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It’s that time of year again where parents, like myself, are in a crunch to get their kids to complete their summer reading. This year, my son’s reading list included The Great Gatsby, to which I replied, “Oh, I hated The Great Gatsby.” I couldn’t stop the words from leaving my mouth, but I had a flashback. I was sitting in my English class faced with the challenge of writing about Jay Gatsby and the green light. Besides traffic, what did I know about a green light at fifteen? I couldn’t connect and neither would my son. I prepared my fifty-year-old self for the long nights ahead, explaining the green light, Jay Gatsby and the American Dream. 


But, as usual, I sat with my cup of coffee and started to think. What if I had been a literary agent presented with Fitzgerald’s masterpiece in the 1920s? How would I have received it? Would I have connected with it back then? A little research into the history of Fitzgerald’s work showed no, I probably would not have connected with it then either. Most reviewers liked it but misunderstood the entire book. Fitzgerald died thinking he was a failed author. He sold only 21,000 copies and made thirteen dollars in royalties. He did not know how to reject the rejection.


Like Julianna Baggott says in her article, When to Reject the Rejection, rejection has no significance. Do not alter your writing or characters in order to appear more general. Your readers rely on your unique voice and lived experience. Do not rewrite your characters with the aim of linking your experience to the unknowable experience of an editor. After all, if Fitzgerald did that, we would have lost an American masterpiece that has stuck with us positively or negatively for almost 100 years.




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