Not Getting Into Pitch Wars Isn't the Universe's Message to Me

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Have you ever failed at something so spectacularly, you felt foolish for even trying it in the first place?

That’s how I felt on Nov. 6, 2021, when I woke up at 6:30 a.m. and read the list of Pitch Wars mentees. Spoiler: I was not on the list. And the thing is I knew weeks before that my name wouldn’t be on the list. Because after I submitted my work to my chosen mentors at the end of September, I heard nothing more. I didn’t get a single request, not even for a partial. So come mid-October, I had resigned myself to my rejection.

It didn’t make it sting any less, unfortunately.

The thing about Pitch Wars is that there are many reasons why it’s okay not to get in. And those reasons are so true! It is an incredibly popular contest with a less than 3 percent acceptance rate. It is so subjective, and mentors are only allowed to choose one manuscript to mentor, so not getting in really isn’t a reflection of your worth. And it’s not a rejection, per se, it’s more of a “not for me” kind of pass.

But all of those very true reasons don’t make the sting any less sharp when it’s 6:30 a.m. and you’re reading the list and scrolling through Twitter seeing celebrations.

Rejections will be my constant companion throughout the publication journey, whether I get an agent next week, at the age of 70.

I applied to Pitch Wars in 2016 and 2017, then took a break for three years and came back in 2021 with a brand-new book. It’s a 57,000 word YA romance I’m incredibly proud of. I poured a lot of myself into the story, and there’s a lot about it that has nothing to do with my life. It’s funny and tear-jerking and queer and it talks about mental health and there’s an adorable set of grandparents.

It breaks my heart that I didn’t get a request, considering that was my stated goal for applying.

It breaks my heart, and it makes me feel teeny tiny and horribly pathetic. Especially because I know people who’ve made it in. Several of my closest writer friends have been selected as mentees and then mentors, so I know that it’s possible.

Just not for me.

The day of the announcements, I felt a lot of despair. It was my third Pitch Wars without a single request, and at some point I started asking myself whether I should take the message the universe seemed to be screaming at me, and give up on my dream of publishing a book. I’ve been asking myself that question for a whole week now.

I’ve asked myself that question as I drafted a new book. I’ve asked myself that question as I sent my Pitch Wars hopeful book to new readers. I’ve asked myself that question as I cheered on friends getting agent offers and book deals.

In other words, I’ve asked myself that question while continuing to work toward that goal. Because ultimately, there will always be doubts. Rejections will be my constant companion throughout the publication journey, whether I get an agent next week, at the age of 70, or never. Someone, somewhere, will gladly reject my work.

What I’m going to do is refuse to assume that’s a message from the universe, because what I know, deep in the core of my being, is that writing is my passion and my tether to the rest of humanity. So it doesn’t matter if mentors, agents, publishers, and readers tell me I’m not good enough. I’m going to keep doing it.

I just may not apply for Pitch Wars next year, because the pain is a little too sharp right now.

Karis Rogerson

Column by Karis Rogerson

Karis Rogerson is a mid-20s aspiring author who lives in Brooklyn and works at a cafe—so totally that person they warn you about when you declare your English major. In addition to embracing the cliched nature of her life, she spends her days reading, binge-watching cop shows (Olivia Benson is her favorite character) and fangirling about all things literary, New York and selfie-related. You can find her other writing on her website and maybe someday you’ll be able to buy her novels.

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