Birth In Reverse (Sound painful? It IS!)

Written by Hollye Dexter

October 21, 2010

(Return to Sender….)

As most of you know I’ve recently completed my memoir Only Good Things, the story of my zany childhood. I liken the process to giving birth – messy, painful, ooey-gooey. The last phase was the toughest… pushing, pushing, puuushing to finish it…all the while screaming GET IT OUT OF ME! like a possessed demon woman. And finally….


Break out the cigars! Balloons! Champagne!

Then came the next step. After recovering from the long arduous labor, everyone wants to see the baby, and you worry – well, the baby does look kinda scrunchy. Will people think it’s ugly? Cute? Undercooked? But – you have to release it into the world. That’s what it came here for, you know. If I stuffed that baby away in a drawer for a year…well, people might think I was a negligent mother. So I did it. I started sending my baby out to be seen.

My friends all loved my baby. It’s so YOU. It has your voice! They got what my baby was all about, and because they love me, they loved my baby.

Then I sent it out to the big guns…agents who didn’t know or love me. People who would look at my baby with a critical eye. I mean, it’s not like I think my baby is the next Baby Gap model, but…it has ten fingers, ten toes and all that, and…well, it’s hard for me to be objective but my writer friends say it’s a great baby!

Yesterday I got my first rejection. Ouch. Even though I knew this was coming, after all – J.K. Rowling had 12 publishers reject her baby before the 13th accepted it…(and that baby grew into the biggest giant the world has ever seen! ) it still smarts. Because when it’s a memoir, it’s not only your work they are rejecting…it’s your life story. I tried to think of it this way: Everyone gets rejections, even the Beatles. It’s part of the artistic process, and with each rejection I get, I’m that much closer to the one who’s going to say yes. Right? Yeah, I tried to think of it that way. And I know there will be more, so I’m building my callouses.

This agent was actually really nice and said some lovely things about my writing and my “voice”, but here’s why she didn’t take it, and this is what’s plaguing me….she said –

Abuse memoirs are very hard to place in today’s market.

ABUSE MEMOIRS?!!!??? I never ever thought of my baby as an abuse memoir! I’ve never thought of myself as an abused person. I’m not a victim, and neither will my baby be. Well this got me thinking. Just because I know my baby isn’t an abused baby, doesn’t mean everyone else will. So maybe I presented the first three chapters of this baby in the wrong way. (Because that’s all they read- the first three chapters). This is actually a book about survival and hope. The story has many twists and turns, at times its zany and kooky and ironic. But they only saw that one snapshot of my baby- they don’t know it’s many expressions and moods.

So you know what that means? I have to shove this baby BACK UP INTO MY UTERUS again and let it cook a little while longer. Now, for some reason, I am avoiding this painful step with everything in me. I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna (kicking, screaming, crying……waaaaaaaaaah). Well – would you? I mean, really.

I don’t know, maybe I’ve got to take some Lamaze classes or something to get courage…cause all the breathing in the world isn’t gonna make me want to do this.

So… take down the balloons, stub out the cigars , send back the Congratulations cards. This baby is going back in the womb for now.

Sympathy cards gratefully accepted.

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  1. Beverlee

    OMG- you kill me! Yes, we love you so we love your baby (BRILLIANT)Holls! THIS is am amazing blog on so many levels. Survival & hope it is!!! You are an amazing writer, I love your perspective and I love you. It will happen sista. I can feel it! If it means Lamaze, ya know I will go with you! XOXOXO

  2. Kathleen

    I was a breach birth, my Mom's first born.
    she had two after me.
    You can do this!!!
    Your blog is awesome and
    We are all here backing you knowing that this will be a brilliant book, xo.

  3. Anonymous

    I would not put it away. The publisher who wants this book and there will be one will let you know what you need to change or enhance for it to be fully ready for publication. Don't give up after one rejection. See what the 12 say and then revise if needed. Go with your gut.

  4. Unknown

    I love this blog of yours. Exactly what I just went through-shoving it back into my uterus for the past year to cook longer and I'm still cooking it more. And I didn't know that about "abuse memoirs" mine is too, but full of hope and survival. Well I want to read your book Hollye. Jill Dodd

  5. Maxee

    Okay, Mama Maxee here. :-))
    First of all, yes it's true, we all get rejected in one way or another. It's not something we look forward to, but actually it does help us grow. We go back and see what we need to do to make whatever it is, better. One thing is for sure Hollye, don't let anyone ever tell you that you can't or shouldn't be writing your story. You have so much to share and tell it so well, and others who read your blogs, and story, etc. are changed by what you say. You are definitely "Making A Difference".
    Now, that said, it is also true that you only have a few meager moments to razzle and dazzle whomever you are trying to impress. As they say in "GYPSY"…."Kid you gotta have a gimmick,If you wanna get ahead." Not that you're going to be another Gypsy Roselee, LOL.
    As you already know, the very first few pages has to grab the reader, just like the opening scene of a film has to grab the audience, and grab on tight and not let go. I am NOT a writer and never will be, but I am a voracious reader, and LOVE a good story.
    You've got what it takes kiddo. No doubt about it. So as they say in the art world…."back to the drawing board". You can do it!!!

    LOVE you more than you know.

  6. Unknown

    I think it's too soon to decide how to proceed. At least based on one rejection. I hate to say it but generally the advice is, if you hear the same thing 3, 4, 10 times, then maybe, yeah, it's time to regroup and rewrite. Of course this means putting yourself and your baby out there for more scrutiny and pain. (Who invented this query process anyway? Clearly some sadist.)

    Let's put it this way, you went through all that labor pain for each of your kiddos because you believed they were worth the short-term agony, right? Your book deserves that same stout-hearted approach. You mentioned JK Rowling and a lot of people cite her as an example of perseverence. I read somewhere that the reason she kept carrying on, kept trying despite all the rejections was because she loved Harry and would do anything for him. I tried to adopt that same approach, separating myself from the book and thinking, "My book deserves for me to give it everything I've got." Even the pain of more query rejection.

    Hang tough, book mama!


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