Monday, December 5, 2016

Recycle That Rejection! by Deborah Holt Williams

A rug from crocheted plastic bags, a wind chime from mismatched spoons—recycling turns trash into treasure. Our rejections can be recycled, too, sometimes into a form quite different than we first imagined.
I wasn’t laughing when my picture book “One Funny Day” got thumbs down from an agent, then got “liked” by a Twitter pitch agent, then got rejected again! But I still loved it. With a few adjustments, I sold it to Bumples, where it was recycled into a fun interactive story that appeared on-line this June.  Another story, “Baseball Buns,” got rejected by magazine after magazine.  But it sold to Knowonder, an on-line site that features a new story every day.
I was certain my story “Artist in the Woods” was perfect for Highlights. Somehow, they disagreed. Rejected! So I tweaked it and added a repeating refrain (“But the artist would not wake up!”), and submitted it to an educational publisher. There it got recycled--into an easy reader book! It’s still in their catalog years later. Although my goal is to have a beautiful, glossy picture book published one day, I’m proud that my little books are helping kids learn to read.
Since you’re here on RYS, I’m guessing you’ve been writing for years, and that some of your work may be hibernating in a file or languishing at the bottom of a drawer. Just like turning an old t-shirt into a throw pillow, you may be able to recycle these pieces or ideas. Did you write an article for your church newsletter? Rework it and send it to a religious magazine for children. Did you come up with a great art project for your Girl Scout Troup? Turn it into a craft article.       
I once wrote for a small town newspaper, and I recycled two articles into non-fiction pieces for an on-line magazine for kids, called Young Bucks Outdoors. I made lilac prints with toddlers in my home daycare, and later sold the idea to Turtle magazine. Years after I worked as children’s librarian, I reworked a little puppet play I wrote for my Storytime into a rebus, a 100-word story with pictures for some of the words. Sold! “The Egg All Alone” appeared in the September 2013 issue of Highlights. 
The Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market lists places to submit your work that you may never have considered. Evelyn Christiansen’s site,, is a great source to learn which publications are looking for what. The SCBWI Blue Boards, Children’s Book Insider, and the numerous Facebook groups for writers are also wonderful resources.  
So the next time a rejection darkens your inbox, or you come across an old manuscript that’s still got some life in it, see if you can recycle it into something entirely new!

About the author: Deborah Holt Williams is a full member of SCBWI and the author of five easy readers for Continental Press. Her work has appeared in Highlights, Jack and Jill, Appleseeds, Spellbound and other magazines for children. She’s still submitting her picture book manuscripts and hoping to find an agent. She lives in the mountains of Colorado and takes her recycling to the center every week. You can find Deborah on Facebook as Lucky Williams or follow her blog at, where she chronicles her writing adventures. 


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