March 29, 2015


The first time I saw this “Audi Q3 Off Script 15 2014 08”, it made me think of the hundreds of manuscripts I’ve sent out over the past forty years. According to my records, it’s been 937 since 1990. I’ve been writing seriously since I was about 20, so add another 500 or so subs to the 900, and you have a LOT of paper used in my quest for publication.

In the 1970s, those manuscripts were literally made of paper. They literally vanished into the mailbox – and most of the time, they returned by my own coin (or stamp as the case may be). I kept sending them. For months. Then years. Decades piled up and sometime in the next ten years, those decades will pile into half a century.

Is it worth it?

Through all those years, I’ve gotten rejections that ranged from cold and mean, to warm and effusive. The worst was a standard rejection: Xerox-copied eight to a page, then not cut on a straight line and tossed into the SASE without comment. Upside down. That was from a Christ-centered magazine. Full-page rejections ranged from a bewildering laundry list of things that might have been wrong with the MS but had no checked boxes, to the same kind of sheet with a check mark in front of “The manuscript was not suitable for us at this time.” Not particularly  encouraging, eh?

Is it worth it?

Some of the manuscripts were returned in such pristine condition that even the stamps on the return envelope were untouched and ready for reuse. Others had creases, tears, or random mark  and one even had a coffee ring on it and once, one even returned postage due because a stamp was obviously missing…

Is it worth it?

The rejections today have gotten shorter than most of the ones from the heyday of paper magazines and subs (except those tiny 1/8 page ones!) Most are polite, some brief to the point of rudeness, and still others make some effort at being personal – while still being short and rejecting me. In fact, I got one of those less than an hour ago. Even so, it’s still a rejection and while he notes that he looks forward to my next, that doesn’t make the reception any easier.

Is it worth it?

While the definition (often and mistakenly attributed to Albert Einstein – for insanity might anecdotally be: “...doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results", without submitting the same manuscript over and over, we’d NEVER get published. One of my most recent manuscripts was submitted fifty-five times. Thirty-eight of those times was by me; one of those submissions reached the top of fifty of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition; the other seventeen times it was submitted was through the hard work of my agent, Karen Grencik. Our last, desperate attempt was to Canadian publisher, MuseItUp publishing. It’s scheduled for release Summer 2015; though I haven’t heard from them since the acceptance and I will freely admit here to being nervous about what’s going on!

Is it worth it?

I could simply and smugly answer, “Yep, everything was worth it.”

I could make up some kind of aphorism to answer as well, like, “How can you possibly ask that? It’s impossible to climb every mountain without breaking a few eggs!”

I could solemnly swear that it is eminently worth it.

I could also swallow hard and tell you the truth: I don’t know if it is worth it. I will never be able to reclaim the tens of thousands of hours I’ve spent writing – while seeing the publication of a mere ten percent of what I’ve written. I will never be able to reclaim the thousands of dollars I’ve spent sending manuscripts, taking classes, transportation, and computers, paper, ink cartridges, and electricity.

I can confess that there’s a thrill seeing my name in print whether online or in a paper magazine – but then going on vacation with my wife is a thrill as well. I can confess that to stop at this point would be extremely difficult – but then not eating a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts would be extremely difficult as well.

I would have to think about what I meant when I ask the question; what does “worth it” mean?

I DO know I will continue to write; I DO know that I will continue to send out manuscripts.

I’ll also ask one more question: If I asked William Shakespeare “Was it worth it?” what would he have said? Hemingway? Bethke? Czerneda? McMasters Bujold? I don’t know what they would say.

If you’re a writer, what would YOU say?

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