Rejection Remedy

This morning started out with a rejection from an agent who I’d really thought might like my book and who seemed very cool based on our Social Media interaction so far.

The letter was terse:

“Thank you so much for sharing your work with Agent X.
It isn’t the right fit for her at this time.
I wish you luck on your publishing journey.

– A Name

(Agent X’s assistant)”

Obviously, there were real names for the agent and assistant, but everything else is verbatim. No personal salutation. No helpful feedback. Just a downright generic rejection letter. Blergh.

It bummed me out and sent me spiraling down that rabbit hole of destructive questions:  Is my book any good? Will it ever get published? Do I even want it published? Why do I care so much? Rejection is part of the game, so why does this one annoy me so much? Did I do something on Twitter that made this agent not like me? Am I going to get all my queries back with the same result? Should I just keep writing for me?

And so on.

Early last week, I’d talked a friend of mine back into pursuing her dream of publishing her writing despite her apprehension over social media. Today, I walked those dark paths and needed a pep talk. So, I decided this: rejection is a part of this writing life, and that’s fine; but, to keep myself sane and whole, I need a Rejection Remedy that I can enjoy every time a rejection comes in.

Here’s what I do when I get a rejection and how I spent my morning:

1. Soak in some beauty

lake beauty 2


2. Do something fun with my kid(s). (Milwaukee Children’s Museum)




3. Remember the world is full of wonder.

He’s pointing and shouting: “It’s an airplane! An airplane mama!”




4. Notice something unexpected in the world.

(Seriously, I’ve walked past this building a thousand times, but never seen that gargoyle!)



5. Visit my favorite bakery…



Bakery 2

6. Eat an eclair!


7. Visit the library, enjoy the stillness and the smell of books. Remember how much I want to be a part of that.


8. Buy a pleasure book that’s been on my list for a long time.

(I’m especially excited about this one after Patrick Rothfuss gave it such a great review on Good Reads!).


9. Focus on a specific writing task and work that through my book.

Today’s is courtesy of Chuck Palanhuik: getting rid of thought verbs (and others like them): http://litreactor.com/essays/chuck-palahniuk/nuts-and-bolts-“thought”-verbs

10. Rock out!

(Ah, Florence and the Machine…): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gMq3hRLDD0

11. Remind myself of 3 authors who had massive amounts of rejections before publishing success.


12. Get back to work.

back to work


Happy Rejection Remedies to you all. Back to the writing I go!



Random Acts of Sunflowering

It wasn’t so much what Eliot’s pediatrician said, as how he said it. And the look of worry, pain, and concern that crossed his face before he began. And the way he silently touched Adam’s shoulder as he left the room.

He didn’t look at us.

I don’t think he could.

This is the pediatrician who’s seen Liam through many, many ear infections, well-child visits, and struggled find some way to help us understand Liam’s autism. I could almost hear him thinking as he drew out the arches and valleys of systolic and diastolic heart rhythms on his small notepad: How do I tell these parents that something might be wrong with their perfect second child? How can I burden them when they have so much already?

This is the same doctor who told me two days ago, during an ear infection check for Liam: “You are exactly the parents that Liam needed to have…”

(When I told Adam that later, he replied: “That’s like telling gladiators they’re doing a good job….)

This pediatrician is kind, jovial, and knows his medicine; but, he can never give me answers about Liam. He usually just offers a sympathetic gaze.

And so, as he drew, Adam and I waited, sitting right next to each other, knees touching like they did in that psychologist’s office when we got Liam’s autism diagnosis two years ago (http://hyperlexiajournal.com/fascination-with-letters/jamie-pacton/)

Both of us knew something was off (although Eliot had no idea as he played happily on the floor nearby), and I swear our hearts raced along the same speedway. Our systolic peaks and diastolic valleys were Himalayan as we waited.

You see it had already been an emotional morning. A few hours before, I’d signed a form detailing Liam’s transfer to the K-4 class at his school. It began with a sentence that always breaks my heart: “Liam has severe ASD…”

And so my heart was heavy already and a thousand, thousand grim possibilities raced through my head as I waited for news of Eliot. I remembered my plea to the universe in my blog post, “Second Son”: http://www.jamiepacton.com/?p=158

The news about Eliot wasn’t all that bad, but it still punched me in my unsuspecting gut, hurting my heart in the way that only medical news about a child you adore can. A happy, talkative, child who seems well in every way.

“So, when I listen to Eliot’s heart,” said the doctor slowly, “I hear a small murmur. It’s just a lub-dub-slosh sound and it is probably nothing to worry about. But, since I know Jamie’s brother had holes in his heart and open heart surgery in his twenties, I think we should get it checked out. Just to be sure everything is fine with Eliot’s heart.”

Ok. Ok. Ok. We can handle a little cardiac consult. No problem.

What Adam and I couldn’t handle was the chasm that opened up at our feet just then because all-at-once it made Eliot’s continued existence and presence in our lives vaguely tenuous. With so much being unsteady and challenging about Liam, Eliot is a constant source of joy, peace, and laughter in our home. Life without him is literally unthinkable.

“Push it down,” Adam said to me as we drove away from the pediatrician’s office. Tears rolled down his cheeks from behind his Ray Bans. “Prepare your face to meet the faces you will meet.”

I nodded, snotty, and digging for strength from that place in myself that I didn’t know existed before I had children. I was calm-ish by the time we walked into Liam’s classroom.

We picked up Liam (who was screaming in the bathroom when I got there, but who had a good day at school overall) and went to get some groceries at Trader Joe’s. Adam and the boys stayed in our van while I filled a grocery cart to the brim. I’m not really an emotional eater, but I think I might be an emotional grocery shopper.

As one TJ’s employee scanned my groceries, another one, a cheerful round guy wearing a Hawaiian shirt asked me: “How’s your day going?”

“Pretty shitty actually,” I blurted out, unable to manage a bland “fine”.

He looked worried as well. Then, as I was leaving, he handed me a huge bouquet of sunflowers. “For you, so your day gets brighter.”

I smiled. I cried a bit right there in line. Still smiling, I took the flowers and my groceries back to the van. As we drove home, I thought about this day and this random act of sunflowering.

I got to a place of gratitude about a block from our house.

So, maybe the thing here is not to say: “Wow, things are tough with Liam and might get bad with Eliot. We’re just so tired and our reserves are always running low. I’m not sure if we can do this. This sucks. Why us?”

Maybe the life wake-up call here is to be grateful (something that my friend Kate Di Camillo reminds me of often): grateful that a stranger gave me sunflowers. Grateful that Liam is in a wonderful, inclusive school and working with an ABA team that helps him in every way they can. Grateful that Eliot only has a small heart murmur that might not be anything really. Grateful that I can pay for an overflowing basket of groceries and that I have a home to take them back to. Grateful that the man I love can cry and that he will sit next to me through every punch-in-the-gut-from-life. Grateful that my children are happily watching movies in the next room as I type this. Grateful to be able to put this into words and share it with you.

Grateful that Eliot just put his hands on my cheeks and said: “I will cheer you up Mama! Cheer! Cheer! Cheer! Cheer! Cheer!”

Yep. I think that’s where I’m at now. Grateful.

Random acts of sunflowering. Pass it on.



Another day with LRP…

All I have tonight is my most recent Facebook update:

Autism is exhausting some days. Maybe every day. There are good days, like yesterday on a boat with family. There are todays, when I pick up my son from school and he’s wearing a padded helmet and socks on his hands to stop self-injury. Just another day with my 5-year-old. Somedays, I can’t bear to hear about your kids who are not on the spectrum. But tell me anyways. I need the stories of your life too.

And, so I raise a cold one to all the moms and dads who are doing this too. Every day. So different than what we expected. So part of our normal now.


And I’ll end on this, from my friend Jess, rockstar autism mom:


Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,

Is our destined end or way;

But to act, that each to-morrow,

Find us farther than today.


— Longfellow, A Psalm of Life970297_10201588479451197_354819853_n


PNWA: Like High School with Bagels

I just got back from the PNWA conference on Sunday, and whew. What a whirlwind few days!

Writing conferences are strange little bubbles. They’re sort-of, exactly like high school (except with free bagels and coffee), where you attend classes, meet lots of new people, try to make friends, skulk about waiting for a glimpse of the popular kids (here agents and editors), and hope– just hope, hope, hope– that you’ll get asked to prom by someone who really gets you and your writing.

It was a good time, but coming off a writing conference is always a rough jump.

That’s because there’s so much built in instant gratification at a conference:

  • people want to hear about your book so you can gush about it (instead of being the awkward one at a party who insists on blabbing about your book while drinking, which is a great way to not get invited to many parties);
  • you’re surrounded by other people who understand and relate to the fact that you live a lot of your life inside this weird world you’ve created;
  • you get the chance to try and sell you book, which is a big step on the way to living the dream (or are we already living the dream just by writing out the books inside our heads?);
  • and you learn a lot that’s instantly relevant to what you’re working on (case in point, I attended a workshop on show-don’t-tell and cut a huge opening scene right-then-and-there, in the middle of the workshop because I was empowered enough to see how it didn’t work at the beginning of Eden’s Fall).

Also, like high school, I  left PNWA with a pile of homework: polish up the pages that agents and editors have requested, write a ridiculously enticing query letter, continue to grow my web presence, send emails to all the friendly writers who I gave my card to, internalize all the tips and techniques that I learned….and still keep my children fed, house together, and do my job. (and hang out with my husband, water my (near-death) plants, do laundry, call a friend or twelve back…)

And, so back into real life I go. Out of the bubble, grateful for my friend Noelle (rocking authoress herself who was my better half in all the PNWA hallways, classrooms, and meetings), and ready to write.

More to follow on some of the things I’ve learned. I’ll tease you by saying, wait until you see what agent Sally Harding had to say about my pitch…and the results that her guidance wrought in the pitch session…