Are You Turning Into Your Mother?

BLOG- MOTHERI’m turning into my mother. That’s not a bad thing but it is curious. Mostly because I used to think we were nothing alike.

My mother is extremely organized.

I tend to be less so.

She would’ve never made the mistake I made, which is that this post is a Mother’s Day post and it should’ve been posted last Tuesday, a few days before Mother’s Day, not after; but I got confused, which I do sometimes, and that’s why the post is late, which is another way we differ because my mother is never late. And I mean never.

This is the kind of mishap that has driven my mother to call me flighty, which no one has ever called her.

My mother is disciplined and straightforward.

I am less disciplined and more artsy, which is to say emotional; or as she would say, all over the place.

So I’ve held the belief we were nothing alike.

But when we both showed up wearing the same thing on a number of occasions, I began to wonder.

In addition, I’ve begun to speak as she does, which is significant because she uses words like boondocks and expressions like…

A feather in my cap

and

The early bird catches the worm.

I start many a sentence, when I’m talking to my kids, with “As grandma would say," and then I say things like…

I’ll eat my hat

or

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

They tell me I can’t do that. They tell me if I continue to use those phrases, I can’t pretend I’m not really using them.

And I've come to realize my mother and I are alike in other ways as well. We both get nervous when we travel, don’t do well in traffic and are electronically challenged. We both love coffee and hate shopping.

But here’s the thing I’ve only recently realized about how we are much more alike than I ever before thought.

My mother was an avid tennis player, and a winner too. She played for hours in the brutal New Orleans heat throughout my childhood. And when we moved to New York in 1980, she and her mixed doubles partner were ranked (by the United States Tennis Association) number one in the east.

As a little girl, she hit tennis balls with me, teaching me the game. “It doesn’t have to be the best shot. But never give up. Just get the ball over the net one more time,” she’d say. “That’s how you win.”

What she taught me was perseverance. Yes, it takes talent and dedication to craft to be a writer but what it takes even more than those things is perseverance. I read that a number of years back, and it stuck with me; because I believe it to be true. I could’ve given up a long time ago; but I didn’t.

And that determination is paying off.

As my mother would say, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

Writing and Rejection

Thankfully, my novel has been getting good feedback. Really good feedback.

But I got a rejection email this week.

BLOG-REJECTION STAMP

Okay, I’m being dramatic. But that’s how it feels sometimes.

Nobody likes rejection.

And yet in the writing world, you are told, again and again, how getting rejected brings you one step closer to publication.

In On Writing, Stephen King says, “The nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”

Click on this link to see a list of best sellers rejected numerous times before they made it.

It is unbelievable to think that Gone With The Wind was rejected 38 times before being accepted. The novel went on to sell 30 million copies.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling received 12 rejections in a row before being accepted. The Harry Potter series set records as the fastest-selling books in history with combined sales of 450 million.

And more recently, The Help was rejected 60 times before getting published. It has become a worldwide best-seller.

It’s always tough when a rejection letter arrives but there is something to be learned: a building of muscle, gained knowledge, a repertoire of experiences that brings you, little by little, closer to publication.

This is my favorite personal rejection story. I refer back to it when I feel discouraged.

As recently as five years ago, short stories were submitted for publication to literary journals by “snail mail”, a term referring to mail delivered by the U.S. postal service.

In my Brooklyn home, there is a mail slot in the front door and every Saturday the mail is delivered at the same time, which coincides with when my family eats lunch.

When the flap on the mail slot hits the frame, it makes a loud clang. For years, every time I heard the sound, I jumped up from my seat at the table and ran to the door to retrieve the mail, hoping I’d get an acceptance letter for any of the number of short stories I’d submitted.

More often than not, I found rejection letters, which is not uncommon in the literary world. Sometimes the rejection is standardized, and on sliver of paper no thicker than a pen, and sometimes there is a note, cordial and encouraging, but nonetheless, a rejection.

Now and then, there was an acceptance letter and that intermittent reinforcement, just like a win at the slot machine, kept me hooked. And so today, even though correspondence with literary journals happens through email, when the mail slot clangs against its frame, I have to stop myself, a Pavlovian response, from running to the door.

The craving for feedback from editors and the desire for publication is intense. And so one summer when we moved to New Jersey, and had our mail forwarded, it was quite distressing when all of it was lost, and I didn’t receive a single piece of mail for over six weeks.

I worried that my dreams of publication would go unrealized if my response letters were gone for good. All that hard work: the writing and editing of the story, targeting appropriate journals, preparing cover letters and stuffing envelopes- all of it- a waste of time.

When the mail was finally found, my husband picked it from the post office. He brought it home in a black trash bag, the mail filling the bag like fallen leaves.

I set the bag on the kitchen counter and separated the bills, newsletters and invitations from the self addressed stamped envelopes that I’d sent to editors around the country.

I opened the letters, hopeful.

Note that it was unusual to receive all these responses at once but because of the mail mishap, I got this particular view.

In response to a specific short story, I got three replies, and I lined them on the counter next to one another.

1. A standard rejection letter. 2. A note saying my short story had potential and that if I was willing to do significant revisions, I could re-submit the story. 3. An acceptance letter.

One story. Three points of view.

BLOG- Black and White Fall Down2