Handling Pizza and Writer Rejection
I grew intrigued while perusing a menu recently. When I read the ingredients of a particular pizza outloud: artichoke hearts, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, asparagus, parmesan and mozzarella, my boyfriend made gagging noises. “I hate artichokes,” he said. “Why can’t we get pepperoni?”
I sighed. My pizza had been rejected.
I mused that writing was similar to pizza. You concoct what you perceive is a wonderful, tasty story … and after serving it to consumers, be prepared for rejection.
The stories of famous writers being rejected are legendary.
--J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone was rejected by a dozen publishers before Bloomsbury, a small London publisher, took it on – and that was only after the CEO’s eight-year-old daughter begged her father to read it.
--Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 29 times before finding a publisher.
--And C.S. Lewis, (Chronicles of Narnia) received over 800 rejections before he sold a single piece of writing.
Does this mean that those who rejected these writers were wrong? I bet they kicked themselves for lost revenue, but their opinion likely remained the same.
If you scan Goodreads or Amazon popular book reviews, they range from “loved it” to “terrible!”
--Harry Potter. One star. “We can see the beginnings of Rowling's authorial failings … Rowling's prose is quick and simple, but sometimes awkward and without music or joy.”
--A Wrinkle in Time. One star. “Madeleine L'Engle brings to the table a cursory knowledge of astronomy, the imagination of a brown paper sack, and half-assed characters.”
--The Lion, the Witch, the Wardrobe. One star. “I am tempted to give this book a zero … awful book.”
I would hope that the standard for a one-star review is being among the worst books ever. Every element is terrible—the editing, writing, plot, characterization, voice, vision, world building, theme, etc. It hardly seems fair to give these books one star. But this is my subjective opinion. And that’s what rejections and reviews are. In fact, the soaring heights and pitiful lows of many book reviews make the reading public appear bipolar. Witness Twilight.
Many think it’s okay to review a pepperoni pizza when they hate pepperoni and splatter hot cheese all over the wall. If I hate pepperoni, I’m not going to order it, let alone review it. How is that fair to the chef? Others will declare that the chef needs to be executed for his terrible pizza. But herein, again, lies the subjective slaying in “terrible.”
The real issue here is that these writers, whether serving pepperoni or artichokes—were tenacious. They didn’t quit. They found that one “yes” publisher who believed in their work. Later, they ignored the “no’s” who dissed what they dished up and kept writing. They realized there is no book or pizza that will be universally loved. They believed in their visions, persevered and found consumers who enjoyed their unique recipes.
So when ordering pizza, my boyfriend and I decided on a small pepperoni and a small artichoke pizza. We agree to differ, absent the stinging vitriol that often lace book reviews. We respect one another, despite our differences. Best of all, he didn’t try to convince me why I should hate artichokes, for he understands that tastes vary.
As a youth, Liz Gruder saw a series of UFOs with her best friend while riding bikes. Ever since, she’s held a fascination for the stars. An avid reader, she used to hide under her covers and read with a flashlight. She has degrees in English and Psychology from Tulane University, a nursing license and a yoga certification. After going through Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Liz realized how short life is and is now slowly fulfilling her bucket list: she’s been to the Egyptian pyramids (totally awesome and thought provoking) and is now teaching yoga and writing speculative fiction. Starseed is her debut novel.