Shannon Hale on Rejection

Shannon Hale is the author of the Books of Bayern series (which you can start reading for a limited time here on Figment). Although Shannon’s 2005 novel Princess Academy was a Newbery Honor book and has a highly anticipated sequel on the way, Shannon experienced her fair share of rejection trying to get her first novel, The Goose Girl, published. Here, she gives some handy advice on how to keep your chin up when you’re feeling put-down. 

I started writing books when I was 10. I published my first 29 years later. At the time, it felt like an eternity. During the rejection years, I received two valuable pieces of advice. I pass this advice along to you, my fine grasshoppers.

1. Keep your rejection letters

I had no idea how important this simple idea was at first. After the first few, my goal became to see how fat I could make my folder of rejections. Each time I got one in the mail, instead of getting buried by depression, I felt a sense of accomplishment. Another letter for my collection! Hey, the depression happened too, but at least it didn’t bury me. And if the rejection had a personal note in it, score! Another accomplishment!

I don’t have all the letters (lost some, and some rejections were communicated by a lack of communication) but I ended up with about sixty. Sixty, I know, is small potatoes for some. I know people with hundreds! (Lucky.) I laminated my letters into a long roll that I can unroll with dramatic effect at school visits and writers’ conferences. So sweet! And I’ve had other writers, the “lucky” ones who never had rejections, tell me they were jealous of me.

2. Keep writing

A writer writes. It really is that simple. My self esteem as a writer is always, always dictated by how I feel about what I’m writing now. It’s not about being published or rejected, or selling books or getting awards (or not, as the case may be). It’s the writing. That was true before I was published, and that remains true now that I have my 11th and 12th books coming out next year.

If I was sending out stories and books, getting rejections, and not writing in the meantime, I was a mess. But when I kept writing, my hope remained intact. I had some control. Not over the editors and agents and whether or not they were liking my submission (or even reading it), but over the next book. The words, the characters, the stories. That is my domain. Seize your power! Keep writing.

To read more about Shannon’s sunny-side approach to rejection, check out her blog here. And you can read some of her actual rejection letters, though names have been changed to protect the foolish.

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