Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guest Post ~ Aine Greaney

What Rejection Teaches Us

Seven years ago, my then-publisher rejected my second novel. This manuscript submission--part of a two-book publishing contract--was named “Dance Lessons.” The publisher didn't like it. The book needed work. So goodbye contract. And goodbye publisher.

When I got that rejection e-mail, I did the adult thing: I took to my bed weeping.

A comforting inner voice said that my publisher hadn’t rejected me, as in, the woman whose red puffy eyes stared back at me from the bedroom mirror. But this editor had rejected my transatlantic female characters and their worthiness to tell this 300-page story. And she had rejected my own definition of myself.

“What do you do?” asks the man in the airplane seat next to us, or the woman pouring the wine at the dinner party. "I'm a teacher," we say. Or, "I'm a stay-at-home parent." Or, "I'm a tax accountant."
I’m a writer.Once upon a time, I always hesitated before saying that. But then it got to be true.--so true that there was no other way to describe myself.

But not now. With a broken publishing contract and an apparent one-book career, was I really a writer?

For the next few weeks, big-life questions burned in my mind. When can you officially start calling yourself a writer? First byline? First book? First literary magazine publication? First payment for a piece? And in any lifestyle or career, when is it time to call it quits and forge a new identity? With these hefty questions came the big and apparently final decision: I was all done. I would no longer be a writer.

Though I still felt sad and rejected, there was a strange freedom in all this. It was a bit like bringing the contents of your home to a thrift store so you could trot away into the sunset with no vestiges of your previous life.

I began to make my no-writer to-do list:

1. Cancel my writers' magazine subscriptions.
2. Send out a cease-and-desist e-mail to my writer friends.
3. Return all that junk-mail about conferences and workshops and vanity press publishing packages. 4. Cancel any upcoming, scheduled public readings.
5. Do not schedule any new readings.
6. Tell my family.
And … on the 7th day … Could I rest? Noooo. On the 7th day, I had to become someone else. But who?

Ever since my childhood in Ireland, I had been reading and scribbling something.

But now, as a middle-aged woman living in America, I could change. I would.

I would upgrade my half-time job to a full-time, salaried gig with a 401K. I would wear high heels. I would have a clean house. I would toss out the paper-piles that sprouted from the floor of my attic writing room.

In fact, my proposed new life looked so dang good, so manageable and worry-free, that I started to write about it in my journal (O.K., so I snuck in a few rejection moan-fests in there, too). Yup, when your heart’s been broken, when you have to make a big life and career change, there’s no place like the old personal diary.

But a funny thing happened on my way to quitting writing.

When I finished that first journal, I walked to the drugstore for another blank notebook—another set of pages. So I could write about not writing. But … Whoa! Hadn’t I given this up? What kind of quitter was I if I couldn't even master the quitting process itself?

And then it came to me. So many of our personal talents or joys, so much of who we are cannot be defined or measured in the public marketplace. Fact is, writing has always been how I process the world. The writing always knows more than I do. In fact, (I wrote in that "I'm-not-writing journal), the events in my life only come to life when I’ve committed those events to the written word.
Three months after that book-reject e-mail, I took a deep breath and printed up that rejected manuscript named "Dance Lessons." That was 2004. I woke in the middle of the night with fresh ideas. I edited. And edited.

Instead of purging my attic paper-piles, I grew some new ones. Then at last, step by step, the parts of my book connected and made sense.

It's been a long and joyful dance lesson.

About the author ~ 

I'm an Irish writer (County Mayo) now living on Boston's North Shore.  I've published mostly fiction--also some personal essays, feature articles, wellness and travel articles. As well as writing, I lead writing workshops at various schools, arts organizations, libraries and colleges in New England and beyond.  For information  on my programs and workshops, visit the Mass. Cultural Council artist profile. My work has appeared in journals and publications such as Creative Nonfiction,  Natural Bridge, The Larcom Review, The Literary Review, Under the Sun, Stone Canoe, The Sunday Tribune New Irish Writing, Merrimack Valley Magazine,  Cyphers and The Sunday Boston Globe Magazine.  Stories and essays have also appeared in anthologies such as The Fish Anthology, Irish Girls are Back in Town, From the Heart of Ireland, and Lost and Found: An Anthology of Teachers' Writing.

Writer with a Day Job

Well, yeah, that's me: a writer with a day job. So I didn't have to travel too far for the title of my how-to writing book which is being released  in June 2011 from Writers Digest Books.  Writer With a Day Job: Inspiration & Exercises to Help You Craft a Writing Life Alongside Your Career   offers guidelines on how to balance a day-job with a creative writing life. You can pre-order the book at Amazon.

As well as working, writing and teaching, I get out and about now and again. I belong to local and regional arts and writing organizations, including the New Hampshire Writers Project, the Cape Cod Writers Center, Irish Network Boston and the American Conference for Irish Studies. 
I travel back to Ireland frequently.

Visit the Aine's website  
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Her latest book ~ 

  Dance Lessons: A Novel 

A year after her husband's death in a sailing accident off Martha's Vineyard, Ellen Boisvert bumps into an old friend. In this chance encounter, she discovers that her immigrant husband of almost fifteen years was not an orphan after all. Instead, his aged mother Jo is alive and residing on the family's isolated farm in the west of Ireland.

Faced with news of her mother-in-law incarnate, the thirty-nine-year-old American prep school teacher decides to travel to Ireland to investigate the truth about her husband Fintan and why he kept his family's existence a secret for so many years.

Between Jo's hilltop farm and the lakeside village of Gowna, Ellen begins to uncover the mysteries of her Irish husband's past and the cruelties and isolation of his rural childhood. Ellen also stumbles upon Fintan's long-ago romance with a local village woman, with whom he had a daughter, Cat. Cat is now fourteen and living with her mother in London. As Ellen reconciles her troubled relationship with Fintan, she discovers a way to heal the wounds of the past.

Deeply rooted in the Irish landscape and sensibility, Dance Lessons is a powerful story of loss, regret, and transformation.  

Release date ~ March 30, 2011

Other books by Aine ~ 
Writer with a Day Job: Inspiration & Exercises to Help You Craft a Writing Life Alongside Your CareerThe Big HouseIm Honiglicht