Saturday, March 26, 2011

Perseverance: The Art of Growing a Thick Skin.

I’d started writing seriously around 1990, because I realized I was writing weird stories, angry philosophical blurbs, bad lyrics & worse poetry all the time, so might as well hone the skills and see what comes of them. I remember my first rejection slip, from Kristine Kathryn Rusch, at that time the editor of Pulphouse magazine. She said nice things that, upon retrospect, with my technical inefficiencies, I’m quite amazed she saw something there worth complimenting. It probably gave me hope that I was choosing the right path. But years later, when looking at the hideously incompetent short story, “A Torrent of Ages”--man, what kind of title was that?--I was happy she did see the good there, the essence, something of worth. I took that story, the seed of what was right, and expanded on it by about 8,000 words, and even had the good sense to give it a much more appropriate title--“The Oblivion Express.” Looking back on that rejection, I know her keen eye was a good boost for my confidence, kept me writing (not that I would have stopped). Having never attempted to get my words published, if she would have been brutal--which, again, for the woeful technical aspects, she had a clear right to say, “John, perhaps you should put the pen down and run, don’t walk, from any aspirations of being a writer, take up Professional Tiddlywinks or Ferret Grooming”--I would still have stumbled through and continued writing, but with a dark cloud of shadowy confidence haunting me, for all I know.

I had my first story acceptance in I993. It was a horror story called, “Slow Flies,” accepted by Aberations magazine, published in issue #7, November of that year. But I may not have made it that far if she would have been hardcore with me with that first funky story. One never knows…

You’re probably thinking, John, so, you had your first story published way back in the early 90s? Actually, I had a few more published back then, but got blindsided by Music Journalism in the mid 90s. Nobody said this path wasn’t full of many diversions from the plan. Music Journalism took over for many years--I still occasionally write some reviews or ad copy; I've written over 1,100 reviews, articles, interviews, ad copy, etc. I got back into fiction around 2003, yet I believe that all of the music journalism really refined much of what I bring to my fiction now. All a part of the process of growth as a writer, but that’s a post for another entry. For this one, rejections are a part of the deal. I’ve had some that are classic (I had an acceptance pulled within the writing of the letter because the editor's girlfriend was so grossed out by the story he loved--and he wrote this all down in the letter!), but we need to take them all in stride and send the stories out again and again. Some of the best writers and most popular short stories and novels have been rejected numerous times. So, one of the keys to this writing gig is simple: hone the perseverance and thick skin as well as your skills.

Not sure if this is a Slow Fly, but...well...


  1. I always point students to Octavia Butler's "Furor Scribendi" in which she says many wise things, but chief among them, "Persist."

  2. Thank you for pointing me in her direction, and "Furor Scribendi," Kate. Wise things from wise souls are good to digest. I will definitely check it out! ;-)