And when things start to happen,
Don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.
– Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You Will Go!
hat writing mountain are you eager to conquer? As for me, in 2005, my writing Kilimanjaro was to publish my history article in a children’s periodical. I took my quest seriously: I read back issues of Cobblestone and Calliope magazines, studied their guidelines, sent out one pitch after another—and all this labor resulted in numerous rejections. At some point, I understood that I aimed at the mountain too high for me and started to look for other suitable and less competitive markets. I believed that there had to be a publication whose editor would appreciate my passion for history, writing style, and diligent research.
When I learned that a new children’s magazine, Learning Through History, had been launched, I knew immediately that it was the one I was seeking. Moreover, the editor was accepting submissions for the issue on Ancient Greece—my favorite historical period that I studied at the university in St. Petersburg, Russia. To analyze the magazine, I ordered the issue on Ancient Rome, read it several times as a contributor, and became confident that I would be able to tailor my article to please the editor.
Now my major problem was to quickly find the right topic because I had only one week to research, write, and submit my manuscript. Since I absolutely adored Ancient Greece history, I was torn between several different ideas. What about a story on democracy in Athens and the practice of ostracism? Or maybe an article on Alexander the Great? I knew a lot about this military leader—I even worked as an archaeologist at the archaeological dig on the territory of Ancient Bactria (modern Uzbekistan), where Alexander the Great marched with his troops.
No, I should write about an eccentric philosopher Diogenes: he lived in a barrel and was content with bare necessities. According to a legend, when Alexander the Great came to see him and offered to grant his wish, Diogenes asked, “King, step aside and do not shield me from the sun.” Or maybe another story would be even better—on Greek historian Herodotus who is considered to be the “father” of history? I kept brainstorming possible topics for three days and still did not make my choice. And the deadline for submission was only four days away!
Suddenly, while preparing my breakfast, I got the idea: I would write about the idioms that came into the English language from Homer’s poems The Iliad and the Odyssey. To make my article more interesting, I would also include American presidents’ quotes, where these idioms were used. Thus, my article would not only give children information about Ancient Greece, but also would enrich their knowledge of English and American history. Awesome!
I rushed to my computer. In two hours, I wrote down a dozen idioms, gave their explanations, and provided American presidents’ quotations. Yet, when I tried to compose the opening for my article, I could not find the right phrase. I looked at my blank screen in desperation. How could I capture my young readers’ attention from the first line?
Suddenly, I had the thought, “How would I start the article if I write it just for myself?” Sure enough, I would use the first line of The Iliad, “Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles, son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans.” I quickly wrote this line and realized that it was the perfect opening: it enabled me to give a brief overview of Homer’s epic poems and proceed with the idioms that they include. I quickly finished the article and left it to cool off before submitting.
Finally, after multiple revisions, I was ready to send my manuscript several hours before the deadline. I checked my submission to be sure that I followed the formatting guidelines, pushed the send button . . . and at that very moment, the Internet stopped working because of a thunderstorm. Somehow, I managed to submit my manuscript fifteen minutes before the deadline—I believe that my Guardian Angel assisted me!
Yet, the most difficult part of this writing adventure had only just begun; now I had to wait for a month for the editor’s response. Surprisingly, I did not experience any anxiety. On the contrary, I felt as though my article had already been accepted. When I received the long-awaited reply from the editor, I did not hurry to open and read it. Instead, sitting at my computer desk, I was singing “Count Your Blessings”! I finished the song, opened the letter . . . and did not believe my eyes:
“Thanks very much for your submission to Learning Through History magazine and for your patience in awaiting our response. I’m sorry, but we were unable to accept your submission for publication in our upcoming Ancient Greece issue.”
I re-read the letter, although its meaning was clear: my manuscript had not been chosen for the publication, and I had no chances to submit another one for the Ancient Greece issue.
“I realized how surprised I was—not with this rejection, but with the incredible peace in my soul. My heart was singing and rejoicing as though I received the letter of acceptance.”
As I was sitting in front of my computer and staring into the monitor, I realized how surprised I was—not with this rejection, but with the incredible peace in my soul. My heart was singing and rejoicing as though I received the letter of acceptance. I closed my eyes and saw my article on Homer’s idioms in print. My confidence in my success was so great that even the rejection letter could not shake it!
In an hour, I received another letter from the editor:
“Dear Tatiana, we accidentally sent you a letter of rejection for your submission, when in fact it has been accepted by Learning Through History magazine for publication in the Ancient Greece issue. Attached is a freelance contract that you must sign and mail back to us before payment can be made.”
Wow! I conquered my writing mountain and broke into the children’s magazine market! Hooray for Homer and his idioms!
However, the most precious gift for me that day was not only the result (the byline and paycheck), but my amazing journey: I learned to be more confident in my writing skills, work on a tight deadline, and trust my ability to pitch a salable story idea to an editor.
And when, from time to time, I need a confidence boost, I simply read my favorite rejection letter and feel inspired for more writing adventures!
Tatiana Claudy is a freelance writer from Indiana. Her bylines appeared in Mystery Weekly Magazine; Creation Illustrated; The Upper Room; The Lutheran Digest; The Secret Place; and Travel Thru History, My Itchy Travel Feet, Go Overseas, Writing-World.com, WritersWeekly.com, and FundsforWriters e-publications.
More Tales from the Trenches:
My Writing Coach in the Looking Glass: Overzealous Mentor or Moneymaker? By Lisa Mae DeMasi
Finger Gone Rogue, Writing Gone Mute by Rhonda Wiley-Jones
Millionaire Daydreams by Cortina Jackson
Just Say No, or Being a Bitch for My Art by Judith Sornberger