What? My novel went out to some Canadian publishers and so far they're not beating each other up over who gets to publish it? Because I TOTALLY thought that's what would happen. I do this dark, funny, commercial fiction thing that is not very Canadian of me. "You didn't write another chick lit novel." "We're not sure book clubs will embrace this. It's too dark." Or maybe the book just sucks? Who knows?
So, I'm holed in a pretty small town in Tanzania, East Africa right now with some students doing some humanitarian work. Closing date for offers on my novel has been while I am here. Every few days I have to hike a kilometre through herds of cattle and sheep, past women with water on their heads and kids loaded down with bundles of firewood to read an email from my agent saying that such and such a publisher has passed. Really? I got cow shit on my Pumas for that piece of news?
If I were at home I'd have cracked and downed a box, or who are we kidding, boxes of red wine, breaking only to eat slabs of chocolate cake. I remember this well from when we were trying to sell my first novel. Woe is me. Rejection.
Except that over the past few weeks since I've been here I've seen real rejection.
I visited a school where there are 70 students to a classroom, the suicide rate is high, kids are beaten when they come to school late - except they are late because they are collecting water or firewood for their families. The girls are given pregnancy tests every 3 months and if they test positive, their education is over. Most women don't know they can say no to sex. Rejection.
If students do manage to get through to secondary school, 95% of students will fail their Form 6 exams because they must write difficult standardized tests in English which they don't start to learn until after primary school as a second language. Rejection.
I met a man from a local tribe who wanted to marry a girl who was taking her exam. Her education would, of course, interfere with his marriage plans. When she achieved the impossible and passed he sold her name and mark to someone else so that he could marry her. Rejection.
The barbaric and horrific practice of female circumcision is still widely conducted even though it is against the law. Rejection.
So, yeah, I've worked really long and hard on my novel. But that's the point, isn't it? The fact that I get to even write a book, publish a book, and I'm free to communicate my twisted ideas at all makes my life pretty fucking great. I have a voice. I've spent the last few weeks meeting women whose education, voices, sexuality, freedom, basic rights have been tramped on over and over again.
Hmmm. Maybe, woe isn't me after all.
When I do get my book published I'm going to dedicate it to all of the women who don't have a voice, who never will have a voice. Because their rejection is not temporary. It is permanent.
In the meantime, I'm going to go back to Canada, guzzle some boxed wine, eat some cake and wait for for news from the US publishers! And think about rejection.