November 25, 2003
A Thick Skin Helps by Lorraine Mace | printable version
I have an article that refused to die. You know the type I mean - the writing that every member of your family loves unreservedly, he piece that your friends said proved you were (funny, clever, wise, sophisticated, intelligent - insert your word of choice).
I live in France, so it seemed natural to write a humorous article on the difficulties of conversing in a foreign tongue with an accent that simply refuses to bend itself to French vowels. It was one of the easiest pieces that I have ever written because I was able simply to draw from experience. I had a wealth of my own anecdotes, as well as those of friends and acquaintances. The difficulty was in deciding what to leave out, rather than searching for material to put in.
I duly submitted the piece and waited anxiously for the editor to tell me which issue would have the privilege of containing my masterpiece. The reply, when it came (some four months after submission), was devastating. "You have completely failed to tickle the editor's funny bone."
Fortunately, there were other publications to try, but my confidence in the piece was severely dented. I read it again, trying to be objective. I still found it amusing, not as much as before, but when you've read a piece so many times that you know it by heart, it is difficult not to see the punch lines coming.
I sent it to every family member with whom I was even remotely friendly. One relative, the cousin that I always want to push into the wedding cake or drown whenever there is a family gathering, was critical, so I didn't take her comments personally (honestly).
I submitted the piece to another magazine, and it was rejected. By this stage, I couldn't read the article without loathing myself for having written it in the first place. It wasn't funny - it was boring. How could I expect an editor to love it when I hated it so passionately? Embarrassed, I placed the file out of sight.
A few months ago, I was doing some housekeeping on my computer and the piece jumped back into my consciousness. A little voice in my head said to give it one more try. The publication I chose accepted submissions by email, so what did I have to lose? It wouldn't even cost postage and International Reply Coupons.
Less than a week later, I received her response in my inbox. "What a wonderful article," she'd written. "We are going to use it in our Parlez-vous section in the September issue. It had everyone in the office laughing out loud. Thank you for sending it." Her email had me laughing out loud as well, and dancing a jig up and down the hall. And, yes, they were a paying market!
I have since written two more humor pieces for this magazine. What's more, her response gave me the courage to submit the same piece to a British magazine. They accepted it with a request for more pieces in a similar vein.
If you have an article that you love, that deep inside you know is one of the best things you have written, then NEVER give up. Out there, somewhere, is a home for your pride and joy. It is simply a question of perseverance and, oh yes, developing a thick skin.
Lorraine Mace writes mainly for France-themed magazines in Britain, France, and America, but has also had success with Ireland's Own, Internet publications and writing competitions. She firmly believes that writers should only submit to publications that pay.