Twitter Launch Party for Chicken Soup for the Soul’s New Book – Miracles and More

Join me and many of the other contributors to Chicken Soup for the Soul’s new book, Miracles and More, today at 11:00 A.M. Pacific Time. The information is below. Should be fun and inspiring!

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Just One Yes

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It’s hard not to get discouraged sometimes, but remember, all it takes is one “yes” to put you on the road to a better place.

Dr. Seuss was rejected by every major publisher of his day and went home with his first manuscript And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. He got together for lunch with a friend and told him how disappointed he was that nobody wanted his book. His friend had just become an agent with a local publisher a day earlier. He told him he’d run it by his boss. The rest is – well, you know.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

– Calvin Coolidge

 

I Love Rejection

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Okay, I don’t “love” love it, but I have come to accept and even be a little bit proud of it, in terms of my chosen career – writing. As anyone in the arts – particularly acting and writing – knows, you’re going to hear “no, thanks” a lot. Or the classic, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Or the dreaded, “Don’t quit your day job.” But a writer’s rejection is usually silent – a polite email that reads something like this.

“Thank you very much for submitting your material to us. Our agents have now had a chance to look at it and we are sorry to say we don’t feel that we can offer you representation. Because of the high volume of submissions we receive, unfortunately we are not able to give you more detailed feedback than this. However, these things are very subjective and someone else may well feel differently about your work.

Thank you again for letting us take a look at your material, and we wish you the best of luck in finding an agent and publisher.”

Isn’t that the nicest no you ever heard? The literary world is a polite one.

Of course, I don’t like receiving rejection letters. I’d much rather receive nothing but yes’s and have agents and publishers fighting with each other to represent my work, but I don’t really mind no’s.

So why am I so proud of rejection?

Because 98% of humanity doesn’t even try. Many have artistic inclinations and leanings – singing in the shower, drawing, playing an instrument a little, jotting down a line or two now and then – but they don’t pursue that side of themselves. There are good reasons – working hard to provide a good environment for children, for instance – and there are bad reasons – self-doubt, fear of failure, shyness, etc.

Someone once wrote, “We recognize in every work of genius our own discarded thoughts.” Plenty of people have ideas and think, “Wow! That would make a great book/poem/movie/song/painting/invention.” They’re full of fire and passion for a little while. They tell all their friends about it. A few go out and buy a “how to” book so they can learn everything about it before they actually start working. (Which is a big mistake – as Dan Millman wrote, “You don’t need to know everything about the ocean to swim in it.”)

Even fewer actually put pen to paper, or paint to canvas. But the vast majority do none of those things. They get the ego stroke from their friends and family telling them how brilliant their idea is, and that’s good enough. Or worse, some significant other tells them they’ll never make it – to be realistic – to get a good, steady job – that making it in the arts is like winning the lottery – and they let that person’s lack of belief prevent them from trying. But that nagging feeling remains – the question from that other voice – the one that knows greatness lies within – the one that asks, “Why aren’t you at least trying?”

The English writer Sydney Smith (1771-1845) wrote, “A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity prevented them from making a first effort.”

So that’s why I have made rejection my friend. The same goes for confusion. They are both necessary doorways to a better place. To continue moving toward that glorious dream – whatever it is – artists must embrace confusion (the portal to higher knowledge) and rejection (the proof that they’re trying hard.) The alternative is being crushed by every rejection and giving up. That’s not an option.

An even higher step is to ask people who rejected a work what they didn’t like about it, learn from that, and work hard not to repeat that mistake. There are very few spectacles in this world sadder than someone who just doesn’t have the talent to make it as an artist, yet constantly struggling to convince themselves that they do, blind to how much they don’t know, and unwilling to put in the hours of time and effort required to educate themselves properly. Of course, everyone wants to have great accomplishments without working, but that’s not how it works. Someone once wrote, “Success is often hard to recognize because it’s wearing dirty overalls.” The only place where success comes before work is the dictionary.

Clint Eastwood was told by an agent, “You’ll never make it. You’re too tall, you squint too much, and your voice is too soft.”

Harrison Ford was told by a director, “You’ll never make it. I’ve been around and I know star quality, and you don’t have it.”

J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected dozens of times. She was even advised by one agent to take a writing course!

When he submitted the now legendary book Moby Dick to an agent, Herman Melville was asked, “Does it have to be a whale?” (It did.)

Rudyard Kipling was told in a rejection letter, “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

So, you see, rejection isn’t even rejection most of the time – it’s just someone who doesn’t have the ability to recognize talent and should probably be doing something else for a living. Or it’s just that their agency has too many books like that already and doesn’t need another one. Or your submission landed in that agent’s email box when they were annoyed or preoccupied about something else. It’s not always about your work, and all you need to catapult you to that next level is one yes.

Sorry to get all Tony Robbins on you, but I received a rejection letter today and needed to remind myself why it doesn’t matter. I’ll still keep on doing what God put me here to do. I’ll still write even if nobody ever reads it. I’ll still devote my short life to something that inspires me and makes my heart beat faster and stronger. I’ll still do what I love. So that when I’m 95 and sitting by the fire, whether or not I reach the loftiest heights of my chosen path, I won’t have the regret of thinking I didn’t try hard enough, which is far worse and harder to live (and die) with than rejection.

Here’s a collection of rejection letters famous authors have received for now classic books. (And a few parodies.) Enjoy!

https://www.wiltgren.com/2016/10/31/12-rejection-letters-of-massively-popular-authors/

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All these books were rejected by agents/publishers who now hate themselves.

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For Haters of Rhyme

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I once spent a night in a cave at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. I had run out of money after six months of bouncing around Europe and the Greek islands and was waiting for my flight home in a few days. Because I was in my twenties, I was too naive to feel scared, but I did feel lonely that night. It’s hard not to in a dark cave, even with the city bursting with light and excitement. (It was a Saturday night.) There was even a hot air balloon festival not far away, so the night sky was filled with illuminated, multi-colored balloons. 

I had wandered through the city before going to the cave, attended a concert, had dinner, saw the Plaka (old section) one last time, but finally snuck under the chain link fence surrounding the Acropolis, snuck past the guards and their German Shepherds, laid out my sleeping bag in the cave, lit a candle, and started to fall asleep when I heard . . . bats. I tried to sleep anyway but the thought of waking up to one of them sucking on my jugular vein made sleep impossible. So I sat up again and took out a book of poetry that was so tattered from touring Europe with me, the pages were falling out. 

The book was called The Best-Loved Poems of the American People. Most of the poems rhymed because they were written by poets from the Romantic Period such as Longfellow, Dickinson, Byron, Keats, Shelley – the biggies. These poems made sense, had messages, and were perfectly constructed. I came to respect rhyming poetry because of them. Many of the answers to the greatest questions of life were in those poems. I wasn’t alone in that cave at all. They were with me. Their words sang, just as they did for the boys in Dead Poet’s Society in the cave they found on the school grounds. The words dripped from my tongue like honey. They helped me “suck the marrow out of life.”

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But not everyone has the same respect I developed for rhyming poetry. In fact, I recently posted a rhyming poem on Facebook and was told by someone that rhyme should be limited to lullabies and Hallmark cards. This person probably likes or at least respects the legendary poets above, but feels somehow that what they accomplished should no longer be attempted, and to do so, in her words is “stupid” (both writing rhymes and rhyming poetry.) Yes, stupid. She made this comment about a very serious poem I wrote (see my previous post called Journey to God) and a very silly poem called Yoga Makes Me Fart. Everyone got a kick out of it except . . . her. Both poems were deemed to be “stupid” by this self-proclaimed writer and connoisseur of the arts.

That’s another thing about pseudo-intellectuals. They think it’s low-brow to say words like “fart.” But a rhyme with a very long history, most notably by Roald Dahl in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, goes –

A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.

So I like offending snobs. In fact, I enjoy it immensely. Normally, I would calmly discuss my reasons for enjoying and writing rhyming verse, but since this person decided to break out the S word, I decided to write a poem especially for her. Of course, it was a rhyming poem – you know, just to annoy her some more. Suffice to say the gloves were off. I don’t suffer the S word very well, I’m afraid, especially from someone with no literary accomplishments. Besides, rhyming poetry has been used to expose blowhards and nincompoops for centuries, too. It’s a fine tradition.

The fact is, I have no tolerance for someone with no discernible talent, someone who hasn’t faced and surmounted the struggles the acquisition of talent demands, yet somehow feels qualified to pass judgment on works of great passion by someone who has. If that sounds arrogant, so be it. A little arrogance can and should be wielded sometimes in life, but only when battling those who are arrogant with no foundation. The only thing I could find that she has written is a self-published book called Witless. You know, because Clueless was already taken. I’m not kidding. You can’t write this stuff.

I was also baffled by how someone can hate something as harmless as rhyming. Some people need to choose bigger causes for their lives. You know, ending world hunger and like that.

If she ever comes across this poem, her arrogance and self-delusion will probably lead her to conclude that she really got to me for me to write all this about her, like that old Carly Simon song You’re So Vain (you probably think this song is about you.) But, of course, it isn’t about her at all. It’s about art, expression, and smacking down anyone who attempts to suppress it in any of its forms. It must be done, but artfully. I laughed myself sick writing the poem below. I enjoyed it. And that’s the main purpose of art of any kind. Enjoyment. The subject of the poem probably won’t enjoy it quite so much.

So here’s a little nonsense. I hope it entertains. And if you start to feel sorry for the subject of the poem at any point, just remember, she deserved it.

The Ballad of Lucy Calhoun

This here is the ballad of Lucy Calhoun.
A bitter, cantankerous, mean, old buffoon.
What happened, you ask, to blacken her heart?
Poems that rhyme and people who fart.

“Rhyming is for lullabies!” she’d often say,
Unfazed that the masters all wrote that way.
No, rhyming of any kind gave her the fits.
Longfellow and Dickinson were a couple of twits. 

Until she suddenly woke up and saw the light
While suffering with the flu one night.
She sat up and, with a horrible start,
Let out a prize-winning, head-spinning fart.

It was so loud and mighty, it expelled a bug
That had lived there for decades, fat and snug.
It landed on the floor and let out a shriek.
Then Lucy passed out and slept for a week.

When she finally awoke, she walked to her table
And discovered that she too was finally able
To write flowing verse with heart and soul
Now that that insect was out of her hole.

Like the Grinch, her heart grew three sizes that day
And she vowed to forever write this new way
And stop driving everyone out of their wits
With babbling free verse that nobody gets.

Now that she had a bug-free rear end,
She said, “I’ll never again harass or offend.
Instead of being a jealous, hateful, old cow,
I’ll learn how to write, too, starting right now!”

And the poetry Grinch, forever-after,
Respected rhyme that rippled like laughter
And said, “Maybe I was dead wrong before.
Maybe rhyming poetry is a little bit more.”

And because her cold heart had unfurled,
She finally got published in the real world
The Romantic poets hadn’t gotten it wrong.
Her mediocrity was her greatest foe all along.

Thus ends the ballad of Lucy Calhoun.
A stern warning for egos that are over the moon.
Before calling the works of another the worst,
Prove yourself their intellectual equal first.

Book Signing / Pajama Party!

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What a great night at Mystic Journey Bookstore in Venice Beach, California. (That’s me on the right.) Look at that crystal behind us! It’s bigger than my first apartment!

The event was hosted by Kelly Sullivan Walden, dream interpretation expert, and Lisa Garr, host of K-PFK’s The Aware Show (and niece of actress Teri Garr.) They both created such a warm, loving, expansive vibe in the room and – okay, I’ll say it – a good time was had by all.  

Since the event was about dreaming and celebrated the two Chicken Soup for the Soul books Kelly has co-published, Dreams and Premonitions and Dreams and the Unexplained, she challenged everyone to wear pajamas. I went full nerd with Harry Potter pajamas and robe. Only five or six of the attendees rose to the challenge and wore pajamas so I felt a bit silly, but as Socrates said, “Pajama parties are like love. You enter into them with complete abandon or not at all.” 

Okay, Socrates didn’t really say that, but he should have. 

I read my story The Warning about my brother visiting me in a dream shortly after he died of a drug overdose at the age of 37. Walter Berry and Debbie Spector Weisman also read their stories A Smiling Journey in Darkness and The Curious Riddle of the Codpiece, respectively. All three stories are in Dreams and Premonitions. I also heard some great comedy and a song (Love is the Answer by England Dan and John Ford Coley) by the multi-talented Shane August. 

You can access The Aware Show interview archives at:

http://www.theawareshow.com.

Kelly Sullivan Walden’s work and books can be found at:

http://www.kellysullivanwalden.com

If you like Hawaiian music, you can hear Shane August flex the golden tonsils at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36bj0sHQatw

If you’d like a signed copy of Dreams and Premonitions, message me here and I’ll send you the ordering instructions. Dreams and the Unexplained is available at bookstores online and at your favorite bookstore. 

Remember, a dream unexamined is like a letter from the self unopened!

 

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone TV and Radio Interviews

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Check out Chicken Soup for the Soul publisher Amy Newmark discussing Chicken Soup’s new book, Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. It contains my story “More Kindness Than Danger.” So proud to be part of this motivating book!

Good Morning, America interview – 

http://wtnh.com/2017/11/22/connecticut-author-amy-newmark-releases-new-book/

Radio interview with more detailed descriptions of the stories in this book – 

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/fmmk-talk-radio/2017/11/28/step-outside-your-comfort-zone-with-amy-newmark

New Chicken Soup for the Soul Book Twitter Launch Party!

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If you’re like most people in the world, you own at least one of the over 250 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. This is my 18th story published with the franchise, and I’m particularly proud of it because it tells a story I always wanted to tell – about a six-month backpacking trip I took through Europe, Greece and Great Britain.

The book is called Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, and my story title is More Kindness Than Danger. It encourages people to not let fear prevent them from living an adventurous life. There are 100 similar stories by other authors in this book, stories that will inspire you to reach beyond your comfort zone and live the life you are supposed to be living.

Tune in to Twitter tomorrow, November 1st, between 2 and 3 EASTERN time (11-1 Pacific) for a Q&A session with the contributors and the publisher, Amy Newmark. Tell them Mark Rickerby sent you. I hope to see you there!