Writer's Notes

Guest Post: The Road to Rejection

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain by Elaine Faber

By Elaine Faber

Some years ago, I typed and mailed multiple query letters for my novels to traditional publishers. Some were returned with rejection letters, some actually with three to six handwritten words, e.g. Sorry! – Not interested! – You’ve got to be kidding! Many didn’t reply at all. Perhaps they just steamed the stamp off my self-addressed, return envelope to save and use again.

As time progressed, publishing houses preferred query by e-mail. No more opening envelopes, steaming off stamps or licking envelopes to return snide rejection slips for them. Now, my auto-rejection notices came by return e-mail.

Eventually, I found a couple of editors at small presses who requested the entire manuscript. One editor told me it contained too much romance, another, not enough romance. One editor loved the story, and suggested if I removed all the exclamation points and fragmented sentences, she’d reconsider. Another suggested I have it professionally edited. After I made all the suggested changes, paid to have it professionally edited and resubmitted the manuscript, none of the editors offered a publishing contract.

As I traveled this Road to Rejection, all those rebuffs forced me to re-examine my goals, re-evaluate my skills, and devote time, investment, and energy to improve my craft. Three different teachers taught me more about writing craft than I ever thought was possible to know. Surprise! You ‘don’t know what you don’t know.’ Which is to say, the early version of my novel probably wasn’t worthy of publishing in the first place. I revised, edited, re-edited, cut the story line in half, and fleshed out the characters and plot.

Looking back, I’ve come to believe that the Road to Rejection is not necessarily a pothole-riddled, mud-filled, weed-infested sticker-path meant to trip up and discourage new writers, (though it certainly does). Rather, it is a road of lesson-learning, character building and knowledge-testing meant to wean out the weak, ill-equipped writers, (of which there are many).

The Road to Rejection forces the committed writer to polish her skills and master what you ‘don’t know what you don’t know.’ This can be done by accepting critiques from knowledgeable writers, studying with individual teachers, and reading scores of books on the subject.

Your first novel is published? Congratulations. You’ve vanquished the Road to Rejection.  You now begin to market your baby. Fame and fortune must be right around the corner.

Wait! There’s another signpost up ahead? It’s called the Road to Frustration.

Synopsis of The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain by Elaine Faber

I intended The Spirit Woman of Lockeer Mountain, a story about a woman who drives a sewer truck, to be a humorous cozy mystery with funny circumstances. Overflowing toilets─ septic tank mishaps ─ a haunted bathroom fixture warehouse. Perhaps she’d unwittingly locate a rural marijuana farm.

Then an owl smacked into Lou’s window and the characters took over the story and completely changed its direction. Nate’s sister disappeared three months prior, following a minor MVA, but mysterious sightings of a woman and a mountain lion are reported. Nate’s constant obsession that his sister is amnesic, living wild in the woods with a mountain lion, is taking a toll on his budding relationship with Lou. Is the woman Nate’s sister, or is she the Native American Spirit Woman come to life, to help solve the town’s troubles?

There are troubles aplenty. Without input from the town, the government announced plans to build a mysterious medical facility nearby, along with a 100-unit housing tract, and a Wallynet big box store. Lockleer Mountain merchants are in an uproar, sure that such actions will alter the quaintness of town and destroy their small businesses. They intend to stop the government at any cost.

Then, a tragedy reveals that someone is selling illegal drugs to the local teenagers. Nate and Sheriff Peabody are challenged with a life and death decision when the reservation’s chief, White Cloud, threatens to take matters into his own hands. Can Nate and the sheriff resolve the troubling issues, or must the Spirit Woman and her feline companion help bring peace to the troubled town?

Author Elaine Faber

About Elaine:

Elaine Faber lives in Elk Grove with her husband and four feline companions. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Cat Writers Association, and Northern California Publishers and Authors. Her short stories have appeared in national magazines, have won multiple awards in various contests, and are in at least 16 anthologies. She leads a local writer’s critique group.

Elaine’s ‘Mrs. Odboddy mystery series’ has won annual awards with Northern California Publishers and Authors. Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary, and All Things Cat, an anthology of cat stories, won Cat Writers’ Association 2018 and 2019 Certificates of Excellence.

Elaine enjoys sharing highlights of her novels and her writing experience at author venues. She is currently working on two fiction novels to be published in 2021 and 2022.

More About Elaine’s books and where to find them:

Black Cat Mysteries: With the aid of his ancestors’ memories, Black Cat helps solve mysteries and crimes. Partially narrated by Black Cat, much of the story comes from a cat’s often humorous and poignant point of view.

Mrs. Odboddy Mystery/Adventures: Elderly, eccentric Mrs. Odboddy fights WWII from the home front. She believes war-time conspiracies and spies abound in her home town. Follow her antics in these hysterical, historical novels as a self-appointed hometown warrior exposes malcontents, dissidents and Nazi spies…even when she’s wrong.

The Spirit Woman Mystery/Paranormal/Adventures

The Native Americans believe the legendary Spirit Woman ‘protects the community.’ When Govt. demands create social unrest in a small mountain town, and drugs threaten the lives of their youth, the Spirit Woman and her mountain lion companion come to their aid.

Black Cat’s Legacy

Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer         

Black Cat and the Accidental Angel

Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary

NCPA Cover and Interior Design Silver award 2019

All Things Cat (anthology of short stories)

Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot      NCPA 1st Fiction 2017

Mrs. Odboddy – Undercover Courier NCPA 3rd Cover and Design 2018  http://tinyurl/com/jn5bzwb

Mrs. Odboddy – And Then There Was a Tiger      NCPA 2nd Fiction 2019

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain

Writer's Notes

Conferences: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Conferences by Laurel S. Peterson

Peterson Shadow Notes Cover compressedBy Laurel S. Peterson

First, thanks so much, Thonie, for having me on your blog. I’m delighted to be here.

The number of conferences available to writers is legion, and figuring out how to choose among them can be overwhelming, especially if you’re at all like me: an introvert who prefers the company of close friends and family, work and the big brown eyes of my Labrador Retriever! I offer the following comparison among three types of conferences as a way of thinking about what might work for you.

The Literary Conference
The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) holds the mother of all literary conferences once a year, usually in the spring. It has grown so large that it now takes a convention center to host, and it brings in major literary writers from all over the U. S. Recent featured speakers have included Jaqueline Woodson, Azar Nafisi, and Colum McCann.

Its size makes it both intimidating and approachable. As an introvert, you can get lost in the massive crowds, going from panel discussion to presentation to book fair without anyone noticing—which can be either lonely or a relief. On the plus side, the panel discussions are often intimate, and provide opportunities to talk with both the writers on the panel and the conference attendees. Large conferences also offer fabulous speakers; it’s fun to listen to writers talk about their own work and to get insight into their creative processes. AWP also has an incredible book fair. Focused on small presses, it’s a football field’s worth of interesting books to explore by wonderful writers you might never have heard of. If for no other reason, the conference is worth this.

In addition to on-site events, there are lots of off-site readings and presentations, frequently hosted by MFA programs or small presses. The conference fee is cheaper if you join AWP, and joining gets you access to a great website with interesting articles and resources about writing, job postings in creative writing, editing, etc., and places to send your work.

The Genre Conference
Genre-focused conferences, like Bouchercon or Thrillerfest, are useful for genre writers, in the same way as the literary conference. They provide an opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise encounter, give you a chance to hear writers talk about their processes and publishing issues, and to peruse books by authors you might not see in your local bookstore or on Amazon. I have also found genre conferences to be much friendlier than literary conferences. The writers are more willing to talk to anyone—regardless of pedigree. Perhaps this is due to the difference in market; that is, the market for genre works is so much wider that genre writers perceive everyone as a potential reader.

Their panels are also focused specifically on the craft you are practicing, so the tips are immediately applicable to your writing efforts. while I’m often too tired to write during a conference, I do find myself jotting notes about how to approach my work once I recover!

The Working or Experiential Conference
My favorite conference is The Writers’ Police Academy, which is run by ex-police officer Lee Lofland. Everyone who attends is writing (it’s not a mixed fan/writer conference, like Bouchercon), so they are all interested in the information provided by the experts: firefighters, police officers, federal enforcement officers of various flavors—even canine officers—as well as forensics experts, psychologists, and so on. Because it is small and everyone stays in the same hotel and eats together, it is easy to make friends and to talk to the professionals, who join in with the festivities. Sisters in Crime (SinC) offers a discount to its membership, and SinC offers so many other benefits besides this that the membership is worth it whether you go to this conference or not.

Other conferences focusing on craft are also useful. Attendees are usually united in their desire to help themselves and be supportive of each other. My graduate alma mater, Manhattanville College, holds a Summer Writers’ Week that is grounded in a daily morning workshop. Afternoons are comprised of craft talks, publishing panels, and time to write before one returns to the workshop the following morning. Of the three, I find these working conferences the most useful, although I recognize that the other two are useful in terms of marketing one’s work once it has made its way into the world.

The other factor, of course, is money. None are cheap, and without employer support for professional development, I probably would not have attended nearly as many as I have. Even so, I always end up spending more money than I get back. So, the question is whether you get value for your money. I would suggest deciding beforehand what you want from the conference: is it to network? is it to connect with your market or a publisher? Go to AWP or Bouchercon (or its kin). Is it to work on your own writing or voice? Then an experiential conference is probably what you’re looking for. Being open makes a difference, as the surprise interactions, meet-ups, and discoveries are part of the fun. No matter which you finally choose, it’s an investment in your writing career.


Getting some great ideas about your next conference? Leave a comment, let us know!



www.utechristinphotography.comLaurel S. Peterson is a Professor of English at Norwalk Community College. She has written a mystery novel, Shadow Notes (Barking Rain Press), two poetry chapbooks, That’s the Way the Music Sounds (Finishing Line Press) and Talking to the Mirror (Last Automat Press), and a full-length collection, Do You Expect Your Art to Answer You? (Futurecycle Press). She currently serves as the town of Norwalk, Connecticut’s Poet Laureate. You can find her at, on Twitter: @laurelwriter49, or on Facebook.
You can purchase her mystery novel Shadow Notes here: Buy and her poetry, Do You Expect Your Art to Answer? here: Buy.

Other useful links:
Writer’s Police Academy:
Sisters in Crime:
Manhattanville College Summer Writer’s Week:



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