James D. McCallister

author of the Edgewater County series

The DOGS of Rejection

UPDATE: I downgraded and toned down what had been a bit of a bitter rant toward the end. Eh. Blowing off steam. It’s all good, just a sensitive writer responding to the stresses of the path.

Revised post follows.

A while back I made a commitment to keep readers informed about career events, both positive and negative, so here’s some semi-downbeat news:

Last week the inbox brought word that two major rejections on DOGS OF PARSONS HOLLOW came down, one from Grand Central, from a full request back in February—decent writing, difficult to connect to plot—as well as our new local imprint here at the University of South Carolina, Story River Press, which from my agent’s pitch and sample materials did not wish to request the full manuscript.

Aw, you’re thinking. Not even a full?

But that news isn’t so terrible—I knew that DOGS was far more commercial than the press’s stated intent of seeking out hard-to-publish, SC-specific literary material. I had hoped, however, they’d take a look at the full to see where I went with the concept, which despite the somewhat lurid pitch does feature what I feel to be a modicum of literary intent and merit. Nope.

No biggie.

Again, we have a situation in which DOGS was crafted to break through for me on a commercial level, and with this in mind, the rejection from a heretofore academic press is probably right on the money. The right material with the right editor working for the right publisher is the key to commercial success, at least insofar as the traditional model is concerned, and I’m not sure Story River is the correct fit for DOGS.

As for Big Six rejections on DOGS… well. Obviously those weren’t the right editors, either, and so not meant to be. Unfortunately, though, with a decision I made to try to shop other manuscripts on my own that my agent had rejected out of hand, it’s sayonara to my relationship with Inklings Literary, which I admit makes me a little sad, and feels a touch like a personal failure. Best of luck to Michelle and her fledgling company.

But wait, all’s not lost regarding Story River, our prestigious new local imprint: thanks to the detailed blog posts about my other unpublished manuscripts, I was delighted to receive a very kind request for a full on a particular dream project, MANSION OF HIGH GHOSTS. This exciting and unexpected request has me buzzing and hopeful that my next big career advancement will still come fairly soon, and from a press, and a University, with which I have the deepest of personal ties.

And if not… well, we took our shot, didn’t we? A little cosmic, don’t you think, to labor for thirty years thinking of Pat Conroy as one of your principal influences, only to finally have your biggest and boldest project come to his attention, and essentially live or die based on his perception of the material (assuming it makes it to his eyes). As with getting signed by Michelle back in November, ‘success’ and ‘failure’ are relative terms. No matter what happens from here, getting as far as I have with MANSION OF HIGH GHOSTS, or DOGS, for that matter, must be considered a personal success.

And, no matter the eventual answer on this or other future requests for my material, the current and varied publishing model offers many alternatives for modern writers—one way or another, the Edgewater County books will eventually find their way to publication. Might be only as a Kindle direct project, but why not? That delivery method feels terribly authentic and exciting, and wedded to the idea of the future rather than the past—they don’t call it ‘traditional’ publishing for nothing, a word that conjures doilies on the occasional tables at grandma’s house. Maybe another way is the answer.

So, as the rejection slip pile grows and grows more impressive, it’s onward with nary a look back. Besides, I don’t have time to dwell on rejections—I have my magnum opus DIXIANA rolling right along, now at 145,000 words and on its way to a finished first draft later this summer. Living the dream, and quite apart from the dogs of rejection doled out by faraway gatekeepers in ivory towers, their judgement colored by money and money alone. May they enjoy their afterlife dwelling comfortably in dystopian paranormal romance heaven.

Meanwhile, here at Hilltop, the wheel keeps turning, the keys keep clattering, and the pile of pages continues to grow strong and tall. This is what success feels like.

Retreat Blog Post 2

About dmac

James D. McCallister is a South Carolina author of novels, short stories, and creative nonfiction. His latest book, a story collection called The Year They Canceled Christmas, releases in November 2017.

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