Wednesday, September 17, 2014

1,001 Rejection Slips, Old Memories Die Hard.

Louis Shalako

In one corner of my bedroom are seven boxes of model aircraft parts, tools, spares and hardware.

There are propellers and wheels, batteries, chargers, transmitters, receivers, electronic speed controls, catalogues, glue, sandpaper…you name it, and it’s probably in one of them boxes.

My dad died years ago. Flying model aircraft was something special that we shared. We flew control line planes when we were very young, He taught us how to do that, having built rubber-band models when he was a kid. He got into radio control when he was in his late fifties or early sixties. It was just something he had always wanted to do, and I guess he knew he wasn’t getting any younger.

I have no regrets about spending time with my dad. However, it’s hard to open the boxes, because it brings up a lot of sadness. My closet had a few other boxes in there, and so that’s where I began.

In three years, I have never driven a nail or hung a picture. It’s an apartment, which is not exactly the same thing as having a home. For whatever reason, maybe it’s time to lighten ship.

I threw out a couple of small shopping bags, several empty boxes, and two full, big green garbage bags. 

There was probably a hundred pounds of stuff there. This was mostly old college artwork, drawings, maps, plans for weird inventions, and photos going back to the Brownie camera my old man let me use when I was six years old…I suppose there was some sadness in those boxes as well. Fifty-something years of memories, mementos, trophies of a kind. There were faded pictures of one or two love interests in those boxes as well.

I put it in the big blue dumpster in the back parking lot.


My old man had a lot of model aircraft plans, many of which he designed and drafted himself. He was a very good draftsman, although he never actually worked as one. All of it is in the dumpster.
In one of them boxes I found a file folder.

Lo! And behold, ladies and gentlemen. A hundred and twenty-something rejection slips. All of them on paper. Remember? We used to put them in envelopes, on paper, and stick them in mailboxes.

Like a real hobbyist, I had saved the envelopes, probably for the colourful and exciting stamps. While I didn’t submit to every Canadian publisher, there is a good, representative selection in that file. Yep. Harper-Collins, Turnstone, Mosaic, Gaspereau, pretty much everyone you ever heard of, and some you have not. I submitted to every publisher whose guidelines did not indicate agented submissions were a requirement. I had multiple rejection slips from most or all of the agents as well.


I keep a document file. It’s called, oddly enough, ‘List of Subs.’ I keep track of submissions, and rejections, otherwise I’m very likely to submit the same story twice, to the same place, and you might not want to do that. It might not be very welcome. They might think you’re a dummy and that you can’t take a frickin’ hint.

When that document locked up on me—I’m still using this 13 year-old Pentium II computer; I deleted it. 

This was a mistake, because while I could not update it, I could still have checked to see what story had been submitted where, and when.

I guess that wasn’t very smart.

What I did was to publish virtually every story I had in the inventory. Then I didn’t have to worry. I published them on my blogs, I published them in collections and in stand-alone ebook novellas, short stories, etc.

Then I wrote a bunch of new stories and began submitting them around. I hope to write more short stories in November, possibly sooner if I get my next mystery novel done by the end of September, mid-October at the latest. That would be my 14th novel.

My new rejection (Oops! Sorry!) list, of course I mean my submissions list, has over a hundred and eighty items on it. The first list was up to 703 items when it locked up. And I’ve gotten a couple of dozen, maybe thirty stories published, not all for pay, and none in pro or semi-pro markets. The biggest story I ever sold was for 140 Euros, that was to Ennea, (‘9’), the Greek Saturday comic supplement to an Athens daily.

Without subscribing to Duotrope, (I’m very poor) I’m limited to the market list, and so that whole pro/semi-pro thing has tended to dominate my thinking. I guess that really does fall into the ‘quest for validation’ category, a thought-process that might need to be reexamined.

Either way you look at it, I am so darned close to my 1,000th rejection slip that it really isn’t all that funny, although I can guarantee that your friends will laugh if you tell them something like that.

“I told you what you gotta do, Louis!” (Roars with merriment.)

“And what’s that?” (Mystified.)

“You got to compromise your integrity.”

(That’s a good one. – ed.)

Anyway, John Creasy got 765 rejection slips before he got published, and quite frankly one or two of my books are better than one or two of his books…in my humble opinion.

Other than that, my closet is now much emptier, and sooner or later, I really have to go through all of those old model airplane boxes. If I can bring myself to throw much of it away, although some of it might be worth keeping.

Most of that stuff belongs in the big blue dumpster in the back parking lot, and one day surely I will get around to it.

It’s not wise to have too much baggage.

I don’t quite know where I’m going next.

Hopefully somewhere.


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