Phyllis Schieber Author

Women's Fiction by Phyllis Schieber

Writing Through Rejection

I finished the final edits on my new novel about two weeks ago. It was a daunting process, and I was happy when Fed Ex finally arrived to pick up my manuscript. My agent was eager to read The Manicurist, and I was even more eager to hear his response. Less than a week later, he phoned to share his enthusiasm. I was elated. After all, if he disapproved, the manuscript would be stopped dead in its tracks. I had passed the first level. The next stop was my editor at Penguin. Let me preface the rest of this story by saying how much I like her and how much I respect her. She was on overload, and I had to wait for her to read my manuscript. Everyone assured me that she would “love it.” My  two readers were the most enthusiastic. They had found the work captivating and compelling. I trusted them, but I knew that nothing was a given in this business we call writing. My dear and supportive friends, my husband and my son were all equally certain that it was only a matter of time until my next book would be on bookstore shelves.

My editor disliked just about everything in The Manicurist. The news was stunning, but not surprising. My agent phoned and said, “She doesn’t like it.” I think my agent and I were equally unprepared for  her reaction. When I spoke with her the next day, she praised my writing. I listened carefully to her review, took notes, and understood with profound clarity that it is impossible for anyone to have an opinion that is uniformed by personal history. Moreover, you simply can’t make someone like something she doesn’t like. I listened to everything she had to say. I was neither angry nor hurt, but I was unable to reconcile one very strange response. She could not see how my protagonist could be a manicurist. I, on the other hand, believe there is nothing as intriguing as meeting people who are in the most unlikely or unexpected professions. My own late father, a German Jew, who escaped Germany just in time, was university educated in Leipzig, trained as a furrier, spoke 7 languages, had served in two armies, and was also movie star handsome, as well as charming and funny, came to American in 1949 with his pregnant wife and  was forced to spend the rest of his life as a waiter. And he was a damned good waiter. Customers waited to sit at “Kurt’s station.” So why can’t my interesting, bright and intuitive protagonist be a manicurist? I wonder.

On the other hand, the good news is that I am still a writer. The Manicurist may or may not find another home. I want it to because it is a work I am proud of and hope to share with my readers. But if it doesn’t find a publisher, I will carry on, stronger and better than ever, to write another book, and then another. Maybe the next one will be about a young Jew who escaped Nazi Germany, married a survivor of the Transnistria Death March and came to Amercia where they had children and built a new life. Nah. Who would believe that?


November 15, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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