This story starts with rejection. Lots of it.
Between August 25 and September 1, I sent over 100 emails explaining briefly to as many courageous writers why I hadn’t selected them for Brenda’s Pitch Wars. Before I signed with my wonderful agent on my own in 2015, I hadn’t made it into Pitch Wars two years in a row. I knew how much it hurt not to be picked. Writing those emails was grueling.
I did it, though, because honest feedback is a painful but invaluable gift. I hoped that I might help some writers in the way that mentors like Heather Webb, Sarah Henning, and Kristin Wright had helped me.
At the end of the feedback, I was exhausted. Thus it was a treat when a few people wrote back thanking me for the comments.
Then, a week later, I sent another note to the PitchWars writers who had submitted to me and informed them of an upcoming webinar. Again, a few wrote back expressing their thanks. But one email stood out.
Maggie wrote to tell me she had, after considering my comments, found a new and better place to start her manuscript, and she was excited about the improvement. Then she said she was planning on buying one of my books as a thank-you to me. Even more touching, I was welcome to go for a stroll with her walking group.
My heart swelled. I quickly wrote back to thank her. If I’m every lucky enough to publish a book, perhaps she could think of me then.
A month later, Maggie wrote again. She had read my book review essays and made a donation to the book review site where I volunteer as an editor. Her kind words brought tears to my eyes. She had given both her time and her money, the scarcest resources. The email arrived on my birthday, and her unexpected generosity was the best gift anyone gave me that day.
I have, in my mind, a treasure chest of the compliments and kindnesses people have given me over the years. When the world gets rough, I imagine opening that wooden chest and looking at those glittering words and gifts. Maggie’s gift is in there now, alongside the beautiful custom art from my mentees Eileen and ReLynn, words from my friends, and other treasures.
In many ways, this year has been painful for many people. But PitchWars was one of my bright spots (and it wouldn’t have happened without Brenda, whose wisdom guided us in so many ways, and Heather and Nikki and Joy and …). Thank you to Maggie, my mentees, all the other writers who submitted to me, and Brenda and the team. And here’s hoping we can all spread the love again in 2017. Together, we will fill as many mental treasure chests as we can.
Carrie Callaghan is a historical fiction writer living in Maryland with her family and two cats. Her short fiction has appeared in Silk Road,Floodwall, The MacGuffin, and elsewhere. She’d love to hear from you on Twitter @carriecallaghan or at www.carriecallaghan.com