Verworpen Mooi

Dutch Word of the Day
verworpen:
rejected
Waaroom was zij verwopen?

Why was she rejected?

OK, so Ms. Anneliese Marie Frank is a very obvious choice for any Monday or in this case, a Sunday Mooi Vrouw; widely published Dutch writer (yup, the original book was in Dutch, NOT German) and all around thoughtful person living at a terrible time. I also had the distinct privilege of living down the street from her house for four months. I miss that.

But here’s another reason to love her: big time publishers, with the exception of Doubleday, freakin’ hated her. Apparently, the book was “a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions.” It took about 16 rejections until someone figured it out. And the rest is canon.

That’s the funny thing about rejection. Most of the time, the critic is seeing something problematic in there that needs some sorting out. Sometimes, that something is utter crap. In this case, the adolescent tone was caused is because the author was 12. C’mon buddy.

Then there are erroneous critiques stemming from weird misunderstandings about the U.S. book market and just flat out racism. (Although for The Good Earth example: I hated that book. So many Asian stereotypes it made my skin crawl.)

Usually it is up to the author to locate what generated the critique, objectively evaluate the validity, and act. The danger of this New York Times article is that potential authors can be lulled into a sense of not having to change and revise. “But I’ve been working on this for 12 years! How could it possibly be called trite? Oh, well. Anne Frank wasn’t published in a day!”

This is dangerous ammunition in the hands of people who get so “emotionally connected” to their work that they can barely seek any outside help, especially when they need the most help. I’ve been around people like this. It hurts.

They’ll talk on and on about the process and finally, after a long period of drama, insist on showing you their work. Then, after you’ve been subjected to their little Crapsody in Blue, you try to say something nice, but you can’t. Then you take a deep breath and try the constructive track, carefully starting with the “It’d be cool to see more of this” comments before you get to the “Maybe you should cut this” comments. But by then, it’s too late. You’ve questioned their opus and the friendship is over.

See, this is why I love Anne Frank. She’s one of the very few writers who can pull off a “I got rejected a million times and it didn’t mean a thing.” It leads to a great story behind a great story. Here’s to her.

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