Never, Ever, Ever Give Up

When I was 11 years old, I sent out a 53-word, three-stanza poem that was hand written on wide-ruled notebook paper to a magazine called Stone Soup. The poem was titled “What Mothers Are.”

In the first stanza, I wrote about how a mother is help. How she helped with homework and woke us up “when our alarm clock fail[ed].”

The second stanza said that a mother was comfort, encouragement, a cheerleader.

The third, final stanza said that “A mother is love. / She loves, / She helps, / She cares. / A mother is love.”

A few weeks later, I received a template rejection letter stating that while the editors “enjoyed it very much,” they had to reject it because from the 10,000 submissions they received, they could only publish 40 stories and 12 poems. On the bottom left-hand corner of the letter, an editor wrote that they were returning my copy to me.

It stung at first, but a month later, I sent out another one. This time I sent a 389-word story about two girls who were trying to find their mother’s stolen stamp collection. The story was inspired by my collection of stamps, which I still have, by the way.

Mrs. Wood had been admiring her stamps the night before, including one worth $10,000, and then they disappeared after she forgot to put them back in the safe.

The two girls in the story searched the entire house, but the missing stamps did not turn up. They considered the mystery for another half an hour when one of the girls said she realized who must have taken the collection.

Eventually, the reader found out that the family dog, Spot, had stolen the album of stamps and hid it in his doghouse because there was a picture of a bone on the cover.

A few weeks later, I got the exact same rejection letter but this time without the personal handwriting at the bottom.

I didn’t stop though.

I kept writing, I kept trying to figure out what I did wrong and how I could get better.

When I was 12, I wrote and sent out a poem called “Friends” and a story called “A Moment in the Meadow.” Those were also rejected.

I refused to let those letters discourage me; I had been writing random short stories in notebooks since I was about six or seven. Instead, it encouraged me to write more. I wrote poems; I wrote journals every day; I wrote random observation essays. I wrote research papers for fun about Egyptian history and whales and dolphins.

I wrote a kid’s story series called Emily and Danny. They were inspired by the Mr. Putter and Tabby books that had actually inspired me to want to write. I produced the books myself, cutting out letters and gluing them onto different colored paper for the covers. I wrote the stories by hand and also drew some illustrations for them even though I am very artistically challenged.

When I was 14 and 15, I started writing novels.

The first novel I wrote was 57,842 words. It was called Game Show of Death, and it was about this group of teenagers that participated in a game show that was held in a haunted house. I honestly don’t remember how I ended it because the last time I touched it was five years ago, and I haven’t taken the time to go back and read it again yet.

My next book was a shorter one: One Wish. That book was only 23,599 words and was the cliche story about a teenager who got one wish to go back and do something she regretted. It wasn’t one of my favorites.

Kissing You was the last novel I’ve worked on. This book was 59,318 words making it the longest project I had worked on. It was the cliche story about a teenage romance that I typed all in the font Gills San MT for whatever reason. However, it was one of my favorite books that I had worked on, and I was proud of it. I had a lot of online readers say they enjoyed it as well, but I never did anything with it.

After I got a little bit busier with high school, I stopped writing books as much. I ended up writing songs.

I wrote so many of them, composed music on the piano to accompany it, and then actually made an album. Like did a photoshoot for the album cover and burned at least 10 original songs onto DVDs.

Eventually though, I found my way back to writing poetry. I was still writing pretty shitty poetry, but as I started reading more of the modern poets (I started with Lang Leav, Michael Faudet, Rupi Kaur, and R.H. Sin like everyone does), and my writing slowly got better. That’s when I started sending it out again.

Being a published author had always been my dream, and I was determined to reach that goal. As I kept sending out writing and researching places to send it, I printed out each rejection letter that I received and hung it on my wall to the right of my desk. My mom asked me why I was doing that, but it was to remind myself to keep going.

With all 14 (at the time) rejections looming over my desk, I kept writing. I kept sending out my work. I received another six rejection letters before I got my first acceptance.

It was the end of November, and I was sitting on the couch watching TV and doing homework when I decided that I should probably check my personal email. I saw that one of the magazines I had submitted to in June (the process always takes months) had emailed me back. I assumed it was just another rejection letter. At that point I was still disappointed, but I was expecting it at that point.

That wasn’t the case this time. I saw the words “we would like to publish” in the first line, and I had to read it again to make sure that I had read it correctly. But it was true. They wanted to publish two of the three poems that I had submitted: “lacheism” and “bandaids.” I obviously had to tell everyone.

That acceptance definitely encouraged me to keep submitting. That acceptance felt like it opened the gates. While I’ve still gotten eight (and counting) rejections, I’ve also gotten four more acceptances. One of them to a journal where they only selected 25 out of hundreds of pieces.

My end goal is to have a published book. I’m currently working on two books of poetry that I hope to publish someday. I’ve been working on them for years, and I really just need to stop editing them over and over and just start sending them out.

The point of this article isn’t to brag about my publishing credentials. The point is that if you really want something, don’t give up on it. Writing is my biggest passion (if you can’t tell), and ever since I was little I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. I remember when I was young people telling me that I wouldn’t be able to do it because young writers don’t get published.

If you want to be a famous artist, don’t quit drawing or painting or sculpting. You may need a day job because our society doesn’t support the humanities, but make time for it after you get home from your 9-5. If you have a talent for drawing, don’t ignore it; enhance it. (I’m looking at you, Matthew.) If you really want to create this new company, go for it. If you want to rescue all the dogs, please do it because they’re beautiful souls and deserve a home.

If you hit a roadblock or a bump in the road, figure out how to get around it. Figure out how to get better. You’re the only one that can make your dreams happen. Even if you can’t make it your career, keep chasing your dreams because I believe that passion and determination will get you to your finish line.

I’m lucky because I’m stubborn. When someone tells me that I can’t do something, that makes me want to do it even more to prove them wrong.

In the words of Michael Scott, “never, ever, ever give up.” 



Alyssa Harmon