Life (and Work) After Rejection

Posted on 19 December 2011

When I approved the galleys for my article “Life (and Work) After Rejection,” which appears in the January issue of The Writer, I included this note to my editor at the magazine: “I’m simultaneously looking forward to this coming out and also a little mystified that I have decided to publicly write about my miserable 8th grade year.”

Most of us would like to forget about the most awkward point in our adolescence. Me? I write a personal essay about it and publish it in a national magazine.

Despite my apparent willingness to publicly humiliate myself yet again, this essay is one of my favorites. I wrote the first draft last year, on a snowy December night, only hours after I’d received a writing rejection that particularly stung. I immediately knew I would connect that rejection with a painful middle school memory. Even so, as I wrote the essay, I thought, “There’s no way I’d ever try to get this published. This will just have to be for me.”

But, of course, that level of honesty and vulnerability is what made me like the piece so much. And what does a writer do with her honesty and vulnerability? She sells it, of course, so it can appear on newsstands nationwide.

In all seriousness, I hope you can take something from my story about rejection, whether it’s of the middle-school or the writing variety. The essay is available in print only, so you’ll have to check out a copy of The Writer to see my piece in all its shameful glory. But you’ll be rewarded with tales of my god-awful 8th grade perm, the cruelties only middle school girls can dish out, and how I let one lousy rejection send me on a sugar-fueled shame spiral. In other words, a perfect read for the holidays!

Which school year was the absolute worst for you? I know I can’t be alone over here in grade 8.

14 responses to Life (and Work) After Rejection

  • margosita says:

    Why else go through painful adolescence if you can’t one day publish something about it in a National Magazine?

    8th was pretty bad for me, too. It’s so hard to pick “the worst”. The haircuts alone make it such an impossibility.

    • I combined a bad perm (on hair that simply doesn’t work well with a perm in the first place) with waaaay too much Sun-In from the previous summer, which turned my hair/roots a brassy orange. Sadly, my hair was the least of my problems!

  • says:

    In first grade, the boy next to me in class hit me and I hit him back. The teacher got mad and said I should never do that again. I should tell her instead. The little jerk hit me not more than ten minutes later and I raised my hand vigorously until she called on me to speak. When I told her he hit me, she said, “Well, hit him back.” I guess I was a very sensitive child because that had me so confused I could barely make a decision.

    Of course, that wasn’t my worst year. My worst year was a train wreck of awfulness that no one would want to hear about. I second the previous comment. How cool that you can share your experience — and have it published in a national magazine!

    • I love that the teacher actually told you to hit him back. I was similarly confused by an experience in first grade, when a teacher blamed for breaking something (which I didn’t) and then for shirking my resulting recess restrictions (which I didn’t). Even though I was only 7 years old, I wish I had been able to speak up for myself at least a little.

    • Averil Dean says:

      I’m with Re, my worst year was in high school, and so awful it doesn’t bear repeating.

      (And I think you post these things just to tease me, Laura. Do you know how far away the nearest bookstore is?)

      • I obviously didn’t have the room (or the heart) to share all the truly low moments or aspects of that year…just one concrete story about my ex-best friend and her friendly suggestion that doubled as a nod toward suicide. Good times!

  • Lyra says:

    Oh, man. So many to pick from.
    The bad perm was in sixth grade. Kids were merciless.
    Fourth grade was a horror, to this day I’ve never met a person so cruel as one of the girls there.

    She found a picture of me from first grade where I wore plastic pearls and the entire group picked on me endlessly until I was routinely saying “Sorry” to them just for existing. Then, she made fun of me for saying sorry when I didn’t know what I was sorry for.

    It all came around though. I know where I am now and I have a pretty good idea how someone like that turned out.

  • TP says:

    Maybe I’m just going senile, but I can’t remember a lot of middle school. Anyway, the pain I experienced then was a mosquito bite compared to my 20s.

  • TP says:

    Laura M, what would you say distinguishes The Writer from Writer’s Digest I want to subscribe to something, and I tried the Digest years ago.

    • That’s a good question, but one I probably can’t help with much because I don’t read Writer’s Digest. The Writer includes a range of tips, how-tos, interviews, writer profiles, etc. I’d consider it more of a “how-to” writing magazine than something like Poets & Writers, which tends to include more long essays, profiles, and industry news.

  • lisahgolden says:

    How awesome that the pain of rejection fueled this particular essay and now it’s being published! Lemonade.

    Freshman year of high school when a group of older girls decided to punish me for going out with one of their ex boyfriends by spreading a rumor that I was pregnant. When that didn’t work, they spread rumors that I worshiped Satan. That was swell.

    Fourth grade sock hop. All the boys wanted to slow dance with me. I found out later that it was because they wanted to see if they could feel my newly sprouted boobs because one of the guys told them that they’d be “squishy.”

  • High school, for sure. I wanted so desperately to fit in. But some things will never be. That was one of them.

  • Recent Posts

    Tag Cloud

    5 random things acceptance American Literary Review AWP AWP 2012 book reviews books Bread Loaf 2012 cat lady cats Cirrus Cleveland Cleveland writers contests failure Fiction Writers Review first drafts Huda Al-Marashi literary magazines living arrangements Mac's Backs Mid-American Review NaNoWriMo novel revisions Opal Poets & Writers publishing reading rejection revision rust belt chic Saucy Sophie Kerr Prize Stories on Stage The Writing Life this is what the publishing process looks like tricia springstubb Washington College writing advice writing buddies writing frustrations writing goals writing groups writing retreat writing workshops


    Laura Maylene Walter is proudly powered by WordPress and the SubtleFlux theme.

    Copyright © Laura Maylene Walter