Rejection is a part of any writer’s life, and Laura Maylene Walter believes there’s something to be learned from it.
Walter is the prose writer-in-residence for Week One at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center, and she’ll give her Brown Bag lecture at 12:15 p.m. Friday on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.
Walter is the author of the short story collection Living Arrangements. She currently teaches writing workshops for the Cuyahoga County Public Library and Literary Cleveland.
She said she feels qualified to speak about the topic because of her “many, many rejections.” In 2015, she received 215 literary rejections, and she wrote a piece for The Kenyon Review about what that experience felt like.
Walter said having one’s work rejected can offer a sense of perspective, which she said has helped her develop as a writer.
She said the focus of her Brown Bag is on rejection in the literary world, but she’ll also speak about the topic more generally, discussing what rejection means to people and why it hurts so much.
“There have been some studies on this,” Walter said. “There are evolutionary reasons for why we feel hurt by rejection. It can be rejection from someone we’re dating, being rejected at work or by a friend, or by a literary journal.”
Walter said people have a deep drive to seek out the safety of a group and make connections.
“When that connection is broken or we’re rejected from it, there’s this primal worry that we’ll be exposed and vulnerable,” Walter said. “And it carries on even when you open your ‘thanks, but no thanks’ letter from a literary journal.”
That vulnerability can make people stronger and their work better, Walter said.
“Persevering is really the only way to get on in anything,” she said.
Walter hopes the talk will help inspire her audience to “keep at it” and see how they can grow.
That growth is something she’s experienced in her own writing career. After her banner year for rejections in 2015, she’s reached a point where people are excited about the work she’s doing. She recently signed with an agent and her first novel, tentatively titled Constellation for Girls, is in the works.
“Yes, rejection is horrible and we all hate it,” Walter said. “And it does derail some people completely. But to keep at it is the only way, and you can end up where you want to be as long as you persevere.”