All of you know I'm a show-off. After all, my 'Moments of Pride' button on the blog is so filled to the brim with self- congratulatory posts (Me! Me! Me!) that I had to convert it into a drop-down menu linking to three separate pages (Me! Me! Me!, More Me! Me! Me! and Best of Me! Me! Me!)!

Anyway, I know I make a huge hue and cry over every short-story that gets published in print or media form.  I get a lot of 'anything you write gets published' comments too.
That's flattering to hear... it's also false. This is something I think every person who is scared of entering their stories/poems in contests (for fear of rejection) should hear frankly.

For every story that somehow sneaks past the editor's eyes and makes it into print, I do get thrice as many rejection letters from contests and publishers, literally from across the globe. (Yes, I am an international reject.) For those of you who are wondering, most of the rejection letters are very polite. I presume the editors are forced by their upbringing to not insult me and my heritage for the kind of written horse-manure I send them. But the rejection letter that I got recently is the one which inspired me to write this post.



The contest was for an international magazine with a specific themed issue. I had sent my entry and was smoking a Cuban cigar and sipping wine while in my silk bathrobe as I waited for them to send me the obvious "You are too good. We are blessed to have your story in our magazine. Can we change our magazine to "Who da Man? Roshan da Man!" All hail Roshan's story!" letter.
So imagine my shock when I got the rejection slip instead. What absurdity? Me? Rejected? Blasphemy! The editor was kind enough to inform me that I had actually made the final round of selections. But it was her next sentence that really hit me (and my ego) for a googly:

"Ultimately what got the story rejected was the inconsistency of the verb tense... In places you switched from present to perfect in the same paragraph, and so we had to reject the story..."

I wanted to be indignant. I mean, that is how we are supposed to react as Indians when confronted by our basic fallacies, isn't it? But the truth is, I was actually giggling as I read her words.
Someone needed to remind me that winning a contest doesn't make me better in English. More crucially, I needed someone to remind me that I REALLY DO NOT REMEMBER the basics of English grammar.
I did immediately go online and read up on the different kinds of English tenses again. And I did go through the present stories I am writing and give them a good re-upholstery ensuring they have at least some semblance of decent grammar.

The point I want to make is - don't be disheartened if your best story didn't get selected in a contest. It just means that the judges found one that was better than yours. (or in my case, it just means that the judges were bribed by 'em cheatin' smily scumbag winners!) See if you can find out what went wrong or where you can improve that story or the next one you try. Have faith in your abilities, take a chance and keep on entering contests. Because the joy of seeing your name in print will be something you can cherish for a lifetime.

Then again, I will admit I'm petrified right now. I jump up in fear every time there is a knock on the door. (No, it's not because I saw the Conjuring.)
I keep expecting to see my old English teacher at the doorway and have my ears tweaked by her as she informs me that I have dishonoured all her years of hard work and so she's changing my grade in third standard to FAIL. Thus, any degrees I may have attained after that (minor things like MBBS and MD) are all void and from tomorrow, I have to report back to school with my tiffin box and water bottle.
Sigh. I have weird nightmares.

On a lighter note (after all this seriousness, you see), if you want to know how I initially wanted to react while reading the rejection letter, I would like to redirect you to one of Malayalam cinema's more iconic moments. For the non-Mallus in the crowd, let me give you some context on what you are about to see before the 'English begins':

The two key characters here are the driver Mohanlal (white lungi man) and his master, the more affluent NRI from America, Srinivasan (red). To secretly observe a girl he wants to marry, Srinivasan forces his driver to switch places with him when they go to see the girl. That plan goes spectacularly awry when the driver falls in love with the girl and convinces everyone he is indeed the coveted NRI that the girl's parents are seeking. To prove his identity, Srinivasan tries to show that Mohanlal does not even know the basics of English grammar (and American geography). Poor guy had no idea what was coming.





P.S. For those who are not afraid of admitting that, like me, they don't remember the difference between present progressive and past perfect progressive tenses, this is the page I read. Also, if you see my English teacher hunting for me, tell her I'm out of station. That I'm in Washington DC. Or Miami beach.
God knows why I thought of those places just now.



65 Comments

vandana sharma said…
:-) I should keep that in mind too because I am one of the worse writers when it comes to grammar.
Kalpana Solsi said…
We all make mistakes in grammar. To err is human.
beingFab said…
Ah, the good ol' 'kilometres and kilometres' dialog. Classics never die :-)
Sunitha said…
That movie scene is class.. :) In these days of degenerating diplomacy and decreasing decency.. Very nice post...and My English teacher does read my blogs and is kind enough to let me know when my Haikus aren't Haikus because the syllable count went wrong :D.
Aayushi Mehta said…
As another doctor who likes to write, I could identify well with this post! When we (people from other professions) try to make our place in the already very competitive world of published writing, I think we lose out most on not having been professionally trained in English language. Grammar, punctuation and rules in poetry are always problematic for me as well, and I wish many a times that I could do an additional course in writing, just to fine-tune all these small silly mistakes I would keep making otherwise.
Nisha said…
It takes some effort to write again after getting rejected. I haven't been able to write a story after the Harper Collins contest (not that I wrote many before that!)
Also, my grammar sucks big time. I didn't have great teachers, I haven't tried any online courses, I don't read much, I am toooo low on confidence, etc etc. Basically I blame myself for everything that happens around me.
God, I need to win something like right now!!!!
Shilpa Garg said…
Oh these tenses can give us a lot of tense moments!! :-?
maithili said…
I think I have to dig up my old books and dust them and read that good old Wren and Martin :P
Seriously tenses were made in English grammar to identify the genuine English people from wannabe Indian-English bloggers. I was laughing at the part in brackets where u mentioned u were an international reject. Atleast u r international. I am a major LOCAL reject wonly...u know what I mean ;((
Anyway as I read through this I was repeatedly reminded of the How many kilometres from Washington D.C to Miami beach ...and as I scrolled down....here is the video!!! That was a classic coincidence !
Good you took rejection in the right spirit...I for one was moping around for a day or two. These tenses are a major pain....
Rachna said…
It is actually quite true. I keep going back and checking tenses myself. After all we studied grammar a long time ago. And in my work as a professional content writer, I write for the native speaker. Don't want them thinking that the basics are not taken care of :). As far as rejection is concerned, it is the best approach to have a learning from failure.
Meety said…
These tenses get me tensed... poor old Eng teachers.. they are sure to tweak my ears in case they read my blogs.... hence I keep it away from most of the chinmates ;-)
Renuka said…
Doctor's are notorious for their bad English. spelling & handwriting..so Roshan, you are an exception! In my case, I often get praised for my English....rejection is because of something else .....boo hooooo!!
You are on the right path once you know where you lack, so grab that Wren & Martin. One more point, a point I make quite often, these contests which are conducted, the winning entries or shortlisted ones in some are so bad..grammatically, tense-wise, English wise. evn story wise.you wonder how they made it through. And what is the criteria? I would not like to be declared a winner in such contest..so go for the good ones ONLY. You owe it to yourself to compete with the best, not for the sake of .."I too won..."
Aathira Nair said…
There are times when I see that my grammar is terrible. Speaking or writing in English is something we take for granted, but the grammar is plain difficult.
Renuka said…
Those are not grammatical errors in the post..but typo errors...

evn...even

a winner in such contests:-#
Sumana said…
Wish your English teacher too is in Miami beach , so that you can have educative vacation :P:D..
jaish_vats said…
Your Moments of pride entries do leave me in awe but I am more in appreciation of your persistent efforts Roshan :) btw what movie is that ? Btw if there is poetic justice there should be grammatical justice too eh ? :)
We all should really. We've all lost touch.
Ya, I know. That is what I tell myself.
Seriously, it never gets old for me - scenes like this :D
That movie and that era of comedies was a class apart.
And well, I can barely manage sentences. I doubt if I want to even consider trying haikus ! :o
I don't know about an additional course but I do read up now again on basic grammar via the internet. And seriously, years of writing basic phrases in case sheets and single syllable words in prescriptions has really eroded my English, I feel now.
Arrey, one Harper Collins and you gave up. Go look at your pages in Indiblogger and just count the prizes there. Don't you think they mean something ? cheer

As for blame, well, I used to do that too. I've stopped whipping myself these days... no point in it. Just have fun.
So true. So true. ;(
Wow. I forgot about that altogether. Wren and Martin !
In these kind of matters (rejection, humiliation, potta tharum), i usually work at international levels only.

And hehe.. good to see that great minds think alike. This was a scene I would revisit many times during my PG courses when I was depressed, just to feel good again =))
I have a folder filled with rejection notices.. now it doesn't even disturb me in the slightest.
Just keep writing. You will hit the jackpot sooner or later. :d
I have frankly lost touch with all those forms of tenses beyond the obvious three. Even while I was reading the letter, I was thinking "What on Earth is a perfect tense?" :-d
Rasika Madam and Prameela Madam are going to kill me @-)
I agree Renuka. Just getting chosen for the sake of it does not matter. The best editing experience I had was for a story in an American e-zine, Crimson Fog. We must have sent a dozen letters back and forth - correcting, editing, re-editing, working out chinks in the storyline. It was laborious work but it felt good to see so much effort going into it.
You've hit the nail on the head, Aathira. Speaking/Writing/watching English movies and sitcoms, we have gotten used to a certain style. But when it comes to putting it into words on paper with all the grammar and tenses in place... oh boy! [-(
:-) We really need to make a better effort
Thanks Jaish. That page was non-existent till the end of 2011. Everything started from there.
The movie is an old Malayalam movie called "Mazha Peyyunnu, Maddalam Kottunnu". It is one awesome comedy movie which had me laughing right till the end. =))
Oh no! ESCAPE ! ESCAPE ! :o
Wisdom in the garb of humour!!! Cool!

I must agree that i too make lot of goof-ups as well.

The very first thing the post reminded me is of,

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”― Sylvia Plath
Roshni AaMom said…
Well, you really have a very good attitude not to take rejection like this in good humour! :)

Roshni
http://www.indianamericanmom.com
Bhavya said…
LOL! Loved how you took the rejection letter not so personally. Well, honestly I'd be disheartened to get a rejection letter, maybe that explains why I don't send out anything I write :p
Ruch said…
Ah well ! I better learnt to mind my tenses !
Bhavana Nissima said…
what? seriously you were rejected for grammer? I shudder. I don't give a darn to it. I have people making snide remarks on the poor structure of my sentences. I will never get published. Bawl:(:(:(
In btw, that Mohanlal scene was a riot--have missed seeing a Mohanlal film in ages...
A good and wise saying, no doubt. I definitely have lost touch with my grammar. Need to go back to basics.
Worst case scenario, you never get published. It's not the end of the world now, is it :)) ? But if you never try, you will never know.
Don't be. Take it in the spirit it is intended and keep on writing. It is worth the effort to read a few rejection letters just to finally get that one "We would like to publish your story" letter.
I definitely have already forgotten them after a week itself. My English teachers are going to kill me !
If I can get published with my 'kilometres and kilometres in this degenerating decency' English, you can definitely get published (o)
Just take part. That was the whole point... to make the fear of rejection less scary.
Mohanlal movies today rarely have that touch of humour as they did in the past. You aren't missing much.


Anonymous said…
That's a good one. A morale booster for me if anything. :d
and loved having a good laugh at the end - courtesy the iconic scene, if I may say so.. :>)

-vaisakh
The whole point of this was to share my failures so others know its okay... it really is. Just keep writing.
Priya K said…
Thanks for sharing it with us Roshan.. I am taking the lesson home with me that one should not get disheartened by failure and that one should try again and again.. About grammar I am still in the learning phase and will surely look for grammatical mistakes if any before posting.. Your post reminds me of my childhood when I secretly gave one of my poems to the newspaper but it didn't get published.. I was really disheartened.. your post reminds me of how one should keep going on I get inspired each time with your writing and your success story..!
Purba said…
Perhaps the judges were too ignorant to recognize your genius! :p
Saru Singhal said…
First I was laughing while reading the post. And secondly, never ever take contests seriously. About grammar, it has evolved so much over the years. Sometimes, well it is true for me, I write in a language which is comprehensible to masses. As most of us who blog are not from literature background, mistakes are bound to be there.

BTW, the smileys on top of comment box looks like telling not to write. The one which is shaking his head looks like that of an editor. :P
Exactly. Keep writing. If you didn't succeed in one contest, it doesn't necessarily mean your story/poem was bad. It could be any number of factors - a really good story won, the mood of the judge at that point of time. The same story may win the next contest.
You alone know the truth :))
I feel our grammar has really 'devolved' with time :-d

As for the smileys... well, you are focusing on the shaking head. I always see that guy in the second row with a knife as the editor :-t
Sumana said…
one more comment : Was thinking whether it really matters when readers are able to get the gist of the post and are enjoying it .. :)
K.Mathur, KayEm said…
Really enjoyed your post. (Tch! No subject in my sentence.) Honestly, though, your grammar sounds fine to me. Am heading over with great anticipation to read one of your short stories. BTW, I, too, have lost a couple of contests recently, Harper Collins' "Get Published" being one. The disappointment is crushing but lasts till the next topic you feel you absolutely must write on comes along.
I would like to think that is the most important factor and that in doing so, people will forgive a few errors here and there.
Thanks :D
True. Even I didn't make the cut for the HC contest but I carry on, hopeful that I can fool some other editor in the future !
Rohan said…
I can totally relate to this post! So what I do is send the draft to some of my friends to do the editing for me! ;)
:D Home Critics before national critics, eh?
Saru Singhal said…
Hehehe...:)
Anonymous said…
Tell me about it! My novel has been rejected by so many publishers that I have lost count. There are a handful left who are yet to reply. And here I was thinking that I wrote a masterpiece. :|
One. Remember that number. You just need to get one publisher to accept you. Besides, these publishers have rejected everyone from JK Rowling to Stephen King... you're in great company and you have a great story to tell when your autobiography comes out. 8-)
Haddock said…
The best part I liked in that clip is "....kilometers and kilometers....." Such fluent acting by the two.
As for grammar, it was never my strong point in school, but I could always speak a few lines in English without a (grammatical) mistake. :)
That clip always makes me laugh =)) even after so many years. The whole thing is a single scene from the moment Srinivasan steps in till he is 'sent to outhouse!'
Binu Thomas said…
Very funny way to publish a rejection post doctor ;) And you are right, people shy away from contests mainly because of the fear of rejections.

PS: I love the clip and also the movie. I have it with me and watch it as and when I want to laugh :) I literally pause and laugh!
Binu, felt the need to share this so others who were intimidated by rejection would get over it.

And yes, I do used to do the exact same thing during my pg days.. with this same clip among many others..