Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy Writers: The Celebration File

Today we have such a treat! The wonderful Jennifer R. Hubbard has offered up a GREAT idea that I will certainly be using from here on out. Jennifer writes contemporary YA stories, including The Secret Year (Viking, 2010) (Which I LOVED), “Confessions and Chocolate Brains” (a short story in the 2011 anthology Truth & Dare), and the upcoming Try Not to Breathe (Viking, 2012) (Can't wait!). She blogs at http://JenniferRHubbard.blogspot.com

The Celebration File
True happiness only comes from within, and it doesn’t depend on external success, and nothing outside ourselves can give us a sense of wholeness...

All true. But that doesn’t mean we don’t crave a pat on the back sometimes, an acknowledgment that what we put out into the world is appreciated by someone, somewhere. This is especially true for writers. In part, we write for ourselves; there is joy in the very act of wordsmithing. But in another way, we write for an audience. We hope to connect with others through words, and when it happens, it’s very special.

For that reason, I’ve created celebratory files. My first such folder was one I created during my years of submitting short stories to literary journals. This is an incredibly tough market: every year there are fewer slots for an increasingly talented pool of people. I got one acceptance early on, followed by many, many rejections before acceptance number two. And so what I treasured in my special folder were the hand-written notes of encouragement from editors that, although they were technically rejections, constituted the “good rejections.” At times when I wondered if I’d ever be published again, if I was fooling myself by thinking I had enough talent to write for other people, I would go through that folder. After reading positive notes from editors at a dozen different magazines, I would realize that I was reaching people, even in this small way. It helped me go on.

Eventually I had a folder of acceptance letters and award certificates from contests I’d entered. And then when my first book came out, I was able to create two more celebratory files: a box that holds cards and notes from my launch party, plus some favorable reviews; and an email folder called “Fan Mail.”

Those who have just started the querying process may think they have nothing yet to put into the celebratory file, but what about the notes from a critique partner, or the favorable comments from a workshop teacher? Any time a complimentary note comes in, stick it in the celebratory file.

Naturally, I don’t suggest reading this file over and over obsessively. Writing has other joys to sustain us. But save these things for a rainy day, because we all have rainy days.

16 comments:

  1. Oh yes, those "love notes" from my favorite & most beloved critique partner keep me floating face up on a daily basis because the rains have created quite the flood. I fear I'd be a drowned rat without her. (And this has nothing to do with the fact that I live in Seattle!)

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  2. I call my file my Bummer Day file. I can go to it when it seems nothing I do is right and pull out all those things that say I'm not a total waste of space can really pull me through.

    Nice post.

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  3. What a great idea! I think I need to start a file. Can I name it "People Who Think I'm Awesome"? :)

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  4. I save all responses, and I typically organize them by project, but I like the idea of culling out the good ones and keeping them in a special place!

    @Kasie-
    Absolutely! I think I need to rename my Fan Mail email folder to something cute like that. I do, however, have a folder called "Trolls (and Other Unhappy Things)" -- and just seeing that makes me giggle, which means I beat them.

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  5. Thanks for hosting me, Natalie! I'm glad to see people are ready to celebrate. And yes, Kasie, you can name it whatever you want. :-D

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  6. Heres's one...your post is uplifting and wonderful!

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  7. The Celebration File - a great idea! :)

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  8. Awww....this is a great idea. There are some days I could really use a celebration file.

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  9. I actually save my rejection letters, too. Some are on beautiful paper, so I hope, once my office is reorganized so that it's less crowded, to wallpaper the walls with them, adding more as I get them. I even have one from Michelle Obama! Talk about nice paper!

    You remind me that I need to send my stuff out more. That is the hardest part for me.

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  10. This is exactly how my new project started. It probably won't go anywhere but I don't care. I like going there with it.

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  11. Celebratory files are a great idea. I started a wee little scrapbook once upon a time, but I think I set it aside and didn't keep up with it - and I should do that!

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  12. I remember reading once that J.K. Rowling kept all of her REJECTION letters. She still has them. Imagine, after her successful career, looking back on those and remembering that once you were rejected so many times? I'm not implying that any of us will write the next Harry Potter series, but I think it's a good principle to live by. Our failures, as well as our successes, are a part of our writing journey.

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  13. Thanks, everyone, for the thoughtful comments!

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