Songs for the Struggling Artist


Some Summer Rejections
July 5, 2019, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Rejections | Tags: , ,

Just a handful of some of the latest rejections*. I’ve got a couple more but I haven’t written them up yet. Rejections are for all seasons!

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

Bethany Arts Center

I have a feeling that the folks at Bethany Arts Center had been happily kicking along with their program until this year when they put out a national call for their artist residency and then the flood gates opened.

Every message I received from them since I applied a few months ago has suggested an organization drowning in applications and utterly flummoxed about what to do about it.
I can imagine.
Like – if you’re just happily providing space for local artists and you think, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to open this up to a wider pool of artists?” And then you do and you are suddenly neck deep in the words and work of every artist in the country just looking for a break – which is most of us – and probably also the sometimes palpable need and desperation that cannot help but make its way into such things.

I can imagine that a well meaning arts organization might find itself a little overwhelmed.
Probably they were so overwhelmed, they couldn’t recognize how awesome I am. Which is surely why they rejected me.

Ox Bow Residency

I applied to so many new residencies, I can barely remember which one is which. This is one that I had never applied to before. So this is my first rejection from them. I don’t really have a relationship with applying to them yet. I don’t even recall where this one is. I think it was meant to be reputable.

Dramatists Guild Fellowship

Here’s one I was very confident I would not get. I joined the Guild last year when I started to get to the semi-finals in some serious situations. I thought – well, just in case any of these actually happens, I better have the Guild to turn to when I get a contract. Turns out, that wasn’t a concern. No contracts have been forthcoming. I don’t regret joining the Guild, though. It is as close to a Union as anything I’m involved in and I believe in that collective power. The readiness to respond to group issues is as important to me as having a resource to turn to when negotiating an artistic contract.

Anyway – I’m a member. I applied to be a fellow with them but I did not expect to receive it. Not at all. Got the word in the email box – no fellowship for me this year! It would have been great to get, for sure – but would have also wholly unexpected.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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A Rejection in a Decadent World

The theatre company that rejected me most recently is one that was founded a year or two after mine. I know this because they interviewed my puppet designer for one of their first productions. They didn’t hire her (their loss) but due to their timing and their mission, I have followed their journey pretty closely.

They do good work. Let me say that, first. But I have always felt like they had some leg up when they began that I could not quite identify at the time. (I can guess now that it’s probably mostly being male. The leg up was maleness. Man-osity. Boy-i-tude.) I resented them for a long while – because I felt like they came up behind me driving a hot rod trike while I was running a three-legged race and they surged ahead before I even knew what the game was. But they won that race so long ago now, I’m finally over myself and I swallowed my resentment and pride to write them a ten minute play on spec for their short New Play Festival. I don’t do this usually – but – like I said before – they do good work and fundamentally that is the most important thing to me. More and more, I feel I don’t have the will to produce my own work the way I used to, so I have my eye on people who do good work. Anyway, despite my little play’s “high merits from our readers” it did not make the final round.

This letter concluded with my old (least) favorite: Keep Writing!

The problem with the specificity of the requirements of this short play festival is that it means the play I wrote for them is really not likely to be to the taste of anyone else. I mean – maybe I’m wrong and someone out there is dying for a ten minute companion piece to The Changeling by Thomas Middleton. (Don’t all come clamoring at once!)

Asking for these kinds of things feels like the height of decadence – the ultimate artistic rent seeking (this is an economic concept I’ve talked about before) and in this case it is for such a small reward. Because here’s the thing – I’m almost certain my little play (“The Apothecary’s Daughter”) will never see the light of day anywhere else – which is fine, I have a lot of plays like that. But I can’t help thinking of the other ten minute companion pieces that other writers wrote for ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore and Women Beware Women and The Spanish Tragedy and such and how every year “record numbers” of playwrights churn out a record number of plays in this vein and how there’s just a storehouse of Jacobean themed ten minute plays sitting in the files of playwrights around the country and more are added to that rather useless collection EVERY YEAR.

And this is just one tiny short play festival. All around the country there are multitudes of other plays written for other people’s highly specific specifications that then go on to accumulate dusty storage deaths and I don’t know – this is one hell of a decadent world to ask so much of a bunch of theatre people without a lot of open doors available to them.

Anyway – I guess I’ll keep writing anyway since the producer of this short festival told me to but I’m feeling a little sad for all those lost short plays out there. Not sad enough to produce them myself, mind you. But sad.

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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An Editor’s Rejection

Due to the way the publishing business works, one doesn’t get to submit directly to editors very often. Literary agents are the keepers of the gate and so one mostly can just submit to them.

But, because of my membership in SCBWI, I was able to submit to a couple of editors after attending their workshops at the winter conference.

I didn’t really choose the workshops strategically – just by what I was interested in – but I submitted to the editors to whom I was permitted to submit. The first one I heard back from was via the most recent rejection. I will say that it was the most interesting and useful rejection I have gotten so far. First, she mentioned some things she liked and appreciated (always nice) and said that the protagonist seemed a bit younger than her usual middle grade books. That part is the useful bit. I know now that (to someone who reads a lot of books for young people) my main character reads younger than other main characters in the genre. As I know very little about the genre or its expectations, this is useful information for me. I don’t quite know what I will do about it yet but it does give me something to do – a lens with which to take another look at the book.

That’s all good and useful. And I feel like I hit a funny milestone. At the conference, I heard so many people talking about “voice” and characters being “voicey” and I did not really understand what the deal with that was at first. I was told it was a common reason for rejection. And voila! Here it was – (the editor didn’t connect to the character’s voice.) I may have been rejected but now I’ve joined the rejected by voice club.

(Side bar – one of my Patreon patrons sent along this Instagram post wherein an artist illustrated her rejection…so I thought it might be time to get out my colored pencils and follow her example. I decided, though, that I just wanted to remember the good parts.)

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This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Medusa Long Shot Rocket Rejection

I started working on my Medusa play sometime around when I started my theatre company, which was close to 18 years ago. I abandoned the play after doing a reading of it but then picked it back up a few years ago when an actor, who’d read one of the parts that first time, asked after it. I don’t know if it had been a full decade at that point but the fact that it had stuck with him after so long made me feel like it was worth grappling with.

After much wrestling, I got the play into shape and did a reading in Brooklyn and after it, I felt like I still wasn’t sure if it was worth anything. One of my listeners pointed out that I might not really know what was actually there until I had the exact right actors. He suggested I think big.

I knew who I needed. As the person who gave the single best performance I have ever seen, I knew that hearing HER read it would tell me everything needed to know. I also knew that in order to have that happen, I needed to make the play good enough for her. I imagined her reading it as I was writing and the play got better.

I did another reading in Queens with a game group of lovely actors and I got even closer to what I thought the play wanted to be. All along I was thinking of this sort of lodestar of a performer and how to get it to her, how to connect with her, how to strategize for this play’s future.

As time went by, the play was selected as a semi-finalist for the O’Neill National Playwright’s Conference but went no further. All of my attempts to make a connection with my Medusa lodestar failed.

Then I saw that she’d be performing in a public park – so I printed out a copy and brought it with me in case I could be brave enough to give it to her. I was. I was brave enough and it was mortifying. Completely and totally mortifying. I don’t recommend this sort of experience to anyone. But – even though she wouldn’t take the stack of paper in the moment, she told me to send it to her agent. And believe me, it had been suggested to me to send it to her agent before but that information is not particularly easy for an outsider to find so the principal value in standing before the actual person was that I could ask her who her agent was. Then began the tricky task of finding her agent’s information. You realize, when diving in to this sort of world, that so much of it is designed to intimidate and keep you out. The world of agents is built to make it difficult to find them. There are services you can pay to simply get an email.

But with the support of a clever friend, I finally got to the agent. Also, with a lot of coaching from my clever friend, I did some finely crafted emailing to just get this play to the woman who had been its muse. After about a week of back and forth, it was, in fact sent to her.

Just getting that far felt like a great leap. It wasn’t just the labor of the week to get it to her – but the years of putting it on my list to figure out and all the attempts before. I launched the rocket into space.

Within days, the rocket fell to earth as I heard back that the play was not for her.

Strangely, given how intimidating the world around agents is, the rejection was one of the best I’ve received. It was succinct, clear and gentle. I wonder if that agents learn that skill because they never really want to give anyone a hard no. What if Julie Taymor suddenly decided to put my Medusa on at the National Theatre with a million dollar salary? Would my muse be interested then? She might. Or at least there might be another conversation to be had.

So weirdly, I find myself wishing other rejectors could be more like an actor’s agent. Reject us like you might have to make a million dollar deal with us next time – because you just never know.

Meanwhile, here I am watching my last real hope for this play float away. I know it makes no sense to set a bubble of hope on an actor’s interest but it was literally the only idea I had for the future of this play. I can’t produce it myself. It’s too big for the resources I can gather. It’s not the kind of show you can do at your local community playhouse.

So…this particular rejection hit me hard – even though I knew it was a long shot. It was the longest shot. And it’s going to take some time to gather the strength to build another rocket – or even just a wagon. It’s going to take some time to reassemble some hope. Maybe it’ll be another ten years. Or maybe never at all.

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me keep building metaphorical rockets?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



Impressive Rejection Turnaround

For the first time since beginning this querying process for my novel for young people, I encountered an agent who preferred her queries on paper through the mail. After Query Manager portals and numerous emails with pasted in book chapters, it was kind of nice to suddenly be dealing with paper again, even though it did require a lot more fussing with margins and watermarks and headers and footers than I’ve had to do in a while.

Anyway – after much noodling with my printer, I sent out a simple letter to an agent. She asked for nothing – no sample pages – just a synopsis.
And within the week, via email, I had my rejection. It was a pretty good one, I have to say. Clear concise and not in the least bit personal.

Also – in being rejected via only the synopsis, it’s harder to take the rejection personally. It’s not my writing, then, really, that she’s rejecting – it’s just she doesn’t want to even read that book. Done and dusted.

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Also – Another Decent Rejection

The most recent literary agent rejection was pretty well done. It acknowledged that rejections were not fun to receive (or send) and said that she needed to really fall in love with something and it didn’t happen here.

I can totally live with that. Falling in love is very personal and I fully understand that not every one will fall in love with me and/or my work. I think it’s a great way to describe it.

Would I LIKE for everyone to be in love with me? Of course I would. I’m an artist. And one who began my artistic career as an actor – being loved by everyone is the dream. But. I know it doesn’t happen that way and I would certainly rather have an agent who IS in love with my book. It might never happen, of course. But not everyone gets a love story.

 

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

 

Want to help ease the sting of rejection?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

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Why the Literary Agent Rejections Tend to Sting More
March 31, 2019, 6:49 pm
Filed under: Rejections | Tags: , , ,

These rejections from literary agents aren’t getting any easier, my friends. The most recent one came as a result of a pitch on Twitter on #PitMad.

I think these rejections may sting more than the theatrical/residency/grant ones I’m used to because they come from individual people. Because they don’t come from organizations, they lack the sort of boilerplate responses that I’ve come to recognize. Each individual literary agent has their own unique way to tell you that they do not like your work. Theatres, playwriting awards, residency orgs, grantmakers all seem to have ways to say NO without saying “Your work sucks.” They say “We received soooo many submissions” or “It was very competitive” or “unfortunately, you were not selected.” (This one is my favorite. Legitimately. It’s the closest to the simple rejection I crave – just a postcard that says “Nope” or “Not this time.”)

But no such niceties appear in the literary rejection. This one said, “While I found your premise compelling, I’m afraid I wasn’t as caught up in the writing and story as I’d hoped.” Now…I know this shit is subjective as hell – but as a Super Sensitive Artist, (SSA – trademarked) I have the ability to turn a relatively bland and probably truthful statement into a broad condemnation of my worth as a writer. Failing to catch someone with my words feels like a big failure! How am I supposed to improve my ability to make someone feel caught up? I don’t know!

My logical brain knows that whether or not someone is caught up has nothing to do with my worth. My logical brain knows that my work will not and does not speak to everyone and is absolutely fine with that. I am not for everyone. My work is not for everyone and it’s a fairly simple metric, really. I need to send it out to find the people who do like it and the people who don’t like it have to find a way to tell me they don’t like it – even if it hurts my feelings. I know that. But it still stings. The feeling part of me wants everyone to love it. She wants universal praise and acceptance. The logical mind knows that that’s not possible – but the feelings do not care for logic.

I don’t envy the job of a literary agent. It is not fun sending out rejections and a large percentage of emails they send likely have to be that. I’m not sure how I would LIKE to be rejected in this context. A postcard that just says “Nope” is probably not an option. I’m trying to imagine a rejection email that would both make me feel good about the person doing the rejecting and not bad about myself. I feel like it’s something along the lines of “Thank you for sending me your book. I can’t take it on but I wish you the best.” Finito.

I mean, I think a literary agent has to REALLY love a book to take it on. It’s a big commitment. I understand that not everyone wants to do that and that they have to tell me so in the clearest fashion they can muster. My feelings will probably be hurt. I just wish there were a way to go through this process without so much of that.

 

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

The digital distribution deal I had is expiring, so I’m also raising funds to keep the songs up there. If you’d like to contribute, feel free to donate anywhere but I’m tracking them on Kofi – here: ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis

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Want to help ease the sting of rejection?

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Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



Some Rejections and Some Math

Last year, my Medusa play was a semi-finalist for the Eugene O’ Neill Playwrights Conference. Given how establishment the conference is and how anti-establishment my work feels to me, I was shocked to get that far.

Also, last year, my play Errors Before Errors, written for American Shakespeare Center’s Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries contest was chosen for the finals. It ultimately went nowhere but…for a moment, visions of an anachronistic homecoming and a living writer’s wage flashed before my eyes. When I applied to the Eugene O’Neill again, in the fall, I submitted the play that had been (almost) successful at the ASC. It seemed like a good strategy to push forth a previously successful(ish) work. The rejection arrived in the mail and it had not even made the semi-finals. What works for one company does nothing for another.

Also in the mail, I received the expected New Dramatist’s rejection. For my more successful playwriting peers, that is the rejection that tends to sting the hardest. For me, it barely registers – so far outside the circle am I. It could be a life changer, for sure, if it were ever to come to pass. But the rejection was not at all unexpected.

Finally, I learned about The Great Plains Theatre Conference from a local booking agent. I thought maybe she was just talking up her local theatre thing but it turns out the GPTC is pretty prestigious and whatnot. It’s good that I applied but, surprise! I was rejected.

I feel like this rejection post is somewhat unusual in that all of these rejections are for playwriting. Usually, it’s much more of a mix. I don’t know whether I’m concentrating on playwriting more or whether it just shook down this way. I do think the two almost yeses I got last year did push me a little more in this direction. Whether that’s for good or ill, I do not know. I’ll let you know if people suddenly start clamoring for my plays.

And finally – I thought I’d add a little math to these rejection posts – especially since I’m paying for more of my submissions than I used to.

Calculation:

Fees
O’Neill – $35
Great Plains – $10
_______
Total outlay – $45

Patreon payment for this post: $127 (Thank you, Patrons!)
Gain – $82

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections and doing this math? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

The digital distribution is expiring at the end of March, so I’m also raising funds to keep them up. If you’d like to contribute, feel free to donate anywhere but I’m tracking them on Kofi – here: ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis

If you have a particular album you’d like to keep there, let me know!

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Want to help ease the sting of rejection?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist




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