There used to be an ice cream shop in the town I grew up in, Bert T. Owens, that served Blue Moon ice cream. It was kind of a mix of blueberry and vanilla, and it was my favorite ice cream. Whenever I hear it is a month with a blue moon, I always think back to walking into Bert Owens and getting a double-dip of ice cream, and it brings a smile to my face. Ice cream was a treat when I was kid. To say we visited Bert Owens once in a blue moon would be true.
It was a long time before I realized there really was such a thing as a blue moon.
There are two definitions of what a blue moon is. The first, and most common, is that there are two full moons that rise and fall within the same month. The second, and more complicated, calls the blue moon the third full moon in a season that has four full moons. This definition is tied to the ecclesiastical calendar. In this calendar there are names for twelve moons—the Paschal Moon determines the date for Easter, for example. By naming the extra moon a blue moon, the calendar is not thrown off track. Either definition is fine with me, and I go with the flow, as most people and most of the world use the first definition.
So—what do ice cream and blue moons have to do with writing? Nothing really. But I had my own blue moon experience this week, and I thought I’d share it with you.
I received two rejections in the past week for my hardboiled police procedural novel that my agent is shopping. Both rejections came from publishers in New York. The first complimented my writing, calling me a “serious writer”, and said the story is “full of grittiness that comes across as realistic and deeply felt”. In the end the novel was too grim for this editor. But—there was a handwritten PS., “Please try me again”.
The second rejection was a little different. It too complimented my writing, calling me a “good writer”, and said that the story was really enjoyable. The novel would have been perfect for a previous imprint, but since that imprint was dissolved in a merger, there was not place for it at the current imprint. But—the editor took the novel to another editor within the house first to make sure it wasn’t a fit at her imprint before rejecting it. To fit that imprint the core of my novel would have had to have been changed dramatically, so much so, it would not be the same book and would have required more than a major rewrite. When my agent called and asked if I could make this change, I thought about it long and hard, but ultimately, I said no, I can’t do that.
Saying no in an absolute way was not an easy thing to do. But I had no choice. The editor respected that decision. My agent respected that decision. And in the end, it’s a decision I can live with. I am not opposed to making changes to the novels I’ve written. I am all for making a novel better. I am a writer, not an editor. But this change was so big that I could not see how to do it and maintain the integrity of the novel. Plain and simple, sometimes you have to say no.
The two rejections are my two full moons this month. While a sale would have been great, both rejections have had a positive impact on me. And I think that’s the secret to surviving rejection in this business—You have to look for the positive. It’s there. I suppose I could be bitter and disappointed, but what’s the point? That attitude is going to come through in my writing, in the way I carry myself, in my relationships with everyone I encounter. No thanks. I’m moving on. I heading back to the keyboard with “good and serious writer” and “realistic and deeply felt” tucked into my back pocket. I now know that an editor liked my novel enough to carry it to another editor. That’s what I want to show in my work. Not anger at the business.
And I know I’m on the right track—and I have to stay there by sitting down and writing more and more and more, until the planets align, and the right “yes” comes along. That’s the only way to deal with rejection as far as I’m concerned.
Now—I’m off to the ice cream store. Oddly enough, there’s an ice cream shop in the town that we now live in that serves blue moon ice cream. It doesn’t quite taste the same as it did when I was kid, but it’s close enough to be grateful that blue moon ice cream still exists in some form… Besides, I earned a double-dip this week, damn it.