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How I Changed My Perspective and Upped My Submissions
by Tom Luther

When I was starting out in amateur radio, I used to receive and send QSL cards. "QSL" is amateur radio parlance for "message received," and these colorful postcards are sent by amateur radio operators ("hams") to each other to confirm and document a two-way radio conversation. The cards contain basic data, such as the sender's call sign, date and time, frequency of contact, and usually a brief personal note. Many hams collect them, and awards are available for collecting one from each state, or from a certain number of countries. These awards signify much activity and effort. This has given me an idea for my writing: I am going to start a collection of rejection slips.

My collection should encompass all of the publishers that I admire; the ones that would have bought my manuscripts if I had been brave enough to send them in, or if they really had been good enough, or on target. I will showcase those rejection slips with an added personal note of encouragement, such as "Good job; keep trying," or "Have you tried ____?" One of the highlights of my ham radio operation was a long conversation I had one night with a station in Antartica. He described to me the fascinating details of the research facility and living conditions there, as though I was the only other station on the air. But the fact that we had our conversation was documented some weeks later when I received a QSL card from him. I can look at that card and not only be reminded that I actually talked to a scientist in Antartica, but remember some of the details of that conversation. I would not have received that card if he had not heard my transmission, and responded.

My collection of reject slips will function in the same way. I know that I can research or create, organize, write, and rewrite. But reject slips will remind me that I can also follow through; that I can face scrutiny and survive; that criticism will not eat me alive.

As a ham radio operator, I often called a station that did not answer back. It could have been for any of a number of reasons: I was covered by a stronger station, they were too busy to respond, or they weren't listening on my frequency. In the same way, perhaps occasionally a publisher will buy my manuscript instead of sending me a reject slip. That's OK; I can live with that; it just means that I will have to continue my efforts if my collection is to grow.

I learned many techniques as a ham to improve my response ratio, and later changed my focus away from collecting QSL cards. As a writer, if I improve my response ratio such that I'm getting more sales than rejects, I can also change my focus. But both my collections will always remind me where I have come from, and the dues I paid getting started.

© Copyright 1999, Tom Luther

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