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Duende30: On Rejection

Duende30: On Rejection

I published the 100th Odd Spot of Writing. I am beginning to see real value in this daily exercise for me as a writer. I can see myself collecting a bunch of the stories and finding stepping stones to creating a novel. The question is at what point do I do this? 200 or 300? Only time will tell.

I realised this week that it has been TEN YEARS since I was shortlisted for Australia's premier prize for an unpublished manuscript award.

To enter, you needed to be unpublished (the easy part) and have completed a novel length manuscript (the hard part). The winner of the prize gets $15,000. Most of the shortlisted authors go on to get published.

I met one of the 2019 shortlisted authors this weekend, which is why I am thinking about the last ten years and the trauma associated with being rejected.

The night of the award ceremony was bizarre. Back then, I didn't realise the winner already knew they'd won, so I stood in the crowd of industry heavy hitters still hoping to hear my name called out. I was even standing next to the publisher of my favourite publishing house. I thought I had it made.

What I didn't know was two things. One, the winner already had an offer by the publisher who I was standing next to. The offer was for $400,000. Second, was the judges had just done a coin toss as they couldn't decide between my manuscript and the eventual winner.

I lost the coin toss but not my confidence. I had been shortlisted. It opened doors to many publishers and they all wanted to read my work.

Rejections in the publishing world come in two forms; the polite, sorry, this isn't for us and the second is complete silence. The latter hurts way more than the former.

I took on board some of the feedback and rewrote the manuscript. I entered it into another prestigious prize. This one had a two week residency in the Blue Mountains and a mentorship with a publisher who would help shape the manuscript.

Long story short, my publisher decided to take the manuscript to the acquisition table. She explained this usually was a formality as no one wanted to not already have overwhelming support amongst their colleagues.

The intervening weeks were agony as I waited for word. I recall exactly were I was when the email pinged on my phone. We were driving home and my then-girlfriend began reading the message. There is a slight dip in the road that reminds me EVERY single time I drove over it. I can still hear her voice alter as she comprehended the significance of what she was reading. My manuscript had been rejected simply because the global company needed to cut costs and each department was required to nominate how they'd do that. For the Australian publishing arm of this multi-national behemoth, they would cease publishing debut Australian fiction.

Which was me.

There is always a silver lining, and these words still comfort me. In her explanation, she wrote "This is a truly exciting and innovative new work of Australian fiction... it has the potential to be an important presence in the contemporary literary landscape."

Not only do I feel the dip in the road each time and am immediately brought back to those feelings, but I have never given up faith in my need to tell that story. I love that story, I love the writing and there is nothing more in the world I want than to see it published.

The residual affect of those events are still profound. The wound is still deep and not yet healed. I tried to keep all this from our conversation as he was promoting his newly published book. Shortlisted authors from this prize are still getting published.

I had successfully repressed the hope that it could still see the light of day until I realised how long it has been sitting deep inside me, desperate to get out.