Joelle Charbonneau. Joelle has worn several hats in her career; performer in a variety of Operas, Operettas and Musicals, teaching acting classes and private voice lessons, wife, mom, and now author. Joelle is still teaching voice lessons and sings for the occasional professional event.
Performing made her very familiar with rejections and how to handle them as well as learn lessons from them. She talks a bit about that with us.
I must be a glutton for punishment. That’s the only explanation for my career choices. I’m a professional singer and actress. I might even dance for you if you pay me enough. All are fields filled with rejection. So, of course, I decide to pursue the next obvious choice - an author.
What was I thinking? Well, to be honest I’m not sure I was thinking at all. Becoming an author was never one of my childhood dreams. I was a reader not a writer. Then one day, I sat down one day with an idea for an opening line for a novel in my head and I started writing for my own pleasure. To see if I could. To see what would happen next.
What happened next was that I learned I liked the challenge of filling a blank page. (Yep, there’s that ‘glutton for punishment’ theme again.) So, I decided to try to write a real book. Once that book was done I decided to start submitting it to editors and agents. That’s when the rejection started. I wrote another book. More rejections.
Funny, but my other professions made me ideally suited to the rejection that inevitably comes along with writing. Sure, there are some writers who get their first manuscripts published. (This was so not me. It took me five attempts to finally get the call.) But even those published-out-of-the-gate writers get rejections on later manuscripts or in the form of bad reviews. Rejection is something that comes with the territory. And I traveled lots of that not so happy territory.
I am not one to count or keep all my rejection letters, although the idea of creating a bonfire with them and roasting marshmallows to soothe my wounds was more than a little tempting. It is hard being told that your work isn’t what someone is looking for. In fact, it hurts. A lot.
Funny, but I’m really grateful for those rejections. (Go ahead and throw tomatoes. I’m good at ducking.) They made me a better writer. They also gave me time to figure out what kind of stories I really wanted to write. See, when I started writing, I decided I was going to write emotionally driven women’s fiction. Perhaps because some of my favorite books are ones that tug at my heart strings and make me cry. Well, I tried. I really did. I wanted to make people sigh and weep and feel as if the author was a close friend who understood their problems. Some of my best author friends are fabulous at making me read with a box of tissues close at hand. I wanted to be them when I grew up.
Instead, I wrote about a dead body in a roller rink toilet, an ex-circus camel that wears hats and a grandfather that is looking for love in all the wrong places. Yeah – so much for growing up into a hard-hitting women’s fiction writer. Trying to become one was like putting a triangular peg into a round hole. A miracle girdle hasn’t been invented yet that could squash me enough into the right shape and size. The agents and editors who read those attempts probably understood that.
Today, I sit behind my computer screen and write whatever off-the-wall thing pops into my head and I enjoy every minute of it. I am also proud of every rejection that I got along the way. They created the writer I am today.
- What's the best advice would you give an aspiring writer?