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The marvelous richness of human excperience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were not limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.
Richard Hooker worked for seven years on his humorous war novel, M*A*S*H* only to have it rejected by twenty-one publishers before Morrow decided to publish it. It became a runaway bestseller, spawning a blockbuster movie and a highly successful television series.
Richard Bach completed only one year of college, then trained to become an Air Force jet-fighter pilot. Twenty months after earning his wings, he resigned. Then he became an editor of an aviation magazine that went bankrupt. Life became one failure after another. Even when he wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull, he couldn't think of an ending. The 10,000-word manuscript lay dormant for eight years before he decided how to finish it--only to have eighteen publishers reject it before it was finally published by Macmillan. However once it was published, the book went on to sell more than 7 million copies in numerous languages and make Richard Bach an internationally known and respected author.
Louis L'Amour, successful author of more than 100 western novels with more than 200 million copies in print, received 350 rejections before he made his first sale. He later became the first American novelist to receive a special congressional gold medal in recognition of his distinguished career as an author and contributor to the nation through his historically based books.
British Writer John Creasy received 774 rejections before selling his first story. He went on to write 564 books, using fourteen different names.
In 1953, Julia Child and her two collaborators signed a publishing contract to produce a book tentatively titled French Cooking for the American Kitchen. Julia and her colleagues worked on the book for five years. The publisher rejected the 850-page manuscript. Child and her partners worked for another year totally revising the manuscript. Again the publisher rejected it. But Julia Child did not give up. She and her collaborators went back to work again, found a new publisher, and in 1961--eight years after beginning--they published Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which has sold more than one million copies. In 1966, Time magazine featured Julia Child on its cover. Julia Child is still at the top of her field thirty years later.
Dr. Seuss' first children's book, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was rejected by twenty-seven publishers. The twenty-eighth publisher, Vanguard press, sold six million copies of the book. All of his children's books went on to sell a total of more than 100 million copies.
The author William Kennedy had written several manuscripts, all of them rejected by numerous publishers before his "sudden success" with his novel Ironweed, which was rejected by thirteen publishers before it was finally accepted for publication.
Pearl Buck's The Good Earth was rejected fourteen times and went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer was rejected twelve times.
Margaret Mitchell's classic Gone with the Wind was turned down by more than twenty-five publishers.
Mary Higgins Clark was rejected forty times before selling her first story. More than 30 million copies of her books are now in print.
Robert Pirsig's classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, was rejected by 121 publishers before being published.
Fifteen publishers and thirty agents turned down John Grisham's first novel A Time to Kill. More than 60 million copies of his novels are now in print.
Jack London received 600 rejection slips before he sold his first story.
Eight years after his novel Steps won the National Book Award, Jerzy Kosinski permitted a writer to change his name and the title and send a manuscript of the novel to thirteen agents and fourteen publishers to test the plight of new writers. They all rejected it, including Random House, which had published it.
When we completed the first Chicken Soup for the Soul book, it was turned down by thirty-three publishers in New York and another ninety at the American Booksellers Association convention in Anaheim, California, before Health Communications, Inc., finally agreed to publish it. Ah the major New York publishers said, "It is too nicey-nice" and "Nobody wants to read a book of short little stories." Since that time more than 8 million copies of the original Chicken Soup for the Soul book have been sold. The series, which has grown to thirty-two titles, in thirty-one languages, has sold more than 53 million copies.
Alex Haley received a rejection letter once a week for four years as a budding writer. Later in his career, Alex was ready to give up on the book Roots and himself. After nine years on the project, he felt inadequate to the task and was ready to throw himself off a freighter in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. As he was standing at the back of the freighter, looking at the wake and preparing to jump into the ocean, he heard the voices of all his ancestors saying, "You go do what you got to do because they are all up there watching. Don't give up. You can do it. We're counting on you!" In the subsequent weeks, the final draft of Roots poured out of him.
The movie Star Wars was rejected by every movie studio in Hollywood before 20th-Century Fox finally produced it. It went on to be one of the largest grossing movies in film history.
E.T, Forrest Gump Home Alone, Speed and Pulp Fiction were all rejected by major studios before they finally found a studio willing to produce them.
In 1902 the poetry editor of the Atlantic Monthly returned the poems of a twenty-eight-year-old poet with the following note: "Our magazine has no room for your vigorous verse." The poet was Robert Browning.
In 1889, Rudyard Kipling received the following rejection letter from the San Francisco Examiner: "I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language."
Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, was encouraged to find work as a servant or seamstress by her family.
Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace, flunked out of college. He was described as "both unable and unwilling to learn."
Woody Allen--Academy Award-winning writer, producer and director-flunked motion picture production at New York University and the City College of New York. He also failed English at New York University.
Leon Uris, author of the bestseller Exodus, failed high school English three times.
Malcolm Forbes, the late editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, one of the most successful business publications in the world, failed to make the staff of the school newspaper when he was an undergraduate at Princeton University.
After Thomas Carlyle lent the manuscript of The French Revolution to a friend whose servant carelessly used it to kindle a fire, he calmly went to work and rewrote it.
John Bunyan wrote Pilgram's Progress while confined to a Bedford Prison cell for his views on religion; Sir Waiter Raleigh wrote the History of the World during a thirteen-year imprisonment; and Martin Luther translated the Bible while confined in the Castle of Wartburg.
Novelist Carson McCullers endured three strokes before she was twenty-nine. While she was crippled, partially paralyzed and in constant pain, she suffered the profound shock of her husband's suicide. Others may have surrendered to such afflictions, but she settled for writing no less than a page a day. On that unrelenting schedule, she turned out many distinguished novels, including Member of the Wedding, The Ballad of the Sad Caf_ and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.
Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Bud Gardner
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(c)2000. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul by Jack Canfield, Marc Victor Hansen, Bud Gardner. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.
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