Today's Secret Word: Rejection
What a week. Oh...it's Wednesday? Well, shit.I had planned this blog post late last week when I realized I was not winning a writing contest I thought for sure I was winning. Funnily enough, one of the trending hashtags on Twitter was #shareyourrejections with actors, writers, singers, and job seekers shared stories about their varying degrees of rejection. A lot of them had happy endings. Some were still in progress (which I was grateful for). Broadway actors sharing about the audition they missed or the job they didn't book leading to one of their greatest roles. Writers sharing their manuscripts being tossed aside until that one publisher said yes and it made them a household name. It was all about silver linings and I loved reading and relating to so many of them.Here's my rejections for just this week...A project I was going to be involved in moved on without me this weekend. It may be completely defined as a rejection considering it was me pulling out due to difficulty with scheduling and being overwhelmed at the fast and furiousness of it. I still have technically just moved, the schedule wasn't ideal, it was becoming stressful to make it all work. There was a Band Aid put over it briefly. Flash forward, I was then cut from the project officially and it began shooting the day after. This was all rightfully decided by the production, of course. It is their movie.It feels like a rejection because having been involved for a while, the character was living in me. Betty Gilpin said it best when we saw her speak at the SAG Foundation. She talked about characters as ghosts. You go into an audition or project and when it doesn't work out, you're left with the ghost of the character. You have worked the character, learned it, gave it flesh. She mentioned a few roles she did not get and then her current role in Glow, Debbie. She said when she left that audition, she wanted Debbie terribly and the ghost stayed with her. This is a ghost that will stay with me.And then the rest of the year got a bit shaken up and will be ending differently than I thought and well, that's a story for another day.Back to the contest. I thought I was a shoe in. Why? Well, because it was a photo story contest which is what I have been doing on my @secondstarstories account for about a year. The photo was a black and white image of a desert island and the story was to be about a lone survivor on the island. It was for a publisher of horror, fantasy and science fiction and I love and write all of those things! There was prize money and the story would be published in an e-book and paperback along with the other winners. Because of the amount of submissions, they increased the money and added in honorable mentions. I was convinced mine was at least an honorable mention. So when they said the winners were going to be announced Tuesday and the writers would be notified, I refreshed the fuck out of my inbox Friday thru Monday.I got the email Tuesday with the list of winners.I was disappointed. Being an actor, rejection is never easy. It is a familiar sword and this one struck true. I was able to let it sink in and dissolve slowly. It can be a poison. It can be a dark hole you can't crawl out of. It can eat you alive. Since moving back, I am trying a fresh take on it. I let myself be angry, frustrated, sad for a moment. Maybe even a day. I let it have that one day and then I release it because it does not need to stay in my veins. It is part of this process, be it writing, acting, or just job hunting. It is ever present in my life therefore it does not need to linger when it unleashes its claws.I have to laugh at myself for assuming I would win this contest. I have been submitting blogs here and there that have gotten rejected and I think nothing of it. Perhaps because this was fiction, the genre I am trying to succeed in the most. Perhaps I had gotten comfortable to the small pond mentality and didn't remember the world is full of people finding writing contests to get their work out there. I put in effort and time with my story but I have to admit, not enough. I wrote it quickly because it came to me that way and I submitted it without considering perhaps it needed another glance over or some more editing. I am pleased with this new confidence but I think it might be for the best I did not win. I see now I'm back to the hard work and I need to be better prepared to keep it up. Rejection can be easier in the city in a way. Being in a smaller pond, it was incredibly painful to not achieve what I was after. Not that it isn't here because OF COURSE it is here. However, it was more glaringly obvious and in my face because I couldn't just say "500 actors auditioned for this role. I understand they cast someone else." It's much harder when it's 5 actors and you don't get a role and you walk around the tiny city seeing posters for the show that you are not in and there isn't another one you can audition for until the new year and all the social media you follow is about the rehearsals and you have to go see it because again there isn't a lot of other shows to see and you start to wonder if you are actually a good actor at all. Or so I've heard...I am proud I entered this contest and I am proud I lost. Rejection is back in my life in the same way it used to be. I'm a tiny fish in a big pond and I have to keep my focus to stay afloat.Here is my entry to the contest. This is as I submitted it. I did not edit it after the first round. Thanks to Dark Regions Press for the opportunity and I look forward to reading the winners in October.
Don't Forget Sunscreen
The plane parts smoked for weeks. Or what she thought were weeks. It could have been days or hours. Even years. She stared at them, close to the water, thinking she could manifest a rescue. Maybe if she focused hard enough on the broken pieces that had come from her real life, a real place, they would send a signal. Because this wasn't a real place. It couldn't be. She could see to the other side of the island if she turned around and nothing else if she faced the water. Just the blurred white line of the horizon.
The bodies started to smell. They lay scattered all along the sand. When she finally could stand, she walked the beach, finding pieces peeking out of the sand like apples in a tub of water at Halloween. She erased the thoughts creeping in from the back of her head. The inevitable could wait. It must wait.
She moved to the side opposite of the crash. It was silent save for the gentle waves. For a short time, she was able to pretend she was on a vacation, drink in hand, waiting for her husband to return with more sunscreen. God, she wished she had sunscreen. She had her husband. He was next to the right wing. Mostly. Some of him was down towards the shoreline.
She had never learned to build a fire. All these regrets you never know you have until you need them.
Night fell. Dawn rose. Over and over. Her fingernails were getting long. She bit them shorter, attempting to use them as a calendar. They didn't quell her growing hunger or her thirst.
She decided on the pilot first. He hadn't stopped the crash. Surely it was his fault she was here. Not knowing where to begin, she found a sharp shell and pressed as hard as she could into his neck. There was little blood. She had expected more. It was a slow trickle. Perhaps they had been there longer than she thought. They... there was no 'they'.
It was thick and soft, like biting into raw chicken. She spit it out and then promptly vomited. Just bile. She had nothing inside of her but fingernails.
She laughed herself to tears one night remembering what she said she would bring to a desert island. Remember when you would ask people that? Her answer was always tequila and sunscreen. She really wished she had sunscreen. Isn't that funny?
She waited for her survival instinct to kick in as she always imagined they would. Everyone assumes that. None appeared. She once thought maybe being stranded alone would be fun. Quiet time with the sand and the water and sun. Birds flying overhead. Now the birds circled her over the few trees the island had. They circled because they knew it was soon. She felt no push or pull to even try. Why was that?
Was it because her real life was just a mirage of happiness? Her job, her marriage, her condo. It was all part of a machine that she had no desire to be a part of. And now she was here, a cog ejected from the machine and dropped into a void of sky and sand.
The bodies began to lose their shape. Some were taken out with the tide. In the mornings, she sat close to water, wanting it to take her. It never had enough strength and neither did she. The birds began to roost in the trees above her. They only left for short periods of time, returning to watch her from above with their black eyes. She gave them names and personalities. They did not seem to appreciate her amusement that Patty and Jerry were having an affair with each other and Nancy knew. Instead, Jerry let his scat fall dangerously near her head.
The pilot looked like a patchwork quilt with the flesh she sliced off and managed to choke down. The flight attendant would be next. She never came back to give her that refill.
The sun rose one morning and she heard it before she saw it. A creaking like a door to an attic. Then the sound of sand moving. She opened her eyes to face the sky. Her husband's face peered through the leaves. But it was not his face. Not his whole face. He had one eye and his cheek was peeling away from it's bone. His mouth hung agape because most of it was missing. His one arm torn the leaves away, revealing the patchwork pilot and the flight attendant, who no longer had her arms. It was time. The three bore down upon her, ripping her limbs, tearing her flesh with her sharp shell, biting hard to expose her veins. Her stomach was in the sand in a matter of minutes. Her eyes never left the sky.
The birds finished their meal and flew back into the trees. Her body lay strewn across her makeshift shelter. She was still alive when they ate her eyes; her burnt skin cracking under their beaks.
It was months later that the island was spotted by a private plane scouting out locations for a film shoot. It caught their eye because the sunlight made the shattered plane and the bones shine in the sun. The pilot and passengers discovered her body and shelter. It was clear she had survived the crash but not much more. One of the passengers remarked at how he sometimes wished he was abandoned on a desert island. How much fun it would be to just be alone with the sky and the sand. He'd find a way to survive. He just knew he would.