Thursday, May 15, 2008

Day 4: Learning From Mistakes

As writers we often learn things about our industry and craft through trial and error. It can be painful at times, but inevitably we survive these experiences being smarter and stronger. We asked Jennifer Bradbury if there was anything that made her think she might never get published.

I never thought I'd get published when I started trying to write YA back in 2002. I learned about the Delacorte press contest for first Young Adult Novel and decided that I would try and write and submit to this contest—having a deadline has always helped me be more productive. That first year, I actually got a really nice, detailed rejection, and ended up speaking with the editor and resubmitting later. I blew it, but felt the next year, when I submitted a story that I thought was way, way better that things would go differently. And they did. But not well. I got the standard, speedy form rejection.

And I was devastated.

Now when I look back at that manuscript, I realize it isn't even close to as wonderful as I thought it was then. But at the time, I was certain it represented the best I could ever pull off. Was certain it was superior to the one I'd submitted the year before. And I sort of folded up and felt sorry for myself for a while.

Eventually, I started revising, bought a copy of The Children's Writers and Illustrators Market, and started querying agents with that same story. And though no one ever bought it, getting through that disappointment was necessary and made me a better writer.

Incidentally, I submitted an early, very rough version of SHIFT to the contest as well (because by then, I'd sort of established a pattern of writing a novel a year and getting rejected). And whether it just wasn't ready, or the people opening the envelopes were put off by the fact that my well-meaning friend (who I had print and submit it for me because we were still out of the country) printed it double sided, I'll never know. But that rejection came back even more quickly than the two before it!

Double-sided? Eek! We're betting that's it. Tomorrow we're going to get to know Jennifer a little better by flipping through her photo album. We'll find out why she was in jail and where she found state-shaped blocks of cheese.

1 comment:

daphne grab said...

i hope someone at that contest is reading so they can see that they lost out on a great book just because the entry was double sided!