After Multiple Rejections, I Changed My Story Angle, and Landed a Contract! – by Kathleen Sullivan

After Multiple Rejections, I Changed My Story Angle, and Landed a Contract! – by Kathleen Sullivan

“Oh. We get a lot of those types of pitches,” the annoyed editor said to me over the phone.

I was beginning to feel a bit defeated. Unfortunately, this editor wasn’t the first to utter those words. My essay was both sad and powerful. It was also very personal. How could they turn it down?

In September of 2008, my husband Brian and I lost our firstborn son, Liam, to a congenital heart defect. Sadly, I knew that we weren’t the only ones to suffer such a tragedy. I needed to write about it. I needed to tell my story.

I had started reaching out to some magazine publishers. At first, I was surprised by the amount of rejections. However, by the time I spoke to the annoyed editor, I knew I had to change it up a bit.

But how?

Without a doubt, my story was unique. Brian and I had been the only ones to have our experience. Still, the topic of baby loss had been covered many times over. I realized that just telling my story was not enough. I had to offer a fresh perspective.

I decided to focus on two very important components: the editor and the readers. I needed to successfully capture the attention of the editor with a pitch that would touch my audience. I kept writing.

It was shortly before Christmas of 2013, and I was preparing to send out my holiday cards. Brian and I had since had two healthy children. We were content, but not too far removed from our devastating experience. We were still bereaved parents. We would always be.

Including Liam in our Christmas greetings had become a tradition. The year before, we had our two living children pose underneath a picture of their big brother. While looking around for ideas for new and fresh ideas for a card, I got to thinking. I grabbed a pen and paper, and wrote it all down.

In this new essay, I wrote about our unconventional Christmas card. I took a chance, and sent it to an editor of a parenting blog that I wasn’t very familiar with. I heard back the very next day. The editor told me the piece was beautiful and it made her cry. I was so grateful, not only for the response, but also for the wonderful feedback.

I was going to be published! There were no words to describe my elation. I waited on pins and needles until the day the post went live. Although nervous about the possible feedback, I was mostly proud. I finally did it!

In taking the time to properly craft my piece, I accomplished some very crucial things. First, I was able to share my story about Liam. Doing so was very therapeutic. Second, I would be helping others who had suffered a similar loss.

Looking back, I am grateful for the first few rejections. Getting them was the push that I needed. Today, I still write about loss but I cover different aspects. The beauty of writing is that you never need to stop. Sometimes, you just need to dive deeper than anticipated. I enjoy the challenge and welcome it. Remembering that there is always a story to be unlocked, and a voice to be heard, has helped me tremendously.



Kathleen Sullivan is a freelance writer and a full-time mom. Her work has been published on: The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Brian, Child, Magazine, Mamalode, Grown and Flown, xoJane, Your Tango and Parent Co.



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One Response to "After Multiple Rejections, I Changed My Story Angle, and Landed a Contract! – by Kathleen Sullivan"

  1. pamelaallegretto  November 12, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Great advice!