Thursday 14th January

It’s cold today, just above freezing, and I’ve stolen Ellie’s navy-blue bobble hat to wear on my head. The dogs and I have been out for an hour, and my fingers are all white and corpse-like. Pants is still looping the field in his endless stride, but Dora is next to me, on George and Rose’s bench. The slats of the bench are cold beneath my thighs, frozen despite the sun. I’m eating chocolate coins that taste of scented candle, and Dora is watching me.

It was bad news for the book. Agent J felt it wasn’t quite right for the market, and rather than rewrite, to try something else. She told me on the phone, on Monday, as kindly and quickly as she could, and I didn’t cry until she hung up.

Today is four days later, and I’m in the cricket. In my mind, the grass of the field is uniformly green, like a bag of Bird’s Eye peas, but it’s not like that at all in real life. It’s of different lengths and textures; it rolls over tiny hills, clumps thickly in shallow dips. It’s long enough to move in the freezing wind, and it changes character completely with the sun behind a cloud.
Recognizing the difference between what I think and then the actual reality is hard.  It’s hard to trust my own judgement, my own intelligence. I thought I’d pitched the book right for the market; I thought that this time, this time, it would all work.
It’s hard to describe failure. It happens to all of us at some point, but I never really remember what it’s like until I’m in it, like child birth. Then I remember, God, yes. This hurts. But oddly, it seems to hurt less than it did when I was younger. It still matters just as much, but no one’s broken my wrist to stop me writing; no one’s taken my children into care, or repossessed my house. I can still write, I can still try again, and again, and again, and I will.

Both of the daughters squashed me in a hug when I told them, and my eldest said, ‘Never mind, Mummy. At least you’re not a quitter.’

Stevie was prosaic. He told me to just get on with the next one, and by the way, what’s for dinner and did I get the cheques to the bank in the end? I’m so grateful for my family. I’m so lucky that they view my writing as just something I’ve got to do, like cleaning my teeth or cooking dinner.

I look out at the field, seeing my ghost-self on her never-ending march. I’ve marched a lot this week, stamped my feet down over the shadows of self-pity and indulgence. I’ve been angry at myself for not doing what I set out to do, and I mind not being able to show I can achieve something for which I’m trying so hard.

I imagine myself jumping on mole-hills for some light-relief, up and down, double-footed, my arms waving to keep my balance.  The image makes me smile. Frustration and false pride and bitterness, all squashed flat, beaten beneath my boots.

Dora is shivering now, beside me. She’s tucked into the side of my coat, watching Pants watch sparrows. She senses my attention and looks at me, her foxy face asking a question.

‘Yes,’ I say. I stand up. ‘Come on then. Onwards.’


Author: mrscarlielee

Mother. Writer. Wearer of frocks with wellies. Loves Dancing, Frivolity and Good Books. Tweet @MrsCarlieLee

6 thoughts on “Thursday 14th January”

  1. I’m so sorry your book wasn’t taken up. Please don’t beat yourself up – what you’ve done is a big-huge thing. YOU’VE WRITTEN A WHOLE BOOK FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE! You have achieved something – and I for one (if it’s anything like your writing on here) should like to read it.

    I think I’d want answers to questions – which market? Can you ask them?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, thanks Felicity, how lovely to read your message. Basically, the book isn’t strong enough for the current market. It’s women’s commercial fiction, and that’s one of the toughest markets to place a debut. On the bright side, I’ve now got a second and third novel, I just need the first!


  2. You are so brave sharing your story. Rejection is really tough, no two ways about it, but your writing is beautiful, vivid, visual and you paint wonderful pictures with your words. I can’t wait to read one of your books – am sure that day is getting closer! As you said yourself: onwards…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Debbie, thank you – you’ve raised a smile!
      I don’t feel very brave, just fed up and resigned and kickingly cross with myself. Just need to put my head down, throw my weight in the traces and work harder, smarter. Lindt chocolate is helping immeasurably.Meanwhile, have brilliant, generous writers like you for inspiration, so thank you.


  3. I’m so sorry it didn’t work for your agent this time. I agree with Debbie, above, your writing is beautiful. Do you have any ideas what you’ll do next?


  4. It hurts — I know it does. At last count, I have 109 rejections spread over eighteen months (and they are just the ones who were polite enough to reply). These days I don’t send out a lot of stuff to conventional publishers. I got enough ‘yeses’ to prove a point to myself, but I do occasionally send out a manuscript just because I like to torture myself.
    Unless your heart is absolutely set on ‘being published’ by a publisher, consider the alternative — a lot of excellent writers now ‘row their own boat’. Give it some thought.


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