We are pleased to say that you have been selected to participate in the inaugural…
Boy was I excited when I received the email that I had been chosen for a mentorship program that helped “women of color” break through the glass ceiling of the publishing industry with guidance from agents, editors and writers who looked like me…who made it. I was on my way or so I thought.
I never received the follow up email with further instructions. Of course, I followed up with childlike anticipation seeking validation only to be met by crickets. This body of women touting the ideolouge of “supporting, empowering and uplifting marginalized writers, creating a safe and inclusive space, advocating and advancing career development for people of color” ghosted me. Once I waded through the mire of feeling less than and unworthy, I got angry. Like a bad relationship that went awry, I was love bombed then discarded without closure. I plotted my revenge. Should I tweet and tag them with nasty threats or swarm their emails with messages of mass destruction? I did neither. I hurt in silence and stalked their social media giving them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they were right. They made a mistake…I wasn’t enough.
Rejection is the reality of a writer’s journey just as much as elitism and political correctness is. On its path, I have met the obstacles of who do you know, where did you study, what have you published and most recently how do you identify? They’re subtle hurdles I have crossed countered by passive aggressive inaction that only leave me asking the big why?
In my latest attempt to fit in, I applied for yet another opportunity for Black women writers. Nestled in the mountains, this week long retreat for one lucky Black woman would provide a space to develop a writing project in solace and solitude. Once again, I was excited. My biggest challenge was not the creative idea I proposed, but the recommendations that I had to submit. My question was who? Who should I select that would appeal to the sensibilities of the review panel? I had to be strategic in my choice. It couldn’t be your average Joe who lacked credibility. He/she/they/them had to be someone considerable that would prompt them to consider me.
In the end, I missed the mark. One of my recommendations missed the deadline and I was notified that my submission would not be reviewed. Yet unlike the mentorship, I didn’t wallow in self-pity and shame wishing that I had done better, that my recommendations arrived timely, or that they would waive their standards to accommodate my desire to be seen. Instead, I sent an email sharing my thoughts:
I would much rather be rejected on the merit of the submission than the opinion of another.
In a conversation with one of my recommenders, (a poet and storyteller), he said that despite the longevity of his creative career and performances in colleges and universities across the nation, people still ask… “where did you go to school?” This man, (who I esteem), said that “credentials and your body of work” (in that order) are the criteria in which the literary world often judges a hopeful creative. Raw talent or potential are glossed over for more popular, trending or credentialed charges with a body of work worthy of the lit world’s proverbial acceptance.
While I did not win the latest coup with a chance at vying for this fellowship, my spoil of war was engaging in a dialogue with its co-founder who actually responded to my follow up email:
Thanks much for this note, Latasha.
Recommendation letters are common in the world of fellowship and grant applications. They provide the review panel with more nuanced information. They are part of a full and complete application.
Meh… from the Kat’s eye, nothing great can be accomplished being common. But what extraordinarily separates this organization from the other is the professionalism and courtesy the founder extended to me by explaining his why. That’s the least I would have expected from the organization, who based on societal norms, represents me. I wouldn’t chase after them again and face another sting of unrequited love, respect or common decency, but I definitely will give the “other” a second chance to accept my authenticity and give rise to my creative voice.
Whether it’s writing, painting, drawing, or sewing, do it fearlessly with passion and zeal. Don’t let rejection, misunderstanding, mistakes or compromise hinder your talent or stymie your growth. Be authentic and true to yourself even when others are dishonest with themselves. In the end, always strive to become better at what you do and more importantly just do you!