Keep trying and trying

People are now reading Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help in 39 languages, and they will go to the theaters to see the movie in August.

But Stockett, who spoke in Dallas on May 3, 2011, remembers when she was receiving rejection letters from agents. Lots of rejection letters.

“If I had given up after 60 rejection letters, this story never would have been told,” said Stockett at the Arts & Letters Live presentation in Dallas. The Help tells the story of Skeeter, a young white woman living in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962. With the help of two black women, she decides to write about the lives of black housekeepers in white homes.

“I just don’t feel enthusiastic about this book at all,” one agent wrote.

“I just did not fall in love with this novel,” another agent said. “Please do not send me your work again.”

“Not saleable,” concluded a third agent.

Stockett kept sending out more letters because she’s tenacious. “Or, my husband calls it stubbornness,” she says.

The 61st letter was an acceptance letter, but Stockett almost didn’t receive it. It went first to her computer’s SPAM folder.

It’s easier to be reflective about all those rejections now that she has a best-selling book. “The first couple of years I sent it out, the book stunk,” she says.

But Stockett kept rewriting and editing, and her book kept getting better. “I should send all of those agents thank you letters—honestly,” she emphasizes.

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