The Three Rejections. Christmassy, like the Shepherds, and the Kings. They came in a flurry, in mid-December. I was surprised, because I’d assumed that literary agents took ages to read and reply.
Amidst my frantic seasonal preparations, I found a lot to take comfort in (“shows a great deal of promise“. ” You are certainly a strong writer”; “highly capable”; “We’d love you to submit any other novels you write in the future“).
But then, in a bloated, post-Christmas blur, I found myself powerless against a great swell of dread. Say if it doesn’t happen, say if I am never published, say if one day I have to accept defeat?
Since I finished my novel, everywhere I look there’s another poignant story of a writer who didn’t get anywhere, or who rose and fell. I’ve written the Charles Morgan and the Nick Wollaston anecdotes, but there’s dozens more. A friend I didn’t even know was a writer confided that he’d written a whole novel, and got an agent straightaway, but the agent never managed to get him a publisher. Last night I was reading Black Beauty to my children, and happened to flick to the very short biography of Anna Sewell at the end.
“In 1871 Sewell began writing a book aimed at encouraging more humane treatment of horses. Owing to her failing health the book took nearly seven years to complete but was eventually published in 1877. Sadly, Sewell never got to know of the huge success of Black Beauty, her only book, as she died in 1878, five months after the book’s publication.”
Since I learned to read, and fell in love with stories, I have written – diaries, short stories, little scraps of this and that. Up until now, I haven’t bothered courting readers. I could cite many reasons – lack of time, of space, of money – but the real obstacles have always been the dread of failure.
And then an opportunity opened up, a stretch of time and financial buoyancy, and another voice, less loud and snarly, but far, far more adamant, started telling me it was time to walk the walk.
So that’s what I’m doing. Going through a boggy bit.