    1. Hope is all we need to have really. It definitely might turn the tide. We have to change the way we live for sure. Wish more thought like you did. I see the future as going one of two ways. Either we perish through meteorite or our own doing, or we thrive and go off planet and start really being accountable. I’d like it to be the latter. My inner cynic thinks probably the former. But I do hope I’m wrong.

      1. My next story is about the meteor with some twists. Will we survive? Will we learn? You’ll have to wait until it’s written. 😉 In any case, we can still have hope that something good might happen. My vote is for spontaneous global evolution. But I’m not getting a lot of support for that. As it is, individuals care more than society, if pushed.

        1. I would think it’s a matter of time not if – that a meteor arrives, and as for survival? I would hope so but sometimes I think ‘give something else a chance’ like this am when I was walking and I saw a baby armadillo and someone’s dog ran over and killed it. I think nature is cruel by our definition. The only way we survive is change our definition but that means almost extinquishing our sense of humanity as it stands. Yet we are very guilty of saying one thing and doing another, maybe it’s because it’s the perversity factor of what we believe things should be morally and what we end up doing? Like marriage. Men invented it. But most don’t want it really. They would rather sleep with multiple women and that’s okay that’s their nature. So why are they denying their nature? If you go back in time it was about control and possession (of a woman’s dowry and to ensure the kids were his) but now I would say less men should marry as it doesn’t work out for them. So why do they still? Because they hold an ideal that’s contrary to their nature. I’m not knocking men though – all humans are that way. Women know being vain is wrong but continue to be vain. We are at war with ourselves.

          1. Marriage is a topic I’ve given a fair bit of thought to over the years. I really have. But I don’t have any solutions. It makes me wonder, even without marriage, there are people that just want to be together, for long terms, sometimes forever. Others are fine with brief encounters. Personally, I’m less of a fan of marriage, a CONTRACT for a relationship. One gets certain benefits, tax breaks and the like. Doesn’t that sound odd? My little sister and her spouse were significant for years before they decided to elope. If I’m guessing correctly, it was more of a property issue. (This is only my guess.) But I also think that they saw it as proof of their commitment. Having been married to someone who came from a family of divorced people, I think getting married again would make me feel uncomfortable. If you think I might still have trust issues. Well, to some degree I probably do. It’s probably why I believe that there’s not a woman in the world that wants to stand with me, at least for a few years. You’re right though. It would be nice to be prolific with women, if it weren’t for my psychology. It’s true what you said about the history of marriage. It’s muddled now. Rather than addressing it as a society, we just kind of push it to the side thinking, “It’s how we’ve always done it.” It becomes less defined as parents still push the ideals of marriage while divorce rates continue to climb. In some ways, we do ourselves an injustice by holding traditions so close to our wild animal ancestors’.

          2. I wouldn’t trust someone who didn’t have trust issues 😉 I think marriage is a complex thing and I’m not ‘against’ it at all but I do think it’s one of the examples where we have expectations we don’t naturally meet. Yes we should I guess, update our traditions?

          3. “Trust issues.” Now you made me smile. I think I have been naive my entire life. It’s a natural thing and it frustrates me. That’s where it stems. I think a lot of us, maybe most of us want to be innocent, to be able to relax and be at home with each other. Lately I’ve wondered if I’m socially underdeveloped. I have a certain amount of common sense. But as humans, we also have to guard ourselves. There must must be some ancient roots there too. But people will take advantage. Human predators come in a wide range. And I seriously feel bad for women, having grown up with two sisters and raising two girls. There are bad-bad people in the world that are absolute animals. On the other hand, there are women who travel the world and are safe. (This could be another topic, how a person can exude power and presence.) Am I off topic? Yes.

          4. I think I have been UN naive my entire life, which I wouldn’t wish on anyone 😉 Of course we want to be innocent. I’m not sure what it feels like but it sounds good. Most men aren’t predators but they have to almost apologize for the small number who aren’t. That doesn’t seem fair. At the same time it’s not fair as you say that women have to be scared all the time and we are, when we go out at night alone, we really are, and that shit is wrong.

          5. My daughter wants to take a road trip in April, down through Colorado to New Mexico, San Diego and all the way through California to Astoria, and Seattle. Then she would drive back to Wisconsin. I trust her. But I’m trying not to overthink it. Every time certain thoughts about her safety creep in I have to stop myself. Originally she said I could travel with her to Colorado and camp a few days. She would fly me back. I loved that. Then I suggested meeting her in Seattle or Boise and driving back with her. That time of year, in that part of the country seems more risky. Plus we could see Yellowstone and the Tetons, which I love. But you get where I’m coming from. I really want her to be strong and independent, struggling not to be overprotective. Have you traveled a lot on your own? Any thoughts?

          6. Oh I love that she’s doing that! I would wish to do just the same thing. I wish you could go with her. It is a little risky but it’s also part of growing up and a really positive thing. Is she going to go alone or with a friend? I do wish you could go with her the second part of the trip, you really should. My mom and dad broke up when I was six and it was just my dad and I. He suffered from a traumatic brain injury which meant he has some cognitive difficulties and temper issues, but overall he is a very good person and tried his best. At times we had wonderful adventures. I do owe him my life. I focus on that positive. Yes there were negatives, but he remains my only family and someone I deeply cherish. If you have those times with your daughter you will never forget them but more importantly she won’t either. I would highly recommend you do anything to ensure you spend that time with her. And along that line, DO WATCH Nomadland with Francis McDormand. Even if you never watch TV or movies, watch it. You can get it via Hulu I believe. Or it’s at the movies and if you go to an early show it should be safe. LMK when you have seen it. You will get it. It is a LOT of what we have been discussing.

          7. Thanks for sharing about your dad. It sounds like you might understand a deeper part of people because of him. We can be damaged, even angry, yet good. Yes, my daughter and I have become friends beyond our parent/child thing. She councils me sometimes. Every time I give her advice I have to preface it “Now I’m only saying this as a dad. It’s like an impulse that I can’t hold back,” which usually gets an eye roll. I’m not sure how I really feel about her trip. But I know she’s driven. I respect that. My mom passed away yesterday. You might have liked her. She was an early Title IX’er. She helped support women’s rights and was a working professional. A friend called me this evening. In high school, since we all tended to hang out at another friend’s house, he didn’t know much about my mom except she was strong and he wanted to stay on her good side. It made me laugh to hear. I’d always seen her as open and inviting. Though I think she was secretly introverted. I’ll look up Nomadland. 🙂

          8. Your mom passed away yesterday? I am so very, very sorry Brand. Very sorry. She sounded like an incredible woman. I am so sorry this happened. I am sending you a great deal of support and thinking of you.

          9. Much appreciated. The thought of her mind going was difficult. But I didn’t want to think of who she was over who she is at the moment. Now I can remember and everyone is at peace.

          10. She had dementia? I am so very sorry. That is extremely hard. You are so right about now you can remember her as she was and would have wanted to be. It still hurts. My heart is with you.

          11. In answer to the second question. Yes. I traveled a lot alone from a remarkably early age. My first time I was only 14. I was a very independent young woman. I wouldn’t let my 14 year old if I had one, do that today, but I am glad I did it then. I have traveled a lot. earning my own way and then taking off, I went to Egypt, where my mom is from, China, Pakistan, Thailand, New Zealand, all of Europe, part of Russia etc and America of course, by the time I was 21. I was lucky because then later on I worked for Singapore Airlines and we got discount flights. Coming from France originally I traveled as a kid with my grandparents all the time. I don’t travel much now, even though I am not old it’s more that I have been busy and less enamored by some trips but I know people who have never traveled and I do think traveling expands the mind and helps you understand your social responsiblity and to be more of a realist so if I had kids I would hope they would travel. As for safety, that’s a HUGE issues I can totally understand. I was attacked when I first arrived as a student in America the only time I ever was, in the second week of being here, and yes it was awful, but despite that I don’t regret any of it and I know most women who have traveled don’t regret it. It is a shame as a woman you have to ever deal with being attacked but there are ways to make it less likely to happen and ways to protect yourself. I was naive in that I really thought I was safe here in America and I wasn’t but that’s the best lesson learned, don’t assume anything and always be cautious. I never once was attacked on my travels and I went everywhere. So the irony is I come to study here and it happens in one of the safest towns in America and not the wilds of Pakistan.

          12. Thanks for your thoughts. There are a lot of tragedy in the world that could be stopped easily if society wanted to relax and live well. And I’m not talking about financial. We might be financially poorer. But I think I’d rather have that in exchange for a culture where we can walk anywhere, day or night, and feel safe and protected by everyone, leaving our doors unlocked. But it’s silly even talking about.

          13. Yes you are so right. It’s not silly of you at all because that’s how it should be and if we just all wished it, maybe we could come nearer to it

          14. I’m glad for your notes! I’ll get to them soon. I’m involved with the administration aspects of death and grieving. Modern culture! Well. For all my complaining I don’t have answers. Talk soon! Later today.

  10. I almost forgot! I thought about sending some poetry, but I’m not sure I want an assessment. I certainly don’t want a review. I just want you to to have it. Would that be alright? I know my poetry doesn’t sell. But it would help me psychologically for you to have it.

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