I would like to announce that I have hit a major milestone and am celebrating my first rejection!

Sounds ridiculous, right?

Not so! “Celebrate every single milestone, including that first rejection!” That was singularly one of the best pieces of advice that came from the Cleveland writer’s conference I attended this past summer.

And it’s true. In order to be rejected, you have to have made it to the point of being able to submit to an agent in the first place. That’s a big step. At that moment, your manuscript transforms from a private piece of writing into something for others to read, to ponder, inviting others to interact with your own creation. It puts it out into the world in a big way, taking it to a whole new level. An audience, feedback, new knowledge. Level up!

My rejection letter was a wonderful letter from an incredibly intelligent, knowledgeable agent/author/authority on copyright law. I was thrilled that I even had a chance to pitch my story and was invited to share my pages with her. Her feedback was invaluable, and has made me step back a moment to reassess the way in which I want to tell my story. I was encouraged to think about a few technical issues (word count and age range of the audience in relation to the age of the protagonist, issues which cannot be stressed how important they are if one wishes to be published traditionally) as I embarked on my next revision.

After a few weeks have passed and I let these suggestions settle into my bones, I have begun to rework the story, at once tightening up the writing even further for clarity, while also reducing the word count (the intersection of craft and market focused issues, as the agent eloquently suggested).

Now, armed with some powerful information I have continued forward in my writing quest, eager to learn as I go, welcoming productive feedback (as an art major I learned long ago the process and the high value of critique and embrace it for all that it means).

Already the changes I have made feel very satisfying. Clearer writing not only has shortened the length but has also created more of a sense of urgency with action and dialogue. I am continuing on, refining the focus of the protagonist, switching from the younger, sassier, more daring sibling, to the older, more anxious and cautious sibling, and working through her own personal obstacles as the two work together to achieve what they set out to do in the course of the story. It feels more compelling and real to be addressing such matters as what holds a person back from doing all they are capable of doing.

I have also been able to fine tune the genre even further and I am moving forward with my revisions for an upper middle grade magical realism adventure (magical realism is described as a literary or artistic genre in which realistic narrative and naturalistic technique are combined with surreal elements of dream or fantasy). My goal is 325 pages / 85,000 words to tell this tale, the first in a series of two books.

Yesterday I set my feet into a rushing waterfall, one that is part inspiration to one of the settings of the story. It refreshed me and cleared my mind more than I had even counted on. Now it’s time to look toward another celebration, which will be the completion of this next revision!