By Joanna D'Angelo

I have something to share that starts out kind of frustrating but ends on an inspiring note. It's also an example of why I love movies. When you're feeling down - movies can really lift your spirits or inspire or just make you laugh. Julie and Julia did that for me this past weekend but more on that later.

For the past many weeks I was working on developing a documentary series about a woman - a very fascinating and unique woman who had gone from rags to riches back to rags and was making a comeback. She is very well known in many circles. I pitched my idea to a producer that I've worked with in Ottawa - one whom I trust and respect. My producer then approached this person and we set up a meeting which went better than I could have dreamed.

Several meetings later we all had bonded and we had a verbal agreement with this woman. My producer was working on getting this woman to sign a legal agreement so that she could go ahead and approach broadcasters. Meanwhile I was happily working on a proposal for the show.

I spoke with this woman several times by phone and I felt that we had really hit it off. I had a really good feeling about her. We all felt good about the project and we all felt good about what we were doing. We were very respectful of her and we wanted this project to tell her story. I finished the proposal and sent it off to my producer. And then two days later my producer called me to say that it was a no go.

My producer had received an e-mail from the woman, informing us that she would no longer be working with us because she had met with another producer and would be working with them instead. She wasn't mean in the e-mail - in fact she ended it with a "love..." Keep in mind that we approached her - she hadn't even thought about doing a show about this phase of her life. So my producer e-mailed and called her. She has yet to call back.

I had spent weeks on this proposal. I had a terrible writer's block that I managed to push through. I wrote, what I thought, was one of my best proposals ever. My producer even told me it was the best proposal she'd ever read. Well, at least I had that. But what to do now. I felt lousy.

I've been rejected many times from producers, broadcasters, film festivals, funding agencies, writing contests - you name it! But this time I felt that I had let myself down as well because I didn't read her better from the get-go. And I was frustrated because I had this great proposal with no subject - therefore no TV show!

TV is tough. So very tough. I think for anyone who has tried to pitch a show - it's a long process and what begins as your baby ends up belonging to a gazillion people - unless you're David Chase or David Kelly or Larry David (what is it about the Davids?). So when you have an idea about a show that you think is really, really good and you have everyone on board who matters and then the person who matters most - the subject - pulls out - well it's hard to deal with. So I was feeling a little sorry for myself. For a while. (I think we all have a right to do that after we get rejected).

Then this past weekend I went to see Julie and Julia starring Amy Adams (as Julie Powell) and Meryl Streep (as Julia Child). We're familiar with the story by now - Julie Powell is an aspiring writer feeling unfulfilled as she approaches 30. She decides to challenge herself and write a blog - documenting her experiences as she attempts all 524 recipes of Julia Child's cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" over the course of one year.

The movie beautifully parallels Powell's life with Child's and of course the similar struggles they both go through - about trying to find that creative fulfillment that inspires you to bounce out of bed every day.

After watching Julie and Julia I was inspired. I have more ideas and more projects I'm working on that I'm excited about. So it's time to move on and "get cooking"! I chalked up the proposal I wrote to another "learning" experience. I learned how to be a better writer. I learned how to be more careful when it comes to these types of projects in the future. I learned to not be so hard on myself for things I can't control. In short getting rejected can end up being a rather positive experience.

Has anyone experienced any rejections regarding a proposal or idea? How did you work through it?

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  1. I loved this post! The movie inspired me too and now I have immersed myself in Julia Child! I'm reading My Life in France and Julia kept pushing through with her cook book no matter that they kept rejecting it. She finally found someone who wanted it and appreciated her.

    In my own situation I have a YA novel that is completely finished and that I have subbed and been rejected five times now. I have revised it after every rejection, but this time I didn't do anything to it and I'm going to sub it somewhere else soon. You just have to keep plugging on with your work if you believe in it.

    If I learned anything from Julia Child it is that you need to do what you have a passion to do. So go ahead and try all of those things you mentioned.

    I am still waiting for my publication, but in the meantime I started and I'm three quarters through with a new novel, I have a blog, and I am a host for Red River Writers on Blog Talk Radio. It hurts to be rejected but it helps to have a support group to catch you when you are.:)


  2. I'm sorry to hear about your rejection and one that sounds so personal. However it is a good experience if it has made you a better writter.

    Good luck with your new projects!

  3. Joanna, sorry about your rejection story! :(
    When I pitched my first romance novel, I was told the story was too short, the topic was all wrong, that holiday releases are the worst, that no first time authors get put into anthologies. Basically, I was crushed like a small bug. But instead of giving up, it made me more determined than ever to get it published. So, I kept trying until I found a publisher who liked short, holiday themed, quirky light paranormal stories. And my first novel is being published this Christmas season. I like your attitude about turning something negative into something positive!

  4. Barbara - thanks so much! I'm a foodie and love food shows and cook books so the movie was great on so many levels for me - but I truly was inspired - glad you were too! And as for your rejection well you have the right attitude - you keep writing and your working on another book. Good for you! Keep at it! Thanks for sharing ;D

  5. Hi Leeann - thanks for your kind comment - I think ultimately rejection is good for the soul ;) although when you're in the middle of that terrible feeling it's hard to see that.

  6. Penny - thanks so much for your comment! and good for you - you also have the right attitude - perseverance! and a tough skin - I think as writers we need it because we get kicked around so much!

  7. Penny - thanks so much for your comment! and good for you - you also have the right attitude - perseverance! and a tough skin - I think as writers we need it because we get kicked around so much!

  8. I haven't been to see the film yet, but my mom - a passionate foodie - saw it and adored it.

    I was thisclose to getting a Canada Council grant for a short ballet film focusing on the Bluebird pas de deux and the attempts by humans to mimic flight through the choreography. I had two National Ballet of Canada principal dancers signed on for the project. I was on the short list and received a call from one of the people on the committee - who actually tracked me down to my cousin's home, where I was staying for the Christmas holidays.

    But then I didn't get it.

    Crushed City.

    *dust, dust myself off*

    Now I'm writing books. But here's a secret - in my heart I'm still a filmmaker, who's writing books.

  9. Beautiful piece Joanna, so from the heart!!

    Of course, rejections go with the territory in any artistic field, as they do in any ordinary life as well. We are constantly being tested, rejected, put off or simply ignored - which I find the worst of all, personally.

    A beloved Italian theater man - writer, director, producer and actor - Eduardo De Filippo once said that "Exams never end in life" meaning we are constantly tested to give our best.

    As to my own personal experience in rejection, wow, don't even get me started. But my favorite is the story of the interview nobody wanted, yet several of the publications I approached with it stole the snippets of it I sent them to pitch the story, and created whole new tiny versions of my piece around those! So, it ended up being the most used interview that no one paid for EVER!!

    OH, and did I mention am constantly being rejected in sooo many ways these days?? I wish the answer was "yes" just once in a while...

  10. Instead of "no" I think NEXT!

    That's how I got through it. Now I'm signed with three different publishers.

    The funniest rejection I got was an agent emailed me back six months AFTER one of my books was published, rejecting it.

    Hmm. *LOL* (Yes, I resisted the urge to send the link to them. *LOL*)

    I tell new writers do NOT give up, and don't think, "Oh, they didn't like it." Think, "Oh, someone better will take it." And use that in between time to keep polishing your work. Every rejection is just one step closer to hearing, "Yes."

  11. Oh Julia! That sounded like a beautiful film! I would have loved to have seen it. I wish you had gotten the money. Canada Council grants are sooo hard to get. I've been rejected by them as well! Many times LOL! I wonder if you can still shoot it - and post it on youtube! I'm glad you're still writing. Keep writing! ;D

  12. Nina my dear - I love that quote by Eduardo De Filippo. And I am angered on your behalf about those nasty publishers stealing your work! That has happened to me as well. Or being hired to write and article for a publication then not getting paid. Sigh. It happens every day. But you persevere! You do. You are a great woman! Thanks for your kind comments.

  13. Lesli - YES! I love that - "Instead of No think NEXT!" Brava! And good for you! I like a happy ending. I wish you had e-mailed the link to that editor! And I also like "rejection is one step closer to hearing yes"! thanks so much for your comment ;D

  14. Lesli - YES! I love that - "Instead of No think NEXT!" Brava! And good for you! I like a happy ending. I wish you had e-mailed the link to that editor! And I also like "rejection is one step closer to hearing yes"! thanks so much for your comment ;D

  15. I completely empathize with you on this topic, Joanna!

    Rejection has been an every other day occurrence for me since April. My first novel has been rejected, so far, twenty times before I lost count. Now they either make me upset, or I don't care a wit. With me, it's varies on my mood (or state of consciousness! Sometimes if I get them in the morning, I don't even remember them by noon! LOL)

    My last failed query attempt did have sort of a happier ending, though it hasn't ended (yet.) I sent a query out in July and per their guidelines, I followed up with them after four weeks because I didn't hear from them. Well, the answer I got was horrifying. "I'm sorry, we don't have an agent here named XXX" I felt stupid. I was mortified. I had addressed it to someone who didn't exist.

    So, I scrambled through the queries and the agency website and though I have no clue where I came up with that name, I sent an apology, and advised them it was supposed to go to someone else there. I honestly thought they were going to dump me because agents are fickle people; any one thing can throw you out of the game. They usually won't tell you why, but the form rejection felt imminent. Another black mark beside my manuscript.

    I was so surprised when the return email was a 'no problem!' and then a request to see my first 50 pages. :D

    I'm still waiting for the final rejection on that one (LOL) but it was definitely a positive outcome from an otherwise painful situation.

  16.'s so easy to forget that agents are human too :D

    I've been writing since...02 or 03--it's all started to run together--and I'm long past the 100 rejection mark. That was sometime in 05 I think. Maybe 04. So over 100 rejections on probably 10 projects, give or take.

    The one that peeved me off the most was the rejection written at the top of my query letter which the agent had also left a coffee ring on. I can laugh about it now.

    Then there was the rejection by my second agent--she had my CP and I rewriting a project, and rewriting and rewriting then she finally said it just wasn't going to work for her. Next she wanted me to add sex to a proposal I'd written. I refused and we amicably parted ways.

    The story she wanted more sex in is the story my current agent signed me on. We STILL Haven't sold that book, but my agent loves it as much as I do. That said, she's been "less than enthusiastic" about some of my ideas. Not just because she didn't like them but due at least in part, to the fact there was no market for them (outside of epubbing). I even wrote a proposal once and TOLD her I didn't think it was "A New York book" but I wanted her feedback.

    My last rejection? On my birthday, the day after my grandmother died. I actually laughed at that one because it was the fourth time that particular editor rejected me. She loves my voice, she just doesn't seem to want to buy anything I write--for whatever reason. I had to laugh, then I emailed my agent and said, "That's enough. Obviously her and I are not a good fit." My agent agreed and down the road we go.

    If there's one thing I've learned after six years in this business, it's not personal. We love each and ever project we work on (whether it's TV or a book proposal, I'm sure), and sometimes it's difficult to NOT take it personal,'s not.


  17. Oh Cheeky, fingers crossed that your most recent query will be a go with that agent! ;D Who knows maybe that flubbed name re-aligned the cosmos for you. It sometimes feels like if you get the agent or editor on a bad day then you're book goes down the toilet. Keep at it! I think after awhile it just gives us a tougher hide! ;D

  18. Amie - thanks for your wonderful comment! And boy 100 rejections! You're a tough cookie. I wish you all the best with the book that you and your agent love. I hope it gets published eventually. This happens with movies as well. Sometimes it takes 15 years to get a movie made just because of rejection or timing or lack of funds. And then those films often go on to win Oscars! ;D take care and thanks for stopping by.

  19. Last April, my 8th Harlequin Kimani, Dear Rita, came out. My father was killed in an accident that same month. I barely did any publicity. I hardly remembered the book existed. I remember crying in the waiting room of a TV studio moments before I was to go on the air. So the book tanked.

    My grandmother died less than 2 months later - on the day I quit my job to be a full time writer. A few weeks later, Harlequin dropped me, saying my sales for Dear Rita were low. So I had no dad, no grandma, no job and no publisher.

    How did I handle it? I used to stand among the shelves in bookstores and cry. I finished my WIP, though, and 6 months later Harlequin said they wanted me back. So now I have a 2 book contract, and my latest novel, Meet Me in Paris, is a September release by Kimani.

  20. Simona - I'm so sorry! Thank you for sharing your story with us. Truly everything pales in comparison when we're faced with real problems and pain in life. I'm so glad that you're doing well. Take care and thanks for stopping by! Hope to see you again soon.

  21. Rejection is so hard, Jo! Your story is particularly poignant since you were the inspiration yet without getting the reward. Big hugs to you!

    I remember seeing Sherrilyn Kenyon share her story of repeated rejection until her husband basically threw up his hands and said, No More! They were broke and without any positive feedback, there was no justification for the cost of sending out more queries, more partials, without success. Back when editors all needed those costly postal mailings. *sigh* She ended up stealing the last stamp they had (can you believe it??) to mail her last query. Just one more, she whispered to herself.

    Just one more indeed. She finally got her Good News and now she's a bestselling author.

    As she shared her story to us, tears were in her shaking voice and I don't think anyone in the room couldn't feel her pain and undying hope.

    May we all have the courage and perseverance to grab just one more ounce of courage and push on.

    GREAT article, Jo. You captured my heart yet again.


  22. Chiron,

    Sherilyn's is one of my all time favorite success stories ever--in part because people even told her to quit and that she'd never sell another book.

    I remember hearing it on an email list years ago back when she finally broke the NYT. :D

  23. WTG on finding new avenues of creativity opening up, Joanna! There's always a silver lining to everything in life, we just need to pause, squint (sometimes very hard!) and see it right there.

    And you know what? It's also called exprience, living, and becoming a stronger person!

    One 'rejection' that most affected me, if it can be called that, was when I had my first e-pubbed novel cancelled 2 weeks before its release when the epub house closed due to the owner's health issues. I cried, went in a funk for days, then the ms came back, and I sat down, sniffling, to read it and wallow in self-pity. But what actually happened on that read was that I started seeing avenues where the story could be made stronger and edgier. It was a 'regular' story, but suddenly I saw how I could make it stand out of the lot! And it all happened thanks to a 'rejection'.

    Hang in there, girl! One project is not a be-all-and-end-all, it just a tiny fragment of what you as a creative thinker can come up with!



  24. Chiron - thank you for your kind words! I am touched that my article meant something to you. I read about Sherrilyn Kenyon's beginnings as well a while back - how moving and how inspiring! I think it's important to keep it all in perspective. (Although some wallowing in self-pity is only natural ;)! LOL We just don't wallow too long.

  25. Cece- I agree with you - when I read about Sherilyn Kenyon's road to success - I couldn't believe it - what hardship! I think Nora Roberts and Debbie Macomber also have great stories to tell about economic hardship in their early days as well.

  26. Z, I agree with you! We always learn from every experience - even the not so great ones! And your getting that bolt of inspiration to improve your writing only came about after you were rejected. Creativity works in mysterious ways doesn't it? Thanks darlin!

  27. Oh Jo, my heart goes out to you! I've had many rejections over the years, but the important thing is to just keep plugging away. It can be terribly disheartening. I actually bought a copy of Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul when I was downhearted, and reading of the many dozens of bestselling authors who nearly gave up astounded me. Hundreds of rejections, and still they plodded on. Your talent and hard work will pay off in the end! Don't ever give up.

  28. Thanks Cate! I know it truly does help to read about the struggles and ultimate successes of other writers. ;D


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