On rejection, time, and success… and racism

My old pal, and one of the original book bloggers, Maud Newton posted on Twitter about turning 50 (’71 babies UNITE!) and just publishing her first book. She hints that life happens and books come when they can. Don’t give up is her message. A good message. And I’m glad she didn’t. Now read this saga: Deesha Philyaw, a black woman who nearly swept the year’s literary awards, was rejected over and over for…. uh… reasons? Long way to go, publishing. Congratulations, Deesha. Glad you didn’t give up.

“In advocating for Deesha,” Philyaw’s agent, Danielle Chiotti, told me, “it was crucial to make sure that the truth of her stories was allowed to shine.”

Chiotti targeted a wide range of editors, from the big five New York trade publishers to smaller presses. For the first month, rejections rolled in. Many employed that time-honored publishing boilerplate: Philyaw’s collection, editors said, just wasn’t a good fit for their houses. “It’s hard,” said Chiotti, “not to wonder what is really behind the phrase not a good fit.”

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