The literary world has become poorer with the loss of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died April 17th. I still remember how amazed I was by my first reading of “A Hundred Years of Solitude.” Magical realism was alien to me and it was a revelation to discover that fiction didn’t have to be ordinary facts pinned on the page like enbalmed butterflies, but could soar with the writer’s imagination into a space where reality had no relevance. For this would-be writer, such freedom was liberating.

Everyone who cares about great writing is familiar with this and other novels of Marquez’s, though less with his equally intriguing short stories. But what I am remembering are the inspiring ways he worked. In an interview years ago he revealed that he was working on a new novel, plus several short stories, plus a screen play! I envy that ability to – as we say these days – multitask. I find it hard to switch my focus the way he could, but it’s an ability worth cultivating. We all fall into doldrums when creativity is absent or feels forced, and it’s a life saver (career saver) to be able to switch to another piece of work during that time.

In his autobiography, cleverly titled, ”Living To Tell the Tale,” Marquez spoke of the “countless lures that tried to turn me into anything but a writer.” Unfortunately, many of us inflict these ”lures” on ourselves as excuses to postpone writing. I would hate to add up the hours I squander reviewing the latest posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, et al. These “lures” steal irreplaceable time from us unless we’re as vigilant about our time as Marquez was.

He preached the importance of avoiding “unnecessary actions” in stories , too. In some of the best advice I’ve ever read he stressed “reducing stories to their pure essence…deleting everything unnecessary in a forceful genre in which each word ought to be responsible for the entire structure.” I keep these words on the bulletin board above my desk.

One less generous thought about Marquez: he was lucky to be a man. I say this because ”Solitude” was reputedly written during 18 months of undivided time while his wife took care of the burdensome details of everyday life. In a dream world, we would each have someone selflessly dedicated to enabling us to do uninterrupted work. Is that wish magical (un)realism?

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Website: www.

Books: “Widow’s Walk” – available through;  “Turning Toward tomorrow” –; “Ten Women of Valor” – and AlsoAmazon kindle.


“Your submission doesn’t fit our current needs.”

How many times have we been given that message? None of us enjoys being rejected, but for writers it comes in routine doses.

Most editors and agents seem to have rote responses. “This manuscript isn’t for me, but another agent might like it.”

That makes me feel as if I’m in the middle of the ocean with no life preserver. Can you at least suggest that mythical other agent? Or tell me why it isn’t for you? Probably the agent/editor didn’t even get past the first paragraph..

We’re usually told to send the first ten or fifty pages, but want to bet nothing past page one gets looked at? I know a writer who inserted a small piece of paper into the middle of a chapter. Sure enough, when the manuscript was returned the paper was still in place.

Then there’s the impersonal form that states, “We know how painful it is to receive a rejection….” (Do you really?) And then adds, “carefully reviewed your work.,,. not a reflection of its quality…” ad nauseum. Condescending ? Yes. Helpful? No.

Years ago, I received a response from a magazine I won’t identify that had a formula check list of why a submission was rejected, ending with “What makes you think you’re a writer?” (Imagine how many suicidal thoughts that must have created.) Mercifully, that box wasn’t checked on my communication, just the “not for us” which seemed benign by comparison.
Actually these form rejections, irritating as they are, are better than the manuscript that’s returned without any explanation. This once happened to me with no less a reputable magazine than the “Atlantic Monthly. Out of a masochistic desire to hit back I phoned to say, “I wonder if you forgot to include a message?”
“Sorry about that,” said a smooth voice.”But we can read the rejection to you.”
“Don’t bother,” I said. “I know it by heart.”

Increasingly rejections are accompanied by an invitation to subscribe to the magazine. I applaud the response used by a North Carolina writer, Stan Absher. Using the magazine’s postage paid envelope he sent the subscription form back with his notation: ”Your magazine doesn’t fit my current beeds.”
It’s tempting to emulate him, him, but then again,you have to realize this may put you and your stories on some permanent NO FLY list.

The worst is when we reject ourselves. A friend recently told me, “Another rejection, I’m a failure.”

What we have to inscribe in our minds is that, discouraging as they are, rejections aren’t failure. Giving up is.