Burning Bridges vs. The Elephant

I’ll cop to having a crummy memory when it comes to mundane things like where I parked my car, or forgetting to include that important item in my daughter’s Care Package while she’s at grad school…y’know, the very reason why I’m sending the Care Package in the first place. In a word, my brain is like Swiss cheese.

Most of the time.

When it comes to publishing, I’m the elephant. No…I don’t look like one. Oh lord, please tell me I don’t look like one! But I have a memory like an elephant. And really, who thought that up…memory of an elephant? How do they know an elephant has a long memory? Ah, but I digress…where was I? Ah yes! My memory.

See, it’s like this. Most of the time I can remember people who queried me seven years ago. Either their name or their story will ring some bell in my melon, and I’ll go to my folder and look them up to see what I had to say about their work. Very handy. That folder is my golden goody box that holds all my impressions and correspondence with authors whom I rejected.

And some of that correspondence isn’t so flattering to the author. I understand rejection bites the big one, but anyone who retaliates by sending the editor a nastygram is setting some seriously icky karma because once they hit the Send button, thar be no take-backs. You can’t unring a bell, stick a genie back in the bottle, or sober up the beagle. And you can never, never, never deny being insidiously rude to an editor. Your name is affixed to that email for-e-ver.

Welcome to the Land of the Burnt Bridge. You may have forgotten all about the fact that you told an editor to go forth and multiply with the barnyard animal of her choosing – but she is apt to have saved some record of it. Which is what happened to me today. An author whose full I’d read and ultimately rejected seven years ago sent me an email, reminding me of how I’d been less than enamored with her book, and would I please look at it. The long and short of it was her publisher was closing their doors, making her homeless very soon, and would I like to have another bite at her apple.

Hello, golden goodie box, my delicious rejection folder where there are no take-backs. What ho! Oh my! The correspondence we’d shared hadn’t been at all lovey dovey. I read one, two, three of her emails. I couldn’t reject her a second time quickly enough. My hair burned and my teeth itched.

What’s sad that had our correspondence been vastly different, I may have entertained taking another look. But she burned her bridge with me, so she was shown the street faster than the beagle could yelp, “Quiet! I have a hangover.”

When an author bites back about a critique or a rejection, she essentially crosses off someone who could become an asset because at a later date. Quite the contrary, no one with half a firing synapse will look at that same author years later and welcome her with anything less that a grenade launcher and a suggestion she run. Fast.

We know rejection hurts, but that’s the way of the business…the world, really. Not everyone is going to want something you created, and you need to decide what kind of person you want to project to the world. A vindictive simpleton, or a classy professional? Grace under fire, or potty mouth? Just because you were rejected now doesn’t mean there won’t be an open door from that same editor down the line. Or that she may offer to send your work to someone else who might like it.

Don’t burn your bridges because you never know whether that editor you’d like to see as a garbage truck hood ornament now will be an influential advocate to you later on. This is a close-knit community and word spreads around like dry tinder. Make sure people will read your long-lost emails and smile with a warm heart. It’s so much more fun.

As for my long-lost author, the pièce de résistance was when she called me Ms. Behler. All those prior emails, and she calls me Ms. Behler. Hello, Rodney? I’m with you, buddy…this elephant don’t get no respect.

10 Responses to Burning Bridges vs. The Elephant

  1. NinjaFingers says:

    Remind me never to piss you off.

    Or call you Ms. Behler.

  2. Actually, I’m very slow to anger because everyone messes up. But this particular person not only failed to appreciate how cantankerous her previous correspondence had been, but she picked right up where she left off and was excruciatingly rude this time around – yet she insisted I read her work again. Takes all kinds, I guess.

  3. I don’t know why people do that. Maybe I’ve lived in the corporate world long enough (30 yrs as a software engineer) to know the Platinum Rule: Be polite unto others, as you may have to work for/with them some day.

    That being said, when is it ever appropriate to respond (kindly) to a rejection? Theoretically, if I have a ms that has been professionally edited, vetted by many objective eyes, and still gets rejection after rejection, is it ever appropriate to ask an agent/publisher why? Or do I just wait for the kind one to add to their No Thanks, “We’ve got a glut of these addiction recovery memoirs and quite frankly, we don’t think an addiction to chocolate is a bad thing.” At least I’d know that my writing is not the problem, my problem is the problem.

  4. SandySays1 says:

    Hmmmm, Very good memory? Good! Since, I don’t believe I was in the least bit unprofessional or discourteous – I’ll see you with Larry Seigel and his three lives at FWA, rewritten of course. Woof, woof.

  5. Looking forward to it, Sandy!

    And just to belabor this point a bit further, I have only had one author be rude to my face. – I gave her credit for her guts, but took them away because she was incensed that someone didn’t think her work was fabulous. She actually got up from the crit session and stormed out. I was left with my mouth hanging open.

    Every other shot across my bow was done behind the curtain of the internet. I often wonder if these same people would be as brave if they sat at my table.

  6. SandySays1 says:

    Sandy Says,
    My human played and coached football for 30 years. To quothe thee olde Geezer – “You may stop wondering.”

  7. I work in customer service and have done so most of my life, and the answer is definitely “No.” Most people would NEVER act that way to your face.

    For some reason, people grow a HUGE set of Kahunas over the internet, (and the phone), and can be downright rude, treating people in ways they’d NEVER do face-to-face.

    Glad you have such a good memory and record keeping system. I love it when what goes around comes around….

  8. STRIPP says:

    I am doing some reconnaissance work in the world of potential editors. You never know where you can go to get a real critique and powerful assistance in writing. I think Lynn Price may be the Miranda Priestly for this Jane Hathaway. I am determined to make a difference in this crazy world. We shall learn from each other in the near future. BTW, I love the dog references because Sophie, my Maltipoo, is helping me respond to your blog post by lying in my lap fast asleep causing the strained position I sit in to terribly cramp my back. It is a wonder I do not have scoliosis. (Follow me on twitter @stripp1)

  9. Maltipoo? I think I just hurt something from laughing. The beagle is equally amused.

    The idea of being compared to Miranda Priestly gives me hives. I’m far nicer. Really. No…honest…

  10. STRIPP says:

    Forgive me. Miranda Priestly may be a little harsh (she was a capital “B” after all) but the thrill and power of the written word is the same.

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