No. Nada. No, thanks. Don’t call us; we’ll call you…

Some days you’re the windshield. Some days you’re the bug. Last night, I was the bug. Here’s why:

“Hi Annette,
Thanks so much for letting me take a look at your submission
BONE GIRL. I love a good horse story, so I was interested in reading it.
Unfortunately the writing is just not quite there for me, so I’m afraid I’m
going to have to pass.
Best of luck finding a home for your project, and
thanks again for sending it my way.
Taylor” (editor at Chronicle Books)

An open letter to Kathryn Stockett

Dear Ms. Stockett:

I’ve read your book, The Help, several times. I keep it on my bookshelf next to the novels of Ray Bradbury and John Steinbeck.

Only recently did I learn that the novel was rejected by 60 agents. Sixty! That number takes my breath away. I can’t imagine few people who have your persistence.

I’m so glad you did because your book meant a lot to me and to others. I cannot speak to the characters of Minny and Aibileen, except to say that like Minny, I can’t refrain from speaking my mind and I usually pay for it.

For me, it was Miss Skeeter whose story was most inspiring. I liked reading about a young woman who just didn’t quite fit in her small town. Your book offered me a sliver of validation: it’s okay to be smart and want something more.

Now that I’ve jumped, or perhaps tripped, into this writing life and am peddling my own books, I have a question to ask of you: how did you do it? How did you keep sending out your story after so many rejections? Are you this tenacious in all aspects of your life? Holy buckets!

Recently, I finished writing a middle-grade novel for readers ages 9-12. My book, Bone Girl, is the story of a young girl who desperately seeks to rebuild a relationship with her incarcerated mother. Instead, she finds comfort in her father’s horses and learning to play a hand-me-down trombone in the school band. She plays the trombone because her father cannot afford to buy or rent her the instrument she wants, a clarinet. She practices in the barn, surrounded by her father’s horses, so that she doesn’t feel so alone. When her father and the stallion he trains go missing during an equestrian endurance ride in the Ozark Mountains, Josey plays her trombone and calls the horse in, thus saving her father’s life.  

I think this novel is the finest thing I’ve ever written. It’s complete, though I can’t keep myself from polishing it here or there. I’ve queried agents, and usually within a few days, they send me the nicest email, telling me they have no interest in my book. And I think of you: sixty rejections. You must have really believed in your book and its characters.

Well, I’m no Kathryn Stockett, but I believe in this manuscript and the characters that come to life on its pages, especially my main character, Josey Miller. So I pledge that I will not stop sending Bone Girl to agents or publishers until I have sixty rejections. 

Just so you’ll know, Ms. Stockett, I’m a quitter. I quit high school. I quit two marriages. I quit the profession of journalism. I even quit the doctorate of nursing program at Washington State University after spending more than a year getting admitted. Yep. I cut bait and run. So for me, this pledge is a huge commitment. Sixty rejections. Wow. Okay. Let’s do this.

Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: I’m heading to Seattle for the western Washington SCBWI conference. Party pics!

Sometimes, the answer is no

For several years, I have wanted to raise chickens. I daydream about feeding them, holding them and collecting their tasty eggs. I can’t wait for the day when I too can call myself a chicken farmer.

So now that we are no longer living in Alaska and don’t have to worry about bears coming into our yard to eat our chickens, and possibly eating our 5-year-old son, it’s time. I can have my chickens. Well, no. I can’t.

We are renting a house, and according to the homeowner association’s website, the only chickens allowed are the ones on a barbecue grill. Now, that’s where my chickens may eventually end up, but only over their dead bodies. Sorry, bad joke.

For now, the answer is no. I cannot have chickens.

Last week, I submitted my recently completed manuscript, The Celebration House to six publishers. Yes, I’m one of the 3% of people who actually finish writing a book. The soonest I can expect to hear back is 30 days. At the other end of the spectrum, the editors at Harlequin will let me know if they are interested in 12-14 weeks.

It’s likely that since I am an unpublished author and my book is a little unorthodox for a paranormal romance (the heroine dies at the end), that most if not all of these six publishers will tell me no. Thank you, but no.

As a writer, I’ve got to make my peace with rejection. It’s part of the life I want. But I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone. Some pretty amazing writers have been rejected. A lot.

Dr. Seuss’ first manuscript, And to Think that I saw it on Mulberry Street, was rejected 27 times.

One of my favorite books, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, was rejected 60 times.

Dune, by Frank Herbert was rejected 20 times.

Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, sold 14 million copies and won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Pretty impressive for a book that a rejection letter describes as “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.”

Animal Farm, by George Orwell: an American publisher told Orwell that “it is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”

I know as soon as those rejection emails start rolling in, feelings of discouragement will likely come with them. But that’s okay. I’m prepared. I already have Plan B.

If Harlequin rejects The Celebration House, and I suspect they will, I can submit the manuscript to Carina, Harlequin’s e-publisher.  But only if Harlequin rejects it. There’s also the possibility of self-publishing the book. I just need a winning lottery ticket.

Now, as far as a Plan B for the chickens, who of my neighbors would rat me out to the homeowner’s association if I just, you know, went ahead and got them? The chicks would live inside for the first eight weeks anyway. We plan to move in the summer of 2014. Hmm. Maybe I can make this work.

Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: my office on wheels.



Illustration by Margie B. Segress. Doesn’t she capture perfectly the image of hope with this little character? To see more of her work, go to