Thursday, October 25, 2018


I was greatly encouraged this week to read that one of my favourite writers - Kent Haruf - was rejected the first time he applied for a place at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. And I was further cheered to read that it took him six years to write his prize-winning novel Plainsong, which I'm currently rereading. 

I've been working on my latest novel for 18 months and have still not got it the way I want it, the way it needs to be, the best it can be, and in order to help me definitively sort it out, I sought the advice of a sympathetic literary agent who thinks I write well (and who, btw, told me that seven years on, she still remembers the character Sol in But I Told You Last Year That I Loved You.) She suggested I apply to a top notch creative writing course, and told me the best five. So I did. I applied to a highly esteemed three month online novel-writing course. I worked on the application for the whole of September, and yesterday I got the result:

We’ve had huge interest in this course, and a great many applications. We enjoyed reading your material, but unfortunately, we can only offer 15 spots and we’re sorry to say that we don’t have a place for you on this occasion. 
Blah blah blah.

The night before I got this email I had a terrible night of sleeplessness and a nightmare in which I was wrestling with a rat, so the rejection arrived when I was not at my most robust. I was too wasted to think beyond hazy reactions like 'Well in that case I'll succumb to old age. I'll spend all my time doing jigsaw puzzles and watching reruns of Call the Midwife. I'll be thankful that I had all those pieces in The Times, one book that sold well - Plotting for Beginners - and one book I am really proud of - But I Told You Last Year That I Loved You. I will rest on my meagre laurels. And I'll give up the blog.'

This morning I'm thinking about it some more. The course I applied to is interested in writers who will write books that sell. They're interested in the marketplace. Applicants had to send the first 3000 words of the novel they were working on along with a synopsis, so I'm thinking that the marketability of the applicant's work in progress could be a deciding factor if two applicants wrote equally well. But who knows? I could be kidding myself. I might just be crap.

Just lately, even before this happened, I've been thinking that what I should actually be doing (instead of writing quiet unmarketable novels) is working to make the world a better place. Perhaps I should go back to volunteer advice work, or spend time every week helping refugees and asylum seekers. The trouble is that if you're a writer, you're a writer, even if you're a crap writer. There is no escape.

So I'm flummoxed. Flummoxed and disappointed.  

At least I'm an ace grandma.

Since I wrote this post, I've been sitting in the Boulder Bookstore, searching for solace, and I happened upon this poem in a Bukowski anthology:


Mick Oxley said...

An ace Grandma is something to be proud of! Keep on believing Sue, don’t give up your dream.

Sue Hepworth said...

Thank you, Mick. You’re very kind.

marmee said...

Well, I have become so invested in this new book. Have been so interested to see where it takes you , I will be sorry to not have it materialise. Gosh sue, it is a toughie isn"t it? How does the society of Friends think about situations like this? Do you ask for guidance , wait for a direction? I wonder, it does sort of have the feel of this has to be done. Life is so odd in the things that pop up that just absolutely seem to be must do's , like a bridge that has to be crossed.

Anonymous said...

Don’t give up. Have you tried the other four courses the agent recommended? Rejection is horrible but you can’t let it stop you writing.

Sue Hepworth said...

Hello faithful friends, since I wrote the post, I found a poem which seemed 'to speak to my condition' and I've added it to the bottom of the post.
I'm a person who does not give up easily. Hepworths are dogged. Even Hepworths by marriage. And this book is important to me, even if in the light of eternity it is insignificant.
I am flying home on Sunday and when the dust has settled, I'll know what to do.

I think, Marmee, that in very serious situations, where a Friend wants to test a leading, Friends hold a Meeting for Clearness.

Sue Hepworth said...

p.s. I have not tried the other courses the agent recommended because they are too big a commitment in terms of time.

Sue Hepworth said...

I have this quote from Tootise going round in my head - “God forbid you should lose your standing as a cult failure.”

Christine said...

An ace grandmother and a lovely friend.

Sue Hepworth said...

Thank you. 💐