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  • [Reality Check] Rebounding from Rejections - by Alexandra Caselle
This blog was featured on 10/02/2019
[Reality Check] Rebounding from Rejections - by Alexandra Caselle
Written by
Zetta Brown
October 2019
Written by
Zetta Brown
October 2019

No one likes being told "no." Rejection hurts, and sometimes it doesn't matter if it's constructive or destructive criticism. You can't please everybody, so why should we care if someone doesn't like our work?

I'm sure there are hundreds, if not thousands, of doctoral theses about how rejection affects us; otherwise, what would psychologists have to talk about?

But it's how we handle rejection that is important. Sometimes we can brush it off without a second thought, and sometimes it's so devastating that we never attempt to try anything ever again.

Then there's the reaction that falls in between. We are put off our stride and have serious doubts about our ability that it takes a while before we gather our confidence and ease on down the road doing our thang, if not for our own sake, then out of spite for our critics. Frankly, I think spite is a great motivator and shouldn't be discouraged if it helps you get the job done.

Alexandra Caselle gives us an example of one of these "in between" reactions that I'm sure we can relate to and be inspired from her experience.


Rebounding From Rejections
By Alexandra Caselle

Unbreak my pencil
Say you’ll love my story again
Undo this hurt you caused
When you redlined every clause
With Track Changes and all
And ripped my characters apart
Unblock these fears
I’ve had over keys every night
Unbreak my pencil

~A Writer’s Breakup Song
(inspired by Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart”)

Vulnerability is a writer’s double-edged sword. We take risks in our writing to render the complexities and frailties of real-life in hopes of connecting with readers. We also tread into the publishing waters and cast out our submission lines. Our manuscripts drift half-submerged into the Bermuda Triangle of swamped editors’ desks. They float directionless as they duck and dodge the slush pile sharks.

We stay in limbo, waiting for a piece of paper that holds the decision of our fate. How we handle that decision determines whether we will be able to persevere through the ebb and flow of the writing life.

In September 2013, I was waiting on a decision about a romance story I had submitted. The rejection letter didn’t bother me as much as the attached edits from the publisher. Every line had a critical comment. The publisher ripped my two main characters into shreds. They surrounded them with red-inked bandages, mummifying them; their eyes asked why I had subjected them to such torture. The final comment drove a wedge between my muse and me. The publisher had written that she had stopped reading after page 15 because it was the worst piece of writing she had read and questioned whether I could write or not.

My muse packed her bags and left. The rejection immobilized me as a writer. It wasn’t my first one. I have had plenty of them. Another story that I had submitted to a different publication, “Such Sweet Sorrow,” was rejected several times before BLACKBERRY: a magazine accepted it in 2013. I knew rejections are common in the profession of writing.

But this one was different. I never had been told that I couldn’t write.

I licked my wounds, seeking comfort from my online writing community. One of my writing comrades, T. J. Loveless, offered to read over my story and give me constructive feedback. She reassured me that I could write and there were technical problems that all writers have, but the story’s premise and its characters did not seem lacking. I just needed to revise more.

I was still unable to shake off the rejection. I joked around on my social media sites that I suffered from “authorile dysfunction:” I couldn’t get my fingers up over my keyboard keys.

I kept getting ideas, but the thought, “maybe I can’t write,” played like a tape over and over in my head. I questioned my own abilities and talent.

The muse, tired of dimly lit, smoke-filled spoken-word joints, returned home and demanded that I get off my derrière. I went back to my writing roots by leaning into my surroundings with leisurely walks through historic riverbank neighborhoods and taking in the sights, sounds and language with the stroke of my pen.

I became a note taker of life again, writing for the love of an image instead of publication credits.

A quote by Barbara Kingsolver also gave me a new perspective:

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘To the editor who can appreciate my work,’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address.’ Just keep looking for the right address.”

Finally, I defeated the negative tape and wrote a flash fiction story in April 2014, “Mistakenly Meant to Be.” 

Those leisurely walks also helped me to reflect on the whole situation. Although my writing and I are a symbiotic being, it wasn’t me, the writer, being rejected, only the writing.

I realized that many factors could have been at hand. The story may not have been a good fit for the vision of the publication. Sometimes people just don’t like a writer’s style. Through this experience, I learned that writing is a journey in which craft is never quite perfected. I have grown another layer of armor to withstand the submission process.

As I work on my next piece to cast out on the line, I have another mental tape in my mind now: “It’s always business, never personal.”

I still haven’t picked up the rejected story. Later on this year, I will hold my muse’s hand over my laptop with the missing left mouse key to sit a spell with my two main characters and listen to their love story again.

Maybe we will get it right this time.


Alexandra Caselle is a native Floridian author and poet.  She writes short stories, blogs, and dabbles a little in the following genres: paranormal, YA, contemporary/literary fiction, & romance.  Her blog, Rhet Effects (http://rheteffects.wordpress.com), features author interviews, creative writing, & unique perspectives on writing conventions. She often believes there is a phoenix bird inside of her, waiting to be unleashed, or maybe it’s heartburn.  Follow Alexandra Caselle on Twitter @AlexandraCasell.


©2014. Zetta Brown is an editor and the author of several published short stories and the erotic romance novel Messalina: Devourer of Men. She also provides editing services through JimandZetta.com. If you like this post, then stop by her editing blog Zetta’s Desk or Zetta’s House of Random Thoughts.


* This post was originally published in Junly 2014.

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  • Zetta Brown

    @Alexandra - thanks for the post! We all get rejected at times and it's good to hear how people recover from it.

  • Alexandra Caselle

    Thank you, Zetta, for allowing me to write a guest blog!