Rejection…It’s a Short Story.’s the ugly side of being a writer.Not only that, it hurts…like a knife stabbed deep in our heart and twisted round and round and round by some sadist who doesn’t care about our fragile self-esteem.

Anyway, as much as we hate it and as much as it hurts, we are not on our own. Indeed, tales abound of very successful authors receiving multitudinous rejections. William Golding published his first novel, Lord of the Flies, after 21 rejections. Beatrix Potter decided to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit after rejection letters started to pile up. The original run was 250 copies; the book has now sold over 45 million copies.  J.K. Rowling, the great literary success story, failed to sell Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to 12 different publishers until the daughter of an editor at Bloomsbury Publishing took an interest in it. Harry Potter is now worth at least $15 billion. Stephen King sounds downright proud of the number of times he was rejected as a young writer. In his On Writing, he says he pinned every rejection letter he received to his wall with a nail. “By the time I was fourteen,” he continues, “the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”


So, when I share my heartfelt angst over my latest rejection, at least I know I’m not alone and I keep some pretty good company.


The Actual Murder Scene.

A few months ago, I entered a local short story competition. I only had a few days to put my entry together and decided to base it on a murder story I’d stumbled across doing my family history research.It’s set in the Sydney Harbour suburb of Balmain, which was historically quite a rough, working class suburb. I still haven’t been able to establish whether I’m related to these people thanks to a very frustrating dead end I’m unable to shift.

Anyway, after waiting several months for the outcome of the competition, the award ceremony was held yesterday and a room full of hopefuls all sat in their seats with great expectations and for most of us, pending disappointment.

However, I wasn’t expecting disappointment or rejection. I was pretty pleased with my entry and thought I was a strong contender. I was sitting in my seat with sweaty palms and almost making myself ill with stress. I wondered whether it would be better to win a Highly Commended just to put me out of my misery. The list of winners was thinning out and someone else’s name was read out instead of my own, I was gutted. Emotionally kicked in the guts.

While many would say my heartbroken angst was an over-reaction, and that I should have taken it as a sign of failure as a writer, but when you’re trying to make it on the international scene and you can’t crack the local market, you’re hardly going to be all smiles doing the happy dance, are you?!!

Well, to be fair to myself, I don’t write short stories and I had to get my entry together in a couple of days. So, I clearly could’ve used more time. Moreover, once I’d got home and looked up characteristics of the short story, I realised that my story actually needed a lot of work, especially when it came to structure. I’m quite the panster (person who writes by the seat of their pants and by contrast isn’t a planner) and a bit of structure and planning could well be added to the mix.

I posted the story today in its original format today and you can read it here: The Secret. I’d really appreciate your feedback. I’ve decided to make quite a few changes so please don’t hold back.

How do you deal with writing rejection?

Personally, I’m trying my best to be pro-active and learn from the experience. Rework it. Not just file it in the waste paper basket out of hurt disgust and despair.

After all, there’s always next year.

xx Rowena

PS if you want to see a great image for rejection, click here:





17 thoughts on “Rejection…It’s a Short Story.

  1. roughseasinthemed

    Gutted. Not guttered. Plus quite a few errors on the blog post story.
    I found it confusing. Jumped around and couldn’t work out who was what, where or when. So, you are right about structure. Maybe take time to think, what is the point of the story, main characters, and, most important, where is it going?

  2. Akuokuo

    For some reason, eating a party sized bag of plain m&m’s helps me deal with rejection. Then I’m armed and ready to try again. Ultimately, I’d like to rid myself of the chocolate crutch; take rejection straight on, and hopefully learn something for the next time. For what it’s worth, I enjoy your writing.

  3. Rowena Post author

    Thank you very much for the encouragement with my writing. Much appreciated.
    I’m with you on the chocolate therapy front and I am particularly fond of Tim Tams. Have you ever tried them? They’re an Australian chocolate biscuit. I also like a bit of op shop retail therapy too.
    Hope you have a great week!
    xx Rowena

  4. Rowena Post author

    Thanks very much, Geoff. I was hoping you’d read this. I felt pretty shattered afterwards but after speaking to the judge and getting a few tips , I knew my structure had let me down. I’m going to rewrite it from the POV of Margaret’s daughter (Margaret being the child who saw her father murder her mother.)
    We are watching Beetlejuice tonight. It’s Halloween. Have you seen it? Very interesting…! xx Ro

  5. Rowena Post author

    Thanks so much, Monika. being a writer takes that process of continuous improvement to great heights. Happy Halloween. I took the kids around the block trick-or-treating. It was quite a non-event this year but there were a few kids dressed up and walking around and a few houses which participated. A few had balloons out the front, which helped. Most people don’t celebrate it here. I see it as an opportunity to meet some of our neighbours.
    Hope you had a great weekend.
    xx Rowena

  6. Rowena Post author

    Thanks very much for pointing out Gutted. Not guttered. I have trouble with words like that. There’s always that trouble of proofing your own work where you know what you mean to say and don’t pick up your own mistakes.
    The story was based on a murder which took place in 1903 but I wanted to tell it from the perspective of the couple’s eldest daughter who witnessed the father kill her mother.
    As is the way with newspaper stories, I have no idea what actually happened to the couple’s two children but it intrigued me. Quite a complicated story to tackle with an imminent deadline.
    I agree with your suggestions and thank you very much!
    Best wishes,

  7. Akuokuo

    Just googled Tim Tams. Yum. Yum. Maybe someone will make them in a grain free version–like with almond flour? If you get a chance take a look at my most recent post. Here is the short link:
    I look forward to your next post 🙂

  8. Rowena Post author

    Hi Akuokuo,
    I just checked out your blog but couldn’t leave any comments. If you read my About page, you’ll see that I was born with hydrocephalus and had surgery in my mid 20s to have a shunt put in. I deteriorated badly in the 12 months prior to that surgery and have had symptoms similar to stroke.
    I don’t know if your Mum has had much occupational therapy but it really helped me. I had major trouble with memory, organisation and they got me using a diary and I have since taken up the violin which really helps and I’m even dancing. Miracle after miracle with hard work, doubt and many valleys in between.
    I assure you have heard of author Roald Dahl but most people don’t realise that he had a plane crash and fractured his skull during the war. His son also ended up with a fractured skull and his wife had a burst aneurysm and she was put through extensive rehab and he organised friends to come round and stimulate her mind. He was unrelenting with her rehabilitation. I have written about it as part of a series here and hope it helps your Mum:
    Going through this sort of thing is terribly traumatic for a family and I admire your support for your Mum. It is so easy to feel isolated and misunderstood so it’s great that you’re fighting alongside her.
    I’m not sure if there is a Tim Tam ice cream. I don’t think so but a Mars Bar ice cream is yum and might be grain free. xx Rowena

  9. Akuokuo

    Wow. I am literally in tears. Your post was beautiful! Thank you for your encouraging words, suggestions and your genuine kindness!! I will now go out and get myself some ice cream 🙂

  10. akwelle vallis


    My sister, Akuokuo (Koko for short), shared your inspiring blog with me. I love it!

    I’m a real fan of that Diana Ross song: “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand).” Anyway, you’ve made “this world a better place.”

    Thank you for being so thoughtful, generous and kind!

    Take care,

  11. Rowena Post author

    Thank you very much for your encouragement, Akwelle. I checked out your blog and loved it and related to your phone story. That would happen to me and you can get a bit desperate when your phone’s drowned. I don’t keep a lot of stuff on my phone but I know people whose lives are in their phones and would cease to exist if it got destroyed.
    Thanks for reminding me of the Diana Ross song. I’ll have to keep that front of mind. My son is on the brink of becoming a teenager and I found out that teenaged boys get the least affection in our society. I thought that sounded pretty sad and when my friend told me (she has 3 sons) I knew I had to keep hugging my boy. He’s affectionate too which helps.
    Apparently, when breaking in a horse trainers use increasing levels of touch to gain the animal’s trust and psychologists can do the same with kids.
    Take care and I hope your Mum is healing well. From my experience, there was quick initial improvement followed by a sense of standing still as the improvements slowed down and then looking back and seeing how far I’d come. I hope you find the same with your Mum.
    xx Rowena

  12. Rowena Post author

    You’re welcome, Koko. I get what your family is going through and it’s very hard but it’s good that you’re pulling together and being there with your Mum. I am not always focused on being healthy but I do understand the importance of maximising your general health especially when you have a serious medical issue going on. People call this alternative medicine when it really is just about health and medicine is more about pills and surgery, which are important but they’re not the whole picture.
    Ice cream sounds great.
    Love and blessings to you and your family,

  13. kcsantoshphotography

    never give up your hope, you are a good writer. And what i liked about your writing is, you have a very good ending sentence in every post., ” After all, there’s always next year.” Beautifully written.

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