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Try, Try Again: Rejection Letters Received by Bestselling Authors

For writers, getting rejected can seem like a pastime. But don’t take my word for it, even though I’ve gotten my share of no-thank-yous. These best-selling authors were rejected, too, and some not very kindly. Editors, publishers and agents have made big errors in judgment, as evidenced by the list of unkind (and sometimes needlessly rude) rejections received by these famous writers.

1. George Orwell

It seems Alfred Knopf didn’t always understand satire. Animal Farm, the famed dystopian allegory that later became an AP Reader standard and Retrospective Hugo Award winner, was turned down because it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.” A British publishing firm initially accepted and later rejected the work as well, arguing that “…the choice of pigs as the ruling caste will no doubt give offense to many people, and particularly to anyone who is a bit touchy, as undoubtedly the Russians are.”

2. Gertrude Stein

Not much burns worse than mockery, and I would imagine Gertrude Stein was probably fuming when she received this letter from Arthur C. Fifield with her manuscript for Three Lives: “Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your MS three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.” Twenty years later, Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas became her one and only best-seller.

3. Stephen King

Most fans know that King’s big break came with Carrie, the story of a friendless, abused girl with secret telekinetic powers. Though one publishing house told him they were “not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias.  They do not sell,” Doubleday picked up the paperback rights to the novel and sold more than a million copies in its first year.

4. William Golding

Though Lord of the Flies was one of my favorite books from high school, it seems some publishers disagreed. One unimpressed agent called the classic “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” To date, the book has been required reading in high schools for nearly fifty years, 14.5 million copies have been sold, and Golding’s work has been adapted for film twice.

5. Jack Kerouac


It’s not incredibly surprising that Kerouac’s work was considered unpublishable in his time. After all, the guy wrote about drugs, sex, and the kind of general lawlessness that many people in the 1950s considered obscene. When shopping out his ubiquitous On the Road, Kerouac’s agent’s mail contained gems like, “His frenetic and scrambling prose perfectly express the feverish travels of the Beat Generation. But is that enough? I don’t think so” and even worse, “I don’t dig this one at all.”

6. Mary Higgins Clark

Back in 1966, the young romance author was trying to sell a story she called “Journey Back to Love.” It didn’t go well, however; her submission to Redbook came back with a rejection from the editors, stating "We found the heroine as boring as her husband had." Ouch! The piece was eventually run as a two-part serial in an English magazine, and Mary Higgins Clark currently boasts forty-two bestselling novels.

7. Ayn Rand

When Rand sent her manuscript out for The Fountainhead, a request from Bobbs-Merrill for her next work-in-progress came back with a curt “Unsaleable and unpublishable.” Not to be deterred, the author called upon Hiram Haydn, newly appointed editor-in-chief of Random House. After an “infinite number” of questions and an assurance that Ms. Rand would not be censored, she signed on with Random House and, to date, has sold over 7 million copies in the U.S.

8. Ernest Hemingway

In a bid to remove himself from a contract with publishers Boni & Liveright, Hemingway penned The Torrents of Spring with the sole intention of being rejected. Horace Liveright turned it down, Hemingway’s contract was broken, and he moved on to find a new publisher. Of course, it didn’t go smoothly; one queried editor told the author that “It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish this.” It all ended well, however. Papa Hemingway moved on to Scribner, who published all of his books from then on—each of which became a bestseller.

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11 Brilliant Gifts for the Notebook Enthusiast
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Science says it's easier to organize and remember information when you write it down. Help everyone on your list stay on track with these charming notebooks that are great for artists, writers, planners, and dreamers.

1. POKETO CONCEPT PLANNER; $34


Poketo

Your loved ones could tap reminders into their phones, but this glam pink planner makes keeping appointments much more fun. The 252-page, open-dated book includes space to scribble goals for the week, month, and year as well as calendar sheets for scheduling activities. The binding lies flat while open and the 8-by-5-inch fabric-textured cover gives your giftee's plans a fashionable finish.

Find It: Poketo

2. RITE IN THE RAIN ALL-WEATHER TOP-SPIRAL NOTEBOOK; $7


Rite in the Rain

It looks like a regular notepad, but Rite in the Rain's 4-by-6-inch gridded sheets are completely waterproof, able to withstand the wetness of a rainforest, a summer downpour, or being dropped in the mud. Use any pen or pencil for smudgeproof writing that will stay legible no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.

Find It: Amazon

3. MOLESKINE SMART WRITING SET; $199


Moleskine

If your favorite notebook enthusiast draws or writes in this Moleskine paper tablet with the included Pen+ smart pen, their creation will appear in digital form on your phone or iPad via a companion app. Encoded technology allows the pen to capture each stroke and smoothly transfer freehand doodlings from page to screen. From there, the user can edit, add text, share ideas and more.

Find It: Moleskine

4. MIDORI GRID NOTEBOOK; $10


Amazon

You'll notice Midori notebooks are missing something: a cover. That’s entirely on purpose. These minimalist Japanese notebooks allow users to focus on the joy of writing through their gentle gridlines, thread-stitch binding, lay-flat design, and colored string on the spine that indicates the notebook's page style.

Find It: Amazon

5. PRINCETON ARCHITECTURAL PRESS OBSERVER'S NOTEBOOK: ASTRONOMY; $19


Princeton Architectural Press

If the 2017 total solar eclipse sparked a new love of astronomy in someone you know, give this handsome 7-by-9-inch hardcover notebook, so they can record night sky observations. The ruled pages are paired with information about stars, planets, constellations, and other celestial bodies, plus gorgeous color images from the Hubble and ESA space telescopes.

Find It: Princeton Architectural Press

6. LEDA ART SUPPLY SKETCHBOOK; $18


Amazon

Whether your gift recipient draws in pencil, ink, pastel, charcoal, or watercolors, this softcover sketchbook is ideal for many kinds of art. The 160 pages of 7-by-10-inch archival paper are thread-bound and include an elastic band to keep the book closed. A ribbon bookmark adds a classy finishing touch.

Find It: Amazon

7. PILOT FRIXION CLICKER RETRACTABLE ERASABLE GEL PENS; $11


Pilot

The perfect pen for The New York Times Sunday crossword, Pilot's long-lasting Frixion gel pens write incredibly smoothly in a variety of ink colors and erase completely with the attached eraser, without damaging the writing surface beneath. The 0.7-millimeter fine point gives penmanship an elegant flourish. When you're finished writing, the nib clicks back into the pen shaft.

Find It: Amazon

8. TRAVELER'S COMPANY BROWN LEATHER NOTEBOOK; $32


Amazon

Indulge your loved one's inner Hiram Bingham or Nellie Bly with this classic traveler's notebook. Encased in a hand-made chocolate leather cover is a sheaf of blank Midori paper (refills are available); the book includes a ribbon bookmark and a band for keeping the cover closed when not in use. At roughly 8.5 inches by 5 inches, the notebook is sized for stuffing into a safari jacket.

Find It: Amazon

9. PRESENT AND CORRECT CORNER RING BOUND NOTEBOOK; $7-$18


Present and Correct

A cool twist on your typical spiral-bound notebook, this pad by British company Present and Correct hinges at the corner with a chic brass coil. The 50-page book comes in small (2.75 inches by 4.75 inches) and large (5.8 inches by 8.3 inches) and three variations: black cover/blank sheets, green cover/ruled sheets, and gray cover/dotted sheets.

Find It: Present And Correct

10. MOLESKINE LIMITED EDITION MINIONS NOTEBOOK; $24


Moleskine

Kevin, Stuart, and Bob blurt out silly sayings and cavort inside the covers of this limited edition Minions notebook from Moleskine. The hardback notebook includes 70 ivory lined pages and a bookmark, plus Minions stickers and extra goodies printed on the inside of the paperband.

Find It: Moleskine

11. PRINCETON ARCHITECTURAL PRESS POCKET DEPARTMENT NOTEBOOKS; $20


Princeton Architectural Press

Inspired by 1950s stationery, the Pocket Department notebooks recall old-school composition books with a modern splash of color. This pack includes each of four different styles—backpack, messenger bag, shirt pocket, and back pocket sizes—containing 64 lined pages apiece. The set comes wrapped in a reusable interoffice-style envelope with a string closure, suitable for your office's secret Santa rounds.

Find It: Princeton Architectural Press

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Designer Reimagines the Spanish Alphabet With Only 19 Letters
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According to designer José de la O, the Spanish alphabet is too crowded. Letters like B and V and S and Z are hard to tell apart when spoken out loud, which makes for a language that's "confusing, complicated, and unpractical," per his design agency's website. His solution is Nueva Qwerty. As Co.Design reports, the "speculative alphabet" combines redundant letters into single characters, leaving 19 letters total.

In place of the letters missing from the original 27-letter Spanish alphabet are five new symbols. The S slot, for example, is occupied by one letter that does the job of C, Z, and S. Q, K, and C have been merged into a single character, as have I and Y. The design of each glyph borrows elements from each of the letters it represents, making the new alphabet easy for Spanish-speakers to learn, its designer says.

Speculative Spanish alphabet.
José de la O

By streamlining the Spanish alphabet, de la O claims he's made it easier to read, write, and type. But the convenience factor may not be enough to win over some Spanish scholars: When the Royal Spanish Academy cut just two letters (CH and LL) from the Spanish alphabet in 2010, their decision was met with outrage.

José de la O has already envisioned how his alphabet might function in the real world, Photoshopping it onto storefronts and newspapers. He also showcased the letters in two new fonts. You can install New Times New Roman and Futurysma onto your computer after downloading it here.

[h/t Co.Design]

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