Earlier this summer, I wrote an essay about that tragic pool party in McKinney, Texas, where police overreacted, with guns drawn, to a complaint from a white mom about noisy Black teenagers at the community pool. This has been a season of extreme racial tragedies, and I had trouble getting the piece published once the news cycle had moved on.
Rejection is part of the writing game, but as every writer knows, not all rejections are equal. When an editor simply ignores your submission, that’s a bottom-tier rejection. The next step up is a form letter: “Sorry, not quite right for us.” A personal rejection constitutes the best of the worst: “We love your writing, but this piece isn’t quite right for us. Please send us something else soon.”
My McKinney piece, titled “A White Mom, Living #BlackLivesMatter” garnered a lot of personal rejections. A couple of editors even shared that they felt that they’d already covered this topic multiple times. While that was frustrating to hear, I understood. When the tragedies come one after the other, it’s hard to get readers to care about the latest one. So many of us have tragedy fatigue. And it’s hard to keep writing about racial justice as well. Even Ta-Nehesi Coates doesn’t know what to say anymore. But not talking about the problem we all live with doesn’t make the problem disappear.
So I kept pitching my essay, giving it a few tweaks after each no to try to make it better. But doubts started creeping in. Nobody cares about McKinney anymore. Nobody wants to hear a privileged white voice talking about #BlackLivesMatter, and maybe I should take a seat. What if the writing is just really, really bad? Maybe I truly have run out of things to say about racism and being a white mom of black and brown kids. After all, I’ve written about it A LOT. Maybe I should just be quiet.
On the other hand, I’d spent HOURS writing this piece. I wanted some reward for my effort. I wanted people to read it! And here’s what, or who, kept me from giving up: Ms. Carli Lloyd.
Like everybody else, I found Carli Lloyd’s hat trick in the Women’s World Cup final thrilling to watch, but what truly inspired me was her scrappy back story. Her path to international acclaim has been long and rocky, but Carli just kept playing her game, stunning soccer fans everywhere at the age of 33, which is kind of old for a professional athlete. After the World Cup, I decided to make Carli Lloyd my writing spirit animal, which means keep working, keep shooting, do my thing and ignore the people who tell me I’m good but not good enough.
So I kept pitching my essay, until finally this week, Jennifer Pastiloff at The Manifest-Station gave it a home. The positive, emotional response to the piece has been moving for me, both as a mom of Black children, and as a writer. Jen’s website was a new market for me, and so my words have reached a fresh audience. It feels like the modest success of the essay arrived at just the right time in just the right way. A great reminder to stay in the game and keep shooting, just like Carli.