are reputed to be dark, tortured, twisted souls who
drink too much, live in poverty and die young. It's
true. Not because we're writers, but because we have
to deal with constant rejection.
If you think being rejected by a lover is bad, try
having work that you laboured over for weeks and months
that you've poured your heart and soul into, sent
back with a form letter. Now, that's rejection.
It's also part of every writer's life, particularly
those with Muslim sounding names, like Mohamed or
Osama (not the wanted guy). I once papered an entire
wall of my bedroom with rejection slips. Every time
I looked at the wall, I'd get angry and write some
more hard-hitting essays. I knew I was better than
And I was. I progressed from form letters rejecting
my work to form letters with handwritten notes. Considering
how many articles and manuscripts editors and big-name
publishers reject every day, a handwritten note is
something to be treasured-a very rare commodity.
This lovely handwritten note from the editor of a
big-name publisher says my manuscript (MS in the profession)
was "a masterpiece and page turner, but we suggest
you change your name from Mohamed to Michael or something,
because many potential customers/readers might not
fancy reading a book written by somebody called Mohamed
particularly after the 9/11 tragedy."
I almost went back to the good old Abdullahi Qarshe
and Kaariye songs on my dusty shelves to celebrate
getting a longer and candid handwritten rejection
letter from the top guy. But before I did, I decided
to reread the MS. Big mistake. Tacked on at the back
was my cover letter, on which the editor I had sent
the MS to originally had written his comment: "Excellent
material. But with the author's name (Mohamed), it
does not fit what we had in mind. Should I call him
and tell him?"
Call and tell me what? That I should throw out my
computer and get a real job? That the humour police
are coming to arrest me, or perhaps go to the local
bishop for a name change? Over my dead body, I muttered,
imitating Margaret Thatcher, Britain's Iron Lady.
I tried to hire, mentally, of course, Somali Mooryaan
(homegrown hit squads) to teach the man a lesson or
two. If I read the comments in reverse order, I would
have probably done so, had I been living in Mogadishu,
the most dangerous place on Mother Earth, but it's
the thought that counts.
As bad as rejection is, it's not half as bad as waiting.
I recently sent an incredibly a blood cuddling MS
to a big-name publisher in the US. The book publishers
stated that submissions would be returned within two
weeks. For the non-writers among you, let me point
out that a two-week turn-around is amazing. Usually
it takes more than two months to be rejected. A quick
rejection allows flogging that same piece to several
other places and receiving many more rejection slips
in a fraction of the time. That's progress.
Now, back to this publisher. Two weeks passed and
no rejection letter. Another week passed and I found
myself racing to the door whenever I heard the mail-only
bills and more bills. By week four I was eagerly scanning
the company's website, looking for my piece. By week
five I could barely type because my fingers were locked
in a crossed position.
And by week six I was dreaming of how I would spend
the money for the article-I could either pay my phone
bill or buy ink cartridge for my printer and upgrade
my computer. I was leaning toward the ink cartridges
for my printer, (by the way the ink cartridges are
more expensive than the printer itself) and upgrading
the computer. Let the phone bill wait and get a disconnection
slip from Bell Canada, for all I care.
In week seven it happened. A rejection form letter.
Anyway, I decided to send a very nasty letter to the
publisher, saying that after keeping the manuscript
for seven weeks they were morally bound to publish
it. But aside from the fact that editors (according
to my fellow writers) are notorious for having no
morals, getting an editor mad at you is not a good
idea if you ever want any future work published.
So, I did the only thing a real writer can do. I turned
the rejection into an article. And you're reading
it right now. At least I hope you are. Good grief,
not another rejection from the big selling Toronto
Afrah is the author of three self-published books
on the Somalia civil war and his regular weekly TALKING
POINTS are posted on this website Mr. Afrah is currently
working on a new book with the title "LIFE IN
THE DIASPORA" This article was also sent to The
Toronto Star newspaper. His E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
M. M. Afrah©2004