Relatives and rejection

Kristin Nelson talks about a parent who sent a scolding email after her child’s query was rejected.

This was probably well-intentioned on the parent’s part. It is also so, so wrong. I feel for the teen on whose behalf that email was written.

Those who love us have good intentions. Writers often have to talk them out of them. (Just this week, I had to talk a well-meaning older relation out of contacting a bookseller he thought was selling used copies of my work for too low a price.) This is probably even more true for young writers who still live with their folks.

If I was 16, and my parents wanted to contact an agent or editor who had rejected me, I can imagine two different responses that would have warred in me: part of my would be cringing, embarrassed, wishing my parents would just drop it; and part of me would find it a relief that someone else was offering to take over, to fight on my behalf. This may be one of the few times when the impulse toward embarrassment is the right one.

Yet those friends and relatives, the ones so willing to get indigant on our behalf, are not irrelevant to our careers, either. Their support is valuable and wonderful–it just needs to happen behind the scenes.

When a work we love and care about gets rejected, it’s okay to kick a few walls. It’s okay to whine a little. It’s okay to whine to your Mom. (I still whine to my Mom.) But these things can’t happen on stage. On stage–and a public blog post is as on stage as a personal email–the responses need to be more professional: “Thanks for your time. Maybe the next story will be a better fit. Maybe the next story will be a better story. Time to try the next market.”

When a friend or a relative offers hugs and sympathy and ice cream sundaes with hot butterscotch topping, accept all of that. But when they offer to pick up the phone, to fire off the indignant email, to blog about how badly you were treated?

That’s when it’s time to be professional: “Thanks for caring, but I can handle it.”

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