(Photo borrowed from “Duck of the Day“)
The submission process for Duck Boy began 16 years ago. I began to submit the story to publishers every spring. Spring seemed to be the season when some publishers take new material. I didn’t do very well. I got the photocopied responses. So I made my wife read the story. She’s actually a great critic, and she gave me a few pointers to consider, which I did. I also forced a few of my friends to read it. They gave me some tips. And I rewrote the story.
I sent the story out and got rejected again, standard photocopied-form rejection notes. These are the toughest rejections to take, I think. There’s nothing to learn from them. They basically say “You suck. Please go away.”
The next spring, when I sent it out, I got a photocopied rejection again. This time I had an editor’s note on the bottom that said something like “Best of luck publishing elsewhere.” This actual handwriting served as a huge encouragement to me, for some weird reason. Someone had cared enough to wish me well.
I then got the address of an agent and sent her the manuscript, thinking I had just hit easy street. And man she was a tough old bird: drank, smoked, and cussed like a sailor. She liked the story, though she hacked it to bits and made me rewrite it to her specifications, which I did. She had another round of changes for me, which I made. And then she died. True story. She smoked most of her life, which lead to a horrible round of cancer, which killed her near the end of 2003. End of my publishing plan, phase one. Time for plan B.