Guest Post & Giveaway: Rebecca Cohen – When rejection is the best thing for your story

I’ve never met a writer who has never had a story rejected; it’s all part of the writer’s adventure. The rejection lands on the doormat or the inbox, then it’s time to move and find another home for your prose baby. But sometimes, the rejection is more than a ‘sorry, not for us’ but a sign that the story just isn’t right.

Cruel, horrible words I know, but it has to be faced, and if wasn’t for a rejection or two then my new release wouldn’t be the story it is today. Way back in 2010, before I was published and when I was still studying creative writing, I had an assignment to write a short story and the concept for Life in the Land was born. Here was a young man, Bobby Sawyer, whose family had special powers and the story was about where the magic came from and how he was having trouble reaching the magic in the land. The idea was contemporary fantasy with a large dollop of magical realism, and I had half an eye on a writing mag that I could submit it to later. My tutor loved the story; it got me a great grade, and full of hope and promise I sent it off, and waited for the acceptance letter…

And what came back was:

We feel that it’s a nice piece, well written, but that it doesn’t stand on its own all that well. To us it feels more like a part of something bigger. We’d like to encourage you to work some more on the setting and the characters. There is potential here.

As you can imagine it wasn’t what I wanted to read, and my initial reaction was: let’s try somewhere else. But a couple of other submissions later and I was still no further. Then in 2011 I saw the call for Men of Steel, Dreamspinner anthologies about superheroes, and I thought maybe I was missing something, and rewrote Life in the Land to become a slightly longer story (3500 words) and introduced Mike, best friend of my hero, and gave it a new title, The Artichoke Avenger and Sprout Boy. So, convinced I was now onto a winner, I sent it off…

And here’s what came back (along with some other words of encouragement):

At the moment, your story does not fit our needs for the collection.  However, if you would like to have it considered as a stand-alone novella, please consider expanding and resubmitting it as such.’

It took me a year to extend the story into a novella (I had a couple of other projects on the go at the time) and finally submitted the Life in the Land in Jan 2013. And eight nail biting weeks later the story was contracted. Phew!

What I can honestly say now is it is a better a story, and I obviously needed the time and impetus to write and extend it. So, yes, rejection hurt – but in this case it was what was needed, and I’m very grateful for the feedback I’ve received. I’ve something else in the pipeline that’s has a similar path… fingers crossed I’ll be as lucky with that one!

 Short Excerpt from Land in the Land

The distant hum of a tractor’s engine and a few notes of birdsong were the only noises, and once again Bobby’s chest filled with heart-clenching disappointment. His eyes prickled, and he tried to hold back the tears, but he couldn’t. Large, wet tracks raced down his cheeks, and he leaned forward and rested his head and arms on his knees as he sobbed, pent-up disappointment and salty worries splashing into the soil.

“Please don’t cry, Bobby.”

Mike’s eyes were large and imploring, and Bobby was so miserable at his lack of progress that he just wanted something to hold on to. He leaned forward and tentatively brushed his lips to Mike’s in the gentlest of kisses. With a soft sigh, Mike kissed back in the same chaste way.

There was a tremor beneath him, a mild shake that made his whole body vibrate. They sprang apart, both staring wide-eyed at the dirt as they tried to work out what could be causing the disturbance.

Bobby’s jaw dropped. Before his eyes two of the large roots pulled themselves free of the ground, clods of soil falling from the delicate rootlets as they reached out to him.

With an undignified yelp, Bobby fell backward and scrambled away, but a soft rumble from the oak made him stop. It was reassurance, a call for calm, and he knew then everything was okay.

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Rebecca Cohen is a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, she has left London behind and now lives with her husband and baby son in Basel, Switzerland. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.


Rebecca has kindly offered up copy of the Life in the Land ebook to one lucky commenter! See the rules below for details. 😀
~*Giveaway Rules*~

Leave a comment on this entry with your name and email address. That counts as one entry. If you want to toss your name into the pot more than once, you can do one, or all, of the following:

-Be a follower of Babes in Boyland +1 (If you’re already a follower, that counts too! Just mention it. :))
-Pimp this contest on your Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads status, etc., and provide us with a link to said promotion(s). +1 per link
-Follow us on Twitter! (See the sidebar for our names and links to our accounts). If your Twitter name is different than the one you use here, please let us know. +1 for each of us. (Rebecca too!

And that’s it!

Contest ends: 8/27/2013, Tue, at 9PM CDT.

Note: This contest is open worldwide. We will contact the winner via email. The winner will have 48 hours to contact us, or we will draw again. Winner will be chosen by random drawing. And I know it shouldn’t have to be said, but if you win, please respect the intellectual property of the author and don’t share the book or give it away to anyone else.

 ~*This contest is open to adults age 18 and up. Your comment confirms that you are of legal age.*~
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