Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Language of Rejection: Not Always Meant for Translation.

As a long time children's book illustrator and now aspiring writer, I have approached a few literary agents that I feel would be a good match for my work. I recently got a very nice rejection letter from a new agent that said my PB manuscript had a "clever sensibility" to it, but that she did not "connect" with my illustration style, therefore it was a "no". I've been scratching my head trying to figure out what "clever sensibility" means...a polite way of saying your story is just okay but not great?
Maybe this would make more sense to me if I'd seen the manuscript, but I think chances are strong that this is just gibberish.
Could you please interpret this rejection letter to me... Sometimes I don't know what this kind of letters really tell... They like your work and in the future want to know what you are doing, or simply is a nice form of rejection, like when a girl friend says its me not you? This is the rejection letter: Dear X, Thank you for your enormous patience with me while I've reviewed your various projects and discussed them with a colleague here. Your writing style is intriguing and lyrical, intense and evocative, but in the end, I'm afraid we found these stories too ephemeral or elliptical thematically--or at least, we found that we lack a vision for publishing and promoting them--so I must say no with regrets.
Translation: "Your writing is good; what it's not is marketable. But maybe I'm wrong? Who knows."


Chris Wolfgang said...

Good Lord. Ephemeral? Elliptical thematically? Sounds like someone pulled out a thesaurus and went at it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, hell, this sounds like the rejections I get.

"...Your writing style is intriguing and lyrical, intense and evocative ...... we found that we lack a vision for publishing and promoting them--so I must say no with regrets..."

i.e., they aren't vampires and don't involve Edward Cullen, so gosh, golly, gee, we wouldn't know how to market them. What you've written here is... a book, with thoughts and feelings and meaning... we're just not good at that sort of thing. We need projects made from the spare parts of other books, that can be described in only five words, this sounds... (gasp).. original! Eeek...

Anonymous said...

Low opinion of editors around here, huh?

Lily Cate said...

Sounds more like great writing with not much actual story.
Kids, for all they don't know about great art, do actually like some plot to go with the pictures.

Anonymous said...

Your rejection letter's writing style is intriguing and lyrical, intense and evocative, but in the end, I'm afraid we found these words too ephemeral or elliptical thematically, since I use ten and twenty dollar words all the time and could barely decipher the nonsensical meaning behind them.

Editorial Anonymous said...

LOL, the rejection letter is a bit overwritten. But don't assume it means the publisher was simply rejecting something wonderful out of gutlessness.
I've seen plenty of stories in slush that had lovely, lovely writing in terms of their word choice and imagery, but terrible writing in terms of their comprehensibility, emotional heart, or topical appeal to other readers.

It doesn't matter how lyrical your prose is if you're writing a garbled dream sequence with purple hippos and cheese sandwiches, or a picture book love story about incest.

Mame said...

Would you rather they act like jerks when telling you no?

PH said...

I've just had an excellent idea for some mischief.

Anonymous said...

Maybe is that... good writing, but bad plot.

I will change it for the next manuscript.

Thank you very much,

Mr. X.

Anonymous said...

Maybe is that... Good writing, but strange plot.

I'll try to change it for good in the future.

Thank you very much for all comments,


nauthor said...

Lily Cate,

Agreed. I used to write lyrical, elliptical prose and could never sell it to anyone.

Kids ain't so much with the lyrical and elliptical. Now funny, they like funny.

Deirdre Mundy said...

To me it sounds like the story is a mood piece, not a story.

You know, a pleasant memory of a day in the woods, gorgeously describe, almost a prose poem..... but not the sort of thing that would work as a picture book. Plotless.

The sort of book that makes adults swoon, but makes kids wander off and start playing with legos.

So....if you can find a way to combione your current writing style with an actual plot (Doesn't have to be vampire dinosaur cowboys, just something that kids will find relatable and intriguing... so a kid POV, not an adult one) you may have something.

Check out Rosemary Wells... her books are short, but have INCREDIBLY gripping plots for the preschool/toddler set.... Like, on the edge of their seats excitement and laughs. And only very rarely featuring anything vampyric in nature.....

kellion said...

My Discworld, if editors and writers can't use big words when talking to each other, when exactly are big words appropriate? :) I know I can't always use them in my writing, so I save them up for erudite audiences and then let them fly.

WritingToFly said...

"The sort of book that makes adults swoon, but makes kids wander off and start playing with legos."

You have too much faith in adults. :)

It may be the sort of book that makes adult smile politely, and then start thinking about that suddenly very exciting prospect of team building and career consultation?

Anna said...

WritingToFly -- What's with the implication that adults would be better for swooning over descriptions of days in the woods? I'd rather they swooned over danger-packed narratives about construction equipment. Written in lyrical, elliptical prose, of course.

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