UPDATED TO ADD: On the subject of rejections, I thought you might find this post heartening…see if any of your favourites are on the list.
I have this thing I want to say to all those who tried and didn’t make the cut in this year’s Wadadli Youth Pen Prize.
Screw it! Don’t let it deter you.
It’ s a contest judging something that’s subjective by nature. Rejection stings but it is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of your writing. I’m not just talking to hear myself talk. I’ve been rejected more times than I can count. Rejected. Underestimated. Dismissed. I’ve stumbled in my confidence and resolve but I’ve always come back to the writing, determined to be stronger.
I urge each finalist who received a dreaded rejection letter: Don’t give up. Don’t let us or anyone else tell you your writing isn’t good enough. Write not because of this contest; but because you must. Work on improving your craft as all writers at all levels of their development must continue to do. Read other writers. Tap into your truth. Tap into what you’re passionate about, what compels you to write.
This challenge was started not to rate one piece of writing better than the next; but to encourage you to write, to challenge you to write your best, to aid you in finding your unique and uniquely Caribbean voice (to not look outside but within for inspiration), to give you a platform to grow and share your writing.
I personally believe that what comes from us as writers is part inspiration/intuition and part craft (understanding and application of craft), part talent and part skill, some of it can never be taught and some you will learn by studying and doing (reading other writers, participating in workshops, taking on challenges such as this one). You have a talent and hunger for writing. We hope to be a part of you acquiring the skill. That’s one of the reasons we return the short listed stories to the writers with editorial notes from the judges (something we would do for all the writers if we had the resources) – to encourage writers to review what we think works and what doesn’t. That’s more than many literary journals, agents and publishers will give you when rejecting manuscripts submitted to them for review. Believe me, I’ve lived it.
One of the writers who didn’t make the cut this year wrote to me that she’s working on developing a tough skin. I can tell you that you never get jaded enough that the rejection doesn’t hurt, but don’t let it stop you; and don’t become so tough that the life and experiences that you need to infuse your work can’t get in. If this challenge discourages you from writing, then we have failed. If this challenge encourages you to make your writing stronger and to make your submissions as clean as they can be when submitting anywhere, then that’s a measure of success. If in the process, we help nurture the literary talent that we know exists in Antigua and Barbuda (don’t let anybody tell you any different), even better. So, to all the writers feeling a little bit rejected right now. Don’t. Be encouraged; keep dreaming; keep imagining; keep writing; keep growing in your strengths as a writer. It’s what I intend to do.