So you can read my books

Monday, November 17, 2014


A friend of mine, Helena of BECOMING LAYLA:

just was rejected by a second agent,

though this one zinged her a criticism that was polar-opposite to the one the first rejecting agent wrote her.

Even the giants of the writing profession suffered many rejections.  

As Helena herself pointed out Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet, was rejected by one publisher 

because it was “neither long enough for a serial nor short enough for a single story.”

The secret is perseverance and courage.  

Hard things to come by when your heart is bleeding.

Many of us are called upon to critique the works of others.  

It occurred to me to write for both sides of that equation:

The best prose leaves us with a new clarity and a sanction for living it out in our own days. 

 Our hearts tremble with the awakening of a truth that had been lurking deep within it all along.  Or the words throb with the truth of life, of what it means to be human.   

The story takes on a semblance of life for the actions feel authentic.

A good story can mirror back to us our condition, changing as we change, 

clarifying as our vision becomes clearer, until its insights become as familiar and obvious as our own face.   

A good story is forever.

We keep our dreams in silk, protecting them from the harshness of the world.  

 We are vulnerable through our prose as with little else, for our dreams are being laid bare.   

To be given a story to critique is no slight matter.

You are being entrusted with something fragile, something precious.

As we struggle to get published, to flourish in our chosen craft, we walk alone in what seems one long, terrifying damnation. 

The best criticism speaks of what has been achieved and a vastly enlarged sense of what is possible.

Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism:

 they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings. 

Things aren’t all so tangible and utterable as people would usually have us believe. 

Most experiences are unutterable as they happen in a realm where no word has ever been uttered: our minds.   

And more unutterable than all other things are works of art, 

those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory one.

Writers, you are looking outside and that is what you should avoid right now.  No one can advise or help you ... 

to be yourself ...

they can only advise you on how they could write your story. 

Go into yourself and see if what you have written rings true.


  1. Well said and beautiful in the making. As children we said smugly to our bullies, sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me. As is much of life, that was a lie. Words not only hurt our hearts, but scar our minds to future growth, if we allow.

    Helena will find her agent.

    I speak the language of the cat in the poster. :)


  2. T. Powell:
    Thank you for such nice words. Yes, we lie to bullies and to ourselves most of all.

    So often in childhood, I muttered after a searing experience: "That's all right." It really wasn't.

    Yes, I love that cat's attitude. :-)

    I used my own cat, Gypsy, as a snarky character in my GHOST OF A CHANCE -- now, though she has gone on to the Shadowlands, Gypsy still lives on in that novel and in my audiobook about to be released, GHOST WRITERS IN THE SKY.

    I believe Helena will, indeed, find an agent. Have a healing week, Roland

  3. My darling Roland, thank you so much for this post. And yes, for a moment I definitely had the editing cat's attitude toward that agent--I'm a dangerous woman (when I'm not like the first cat under the blanket). I'm going to print this post of yours and save it for inspiration--such lovely words of wisdom.

    I believe that what I have written in my novel rings true, so I will carry on with it, just as you have with your wonderful stories. You must write on too, Roland!

    As for any future rejections: I'll just send my own snarky kitty (all eight pounds of her) after those bad agents.

  4. P.S. -- That's a great clip of Ray Bradbury, how he had countless rejections but how he turned a corner by learning to "write for me."

  5. Helena:
    I thought you would like Ray Bradbury who kept right on writing and submitting - saying, "What did they know?" :-)

    All too often I am like that kitten under the blanket, but I soon find my resolve to get back into the game!

    I am so pleased you liked the post I did for you. I hope it helped in some small way.

    Agents and editors would not want my ghost cat, Gypsy, after them!

    Have a much better week!

  6. The very best criticism builds us up rather than knocking us down (and jumping on the pieces). Which some critics needs to remember.

  7. Beautiful post Roland. Getting polar opposite feedback from agents was the reason I went the indy route. After working in a bookstore and seeing how many low quality books are now being published by mainstream publishers, and how little effort they put into promoting most authors just solidified it for me.

  8. Hi Roland .. it must be difficult being a crit reviewer .. I guess for each 'story' / proposal you have to step out onto a new page and take the new writing at its value, I suspect many just plunge in.

    I get frustrated when people can't seem to get on the same page as me and can't understand ... then I just know they're not my audience right now ...

    Cheers Hilary

  9. Isn't it mind-blowing to know that even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was rejected? That's pretty damn good company :)

  10. Your words always inspire me, Roland. Thank you. When criticism is delivered with an air of arrogance, it's hardest to brush off. But that's actually why it should be easier to ignore. Right?

    I like to remember, too, that Dr. Seuss was rejected countless times. Come on, Dr. Seuss?!

    Keep faith. xo

  11. Good luck to Helena! I always consider a rejection as one person's opinion. Tweak a bit if the MS needs it and keep going, like the little train that could.

    It's like acting, sometimes you fit their agenda and sometimes they're lacking in judgment.

    Roland, your words are great solace for the motivation of agent hunting.

  12. Beautiful post, Roland! I've received dozens and dozens of rejections from agents. In the beginning, it was hard but soon I was able to let it roll right off me. I'm actually published today and I still don't have an agent, although I continue to look. I always say we have our story ideas because we are meant to publish them, and I believe we're meant to get an agent for the same reason. We just have to wait for the right time and the right agent. I know Helena will find her perfect agent. :)

  13. Agree with Elephant's Child. Criticism should help not hinder.

  14. Elephant's Child:
    My thoughts exactly.

    Your take on publishing is why I went the self-publishing route myself. I could craft my linked universe in a way I never could published traditionally. :-)

    Being a critic is a sacred trust not to crush but to build up and mold. And I often wish I were a telepath so I would what page those around me were on!

    Editors did the same with Mark Twain if you can believe it!

    His rejectors must have been agents of the Grinch!! :-)

    Thanks for such kind words!

    Yes, I believe so many artists are needlessly crushed by selfish agendas.

    If it is meant to be Helena will find an agent -- perhaps she needs to self-publish?

    You and me both!

    You, too, my friend. :-)