Broom Cupboards and Elevator Shafts - by SC Skillman

 "After being turned down by numerous publishers, he had decided to write for posterity" - George Ade

It is a truth certainly acknowledged by the author of the above quote that many creative writers struggle for years, enduring perhaps decades in the wilderness of submissions and rejections, before their persistence finally pays off.

Most would-be authors, it has been said, are "pessimistic optimists"*. Although now I have a few published books to my credit, nevertheless, I'll never forget feeling that I had gone where most angels would be too sensible to tread - into those realms where only agents, editors and publishers prowl.

The Old Testament is full of stories of people who waited or fought seemingly in vain or wandered in the wilderness for many years before God's plan for them unfolded, and their gifts were used and they prospered.

Joseph, Moses, and Elijah come to mind. Moses was 80 years old when he led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, and witnessed the parting of the Red Sea. Elijah gave way to depression before God re-commissioned him. Joseph languished forgotten in jail before his gift for interpreting dreams lifted him up again.

Fast-forward a few millennia. The first rejection I received from a publisher was when I was 12 years old. The letter was from William Collins and I still have it. I had sent them a collection of fairy stories. This is what the letter said: "You have plenty of imagination and a very good way of expressing yourself. Unfortunately here in London we publish books of 30-40,000 words so we cannot offer to publish these for you. I hope you will continue to write and perhaps one day have a book published."

A couple of years after I had left university, I chanced to meet a publisher (later to become one of London's top literary agents) who took an interest in my writing. He encouraged me to write my first novel.  

On another occasion, I attended a workshop on the subject of "Discernment", and an image was presented to us: "You can spend years knocking on doors. Some doors lead to broom cupboards and some to elevator shafts."

When I met this publisher, in the early stages of my writing career, I opened a door and it led into a lift. I stepped in, and went up. But it was a faith-operated lift. It required me to have enough faith to press the button for the top floor. I only had enough faith to press the button for Floor 3. The doors opened, the demon of self-doubt stepped in, and pressed the button for the basement. And down I went again, to the very bottom of the shaft.

Over the ensuing years, occasionally, when I opened another letter saying, "Due to the very strong market in this kind of literature your novel would not be viable for us to publish", "This is too commercial for us", and "I'm afraid this doesn't quite fit with our current list", I thought of those words Jesus spoke before Pilate: "You would have no power over me at all if it had not been given to you from on high" (perhaps one of the most poignant assertions in the New Testament, especially when you consider some of the people who have been given power in this world).

Sometimes I felt lost in the middle of the submissions and rejections wilderness like the Japanese soldier who was discovered in the jungle 30 years after World War II had ended, still waiting for the war to end.

But there were times when the warmth of humanity shone through in an agent's letter, such as this from a US agent: "I wish I could talk with every author who contacts us... but that is not possible so instead you can read an interview with me on the subject of career development on my website."

However, I was unimpressed by this email response from an agency which invited online submissions: "From the Submissions Robot: I did not feel enthusiastic enough."  Then I found the following quote in Margaret Silf's book "Sacred Spaces", in a chapter called "Crossing Places":

"At this 'burial plot' of my experience, I am standing between two worlds - between the old, the known and understood, and the new beginning which still lies beyond the scope of my wildest imagining. I am standing in sacred space because it is on the very edge of the known that the infinite possibilities of the unknown begin to unfold."

And I will remember this: "God stretched the rainbow across the heavens, so that we might never forget the promise that holds all creation in being. This is the promise that life and joy are the permanent reality, like the blue of the sky, and that all the roadblocks we encounter are like the clouds - black and threatening, perhaps, but never the final word. Because the final word is always 'Yes!'"

SC Skillman writes psychological, paranormal and mystery fiction and non-fiction. Her first two published novels were "Mystical Circles" and "A Passionate Spirit". She also writes non-fiction books for Amberley Publishing: "Paranormal Warwickshire" was published in November 2020 and her next book "Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire" is due for release on 15 April 2022. She is currently working on the second of two new novels, and a third non-fiction book for Amberley.

Post a Comment