Shelley Widhalm

Archive for the ‘Rejection’ Category

NCW Conference (after the fact)

In Rejection, Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Conferences on April 6, 2014 at 11:00 am

The Northern Colorado Writers Conference March 28-29 crammed years of other people’s experiences into two days that, for me, burst into a kaleidoscope of emotions.

Held at the Fort Collins Hilton, the venue was fancy with colorful carpets, lots of brass, a Starbucks and many other details I can’t remember (though as a writer, that’s exactly what I’m supposed to do).

I didn’t know which sessions to pick from the three to four offered every couple of hours, particularly with the first set Friday morning: the discussion on character development presented by Victoria Hanley or the one on dialogue by Teresa Funke. But I knew I needed more help on creating beat sheets, or structuring story, from Sandi Ault. I tend to plunge into my writing even if I have an initial idea, requiring several revisions to get the arc to fit plot and character.

Very studiously, I took notes on everything I hadn’t learned about writing, such as the importance of cutting “that” and sentences beginning with “as” and what to expect when writing for literary versus commercial magazines. I got encouragement when writers talked about their own experiences with writing and their circuitous paths to getting published, such as Chuck Sambuchino, editor for Writer’s Digest Books, who got rejected for an article idea that, through several steps and chance meetings, ended in his publishing his humor book, “How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack.”

But all of this was background to why I really was there. I was determined to get an agent, sell my book and catapult my writing career in about 30 seconds. I attended one of the agent roundtables, bringing my perfected first page from my YA novel, “The Money Finder.”

I ignored the inner voice that tells you stuff you don’t want to hear when it said, “Your book is not ready. You’ve edited it twice. Cool it.”

My perfect first page wasn’t: Too much back story, and Grace, my POV character, complained about her neglectful parents in a way that was telling, not showing.

What I had needed to do was start with scene. Not weather, or sunshine. Not a dream, or just waking up.

Despite my mistakes, I continued to believe I would be selected for a one-on-one agent session the next day, because my book was great. After dinner, conference director Kerrie Flanagan called the names of a dozen people, excluding mine.

Uh-oh.

A big, dramatic pity session ensued, and I thought about why I had to add another rejection to my pile of personal, professional, life and writing rejections.

This poutiness lasted a day, because I had a choice: give up writing or get back up and write. Yep, the conference made me realize that whether or not I get published, I have to write. It’s in me. It’s who I am.

It’s my dream, and my story.

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Rejection Queen

In 52: A Writer's Life, Rejection, Revising, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on April 21, 2013 at 11:00 am

Every time I get rejected from a short story, poetry or book contest or anything else having to do with writing, I have to pout.

I start with the thought that I’m a pro at rejection, a skill I learned as an elementary school student not able to fit in socially. I was the awkward geeky girl who stood outside the girl groups, barely fitting in.

My next thought, at least with my latest rejection from a writing contest, was that if I had actually won, I would have had to wonder if there was something wrong with the contest, because, as evidenced by past experiences, I don’t win.

At the same time, I believed I should have won (there weren’t very many entries), because I’ve been told that I’m a good writer and, likewise, believe that I’m a good writer. I write because of that belief and because I have to write.

But why if I’m “a good writer” am I still a collector of rejection slips?

My latest rejection slip I realize had merit because I submitted a book manuscript for “The Fire Painter” before I had finished the revision process. A couple days later, I received a critique form explaining the areas where to strengthen my manuscript, taking out some of the sting.

Following the pouting phase, I had to go through some ego bandaging. I had to get back up and try again at this writing thing.

Though I do wonder:

* Am I crazy spending my free time writing when I could be living?
* Am I crazy thinking I’m a great writer when I have evidence of rejection?
* Am I crazy for pursuing something that is like spinning in a circle of nowhereness when
I could be going forward on something else?

Whether I am or not, I’m writing again.

Hopefully next time, I’ll throw my arms out to welcome rejection as part of the process.

Bar Hopping it Alone

In Going out, Rejection, Shyness, Talking on July 3, 2011 at 7:00 am

I took my broken heart to the bar on Friday night.

A few months ago, I begged out of my challenge to go to a bar by myself, believing it would make me extremely uncomfortable to stand around alone with my rum and Coke.

What led me to go it alone is my big disappointment a week ago. I had reconnected with an old boyfriend, or whatever he was at the time. But when he came to visit a decade-plus later, he made it quite obvious that in his eyes, I was very, very boring and not very fun to look at – he kept wearing his stupid sunglasses and if not, he’d look everywhere but at me.

But enough about him, because I don’t want to go on and on about what is not.

Anyway, I gave my bar visit one hour.

I bought a drink at this big-city ultralounge in the small city where I live. Tad, the owner of the bar, was at the deejay booth, so I put in a request for Lady Gaga.

I knew Tad from a work-related interview about his new bar concept, so I felt comfortable enough to tell him about my blog challenge. He introduced me to three twenty-something men playing pool. I said “hi” and stood there, waiting to be overcome by brilliant conversation on theirs or my part.

When it didn’t happen, I scurried across the dance floor and up a flight of steps to a sitting area with box-shaped chairs with no backs. I felt like a dork sitting ergonomically correct with my drink. I looked at my glow stick-lighted watch. I had made it 20 whole minutes.

“I can do this,” I said to myself. I took a tour of the bar, though I already knew what it looked like from the interview, and returned to the deejay booth to request another song by Lords of Acid.

And then a drunk but handsome man offered to buy me a drink. I accepted and tried to hold a conversation with him as he swayed and slurred. Drunk number 2, short but cute, came and chatted me up. I started to feel like the drunk guy magnet. Come and talk to the shy girl. And they did.

Between chatting up drunks and talking to Tad, I ended up staying at the bar for 3 ½ hours until close. I guess it was because I was having fun. I had done something I hadn’t wanted to do (go to a big, scary bar all by myself) and I got through it. Plus, I got complimented enough that it started to negate my awful weekend with Mr. Wishy Washy.

Next challenge: start a conversation with a handsome man (sans ring) in a bar. However, if I get the sense that I’m boring him like I did Mr. WW, then I can take a tour of the bar and not let me ego get trampled on along the way.

The Town Cry-er

In Rejection, Shyness, Talking, Vacations on June 26, 2011 at 7:28 am

I took five days off for a friend’s visit but it didn’t turn out so well. It’s the classic case of uneven liking – I like him lots and he thinks I’m more boring than eating pasta shells sans sauce.

During these five (reduced to three because, yep, you got it) days, I realized that besides hating being shy, I hate that I’m sensitive.

Actually, a better way to put it is I have a penchant for crying. You would think I would be dehydrated and ultra skinny from all the energy I burn from letting the water roll. But I have to lift weights and diet and all that crap.

Plus cry.

Add to that the fact I got my hopes up and don’t know where to put them now. In my anticipation of this visit, I jumped out of my comfortable numbness, though I didn’t know that I was numb until, well, now. I’ve been going through the motions of living as I impatiently waited for the weekends when I could sit outside and read or work on my writing.

But hey, I now see that my problem is that I’ve let my shyness keep me in this introverted state where I hang out by myself. My problem is I really do like to talk. It’s just I don’t know how to open my mouth and get words out. Sure I can talk to people who approach my dog to pet her or if I have to interview them or want to make small talk.

But if there is a pause, or silence or discomfort on my part, I don’t know what to do.

Unfortunately, after not reading a book for three weeks because I went on a vacation, tried to finish my novel editing and had this five-day visit coming up, I realized that, unlike what I’ve been telling myself, real life is more fun then books. Now, I just need a how-to book to read to tell me how to live, hence returning me to my comfort of reading instead of living.

For my dog Zoey’s perspective, check out  http://zoeyspaw.wordpress.com/2011/06/25/paws-itive-empathy/

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