jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

100 Rejections

the dorkiest school photo of any ever. Jennie, in 7th grade. Complete with a fishbone braid, a bow tie and a striped man's sweater.

Jennie, 7th grade
You’d reject me, too.
July 2015

My sister had a brilliant idea for my nieces’ thirteenth birthdays. What do you give young women who have pretty much everything they need?

Words of wisdom.

My sister asked that all the important women in their lives send encouragement, favorite memories and words of advice for growing into a young woman, the things we wish we knew when we were their age.

I sent Beautiful Woman by Maya Angelou, memories of my sister growing up and the best advice I could think of: when given an opportunity, take it, and when you face rejection (which you undoubtedly will) say thank you, and value that rejection, because now you’re one step closer to success. Collect one hundred rejections.

I always cherished rejection, but in a bad way. I held them dear, tucked in my pocket throughout the day. I polished them with my thumb. I looked at those rejections like undeniable truths.

Like the time I found the note sent between the mean girl and my sixth grade best friend that had been intentionally left on my desk. I got to read what my best friend really thought of me, which included the word retarded, and not in a good way. Beyond sixth grade harsh, am I right?

Or the time in eighth grade when the girl with the Rolex and the perfectly feathered hair called me on the phone to tell me that they didn’t want me sitting with them at lunch. Or ever, as it turns out. And so I stood alone on the playground for who-knows-how-long rubbing those rejections tucked away in my pocket.

In college it was the boys. Like the time my first major boyfriend broke up with me from camp in a letter. Because they didn’t allow phone calls from camp. Although they did allow college boys to date high-school-age junior counselors, apparently. Or the time I flashed a boy right before he broke up with me, to lighten the mood you know? It went like this, we need to have a serious conversation, here’s my boobs, we’re breaking up.

I remember that exact moment. I remember looking at him as he spoke blah, blah, blah, sorrowful words of breaking up, and thinking to myself how I was going to tell my best friend about this (and yes, I did eventually find a best friend in middle school, one who I love like a sister to this day). I would tell her that breaking up felt like dressing to go to the beach, only to find myself in a bikini standing in two feet of snow, facing a man in an eskimo parka with fur mittens.

That’s what rejection feels like. Pasty me, awkward and white in a bikini, standing in a blizzard. Nothing but bone-chilling cold.

As Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman, “the bad stuff is easier to believe.” And I believed these rejections. I would guess that most of us do.

Winter break my senior year of college my mother suggested I send out letters to every independent high school that looked interesting to ask for a teaching job. Because I had no teaching experience or education classes, of course.

And so I wrote 100 letters of inquiry and mailed them to 100 schools. I hung about eighty rejection letters and rejection postcards on the wall in the hallway right outside my dorm room. Including the letter from L. Ron Hubbard. (Perhaps I’d cast my net a bit too wide.) The other nineteen schools I never heard from.

And the one interview I had? I got the job!

It was my first job, which lead to a string of great teaching jobs and me finding I had a passion (dare I say, a gift?) for teaching. Because it only takes one acceptance.

Ninety-nine rejections and one acceptance.

It only took me one best friend to get me through the remainder of middle school and beyond (although thankfully I’ve somehow made a rich, gluttonous pile of friends over the years), it took only one amazing man to be my soulmate amidst a sea of ne’er-do-wells and assholes, and in the dance remix that was infertility it took only one (okay, four actually) good egg(s) to create the family of our dreams.

And so now, as I head into a new year, a new school year anyway, one in which my youngest child is beginning kindergarten, I am planning to take it upon myself to follow my own advice. Mama needs 100 rejections.

I’m going to follow in the lead of some of my favorite bloggers and I’m going to send my writing to some places. I’m going to write that book and get rejected by a pile of publishers and editors. I’m going to look for some galleries, some juried art exhibitions, see if any public spaces will take an application for a large scale print show.

I’m not alone in this. I look at my friends and think about the ways they’re putting themselves out there. Whether applying for that job, or asking for that promotion, asking that guy out (if the soulmate thing hasn’t worked out), trying out for the old lady tennis league. Whatever. We’re going for it.

I’m going to be rejected. Or at least I’m going to try. Because when I try for those 100 rejections, what’s the worst thing that could possibly happen?


Making a go of it July 2015

Making a go of it
July 2015

ADDENDUM: Between writing and editing this post I sent a little something to the awesome peeps at Mamalode and Scary Mommy. And you know what? BOOM! BOOM! That’s what. My first two acceptances!! See that? More info to follow…

30 comments on “100 Rejections

  1. lingeringvisions by Dawn
    August 4, 2015


  2. Matt
    August 4, 2015

    Oh, you.

    You’re going to have to venture outside of writing if you want to pile up some rejections, Mrs. Groeber.

    Just saying.

    • jgroeber
      August 4, 2015

      Such a sweet fine compliment. That one I will put in my pocket. (Funny how the theme sort of dovetails with the thoughts from your last post: reinvention, connecting in new ways, on-line dating etc. 😉 Just saying.)

  3. Burns the Fire
    August 4, 2015

    Go, Jen!!

    I can pave a road with the rejections I’ve received, and on most days, am grateful for them all.

    • jgroeber
      August 4, 2015

      Where were you when I was in 7th grade? That’s what I want to know! I coulda used your advice way back then. (So glad to have your presence now.)

  4. lafriday
    August 4, 2015

    Oh, Jen: you are fast becoming an old friend (I love the way you write). The timing of this post is perfect as I am crafting one with similar intention, but do not feel nearly as brave as you. I am talking myself into the life I dream (and started my novel and the children’s book I’ve been envisioning for the past 20 years). I am SO ecstatic for you! Boom, indeed!

    • jgroeber
      August 4, 2015

      Ha! Look at you doing big dreams stuff. I love that. Why not us? Why not? Might as well be brave. What’s the worst they can say? Exactly.
      (And a rousing YOU GO GIRL!)

  5. Steph Kasten
    August 4, 2015

    Boom Bada Boom! So happy to hear this fine news, and always appreciate your words of wisdom.

    • jgroeber
      August 4, 2015

      Look at you getting excited for me, gorgeous girl. It’s just two posts (she shyly drags her toe along the ground.)
      What I wouldn’t give for an in-person high five and a toast over the best Crazy Roll ever…

  6. Margie Sweeney
    August 4, 2015

    Love this post!

    • jgroeber
      August 4, 2015

      So good to see you here! And thank you. We all need a little extra oomph some days.

  7. bumbismom
    August 4, 2015

    Awesome! Can’t wait to hear more.

    • jgroeber
      August 28, 2015

      Yay! Three weeks later and the posts are finally out there (and I’m finally replying to comments!) Thanks for your comment.

  8. Amy Reese
    August 4, 2015

    Awesome, Jen! Congrats on your acceptances. I’m not surprised one bit! What an enlightening post and clear way of looking at things. I need the reminder right now…it just takes one. Great post, as always. 🙂

    • jgroeber
      August 28, 2015

      Thanks, Amy. I keep having to remind myself. I’m now at three yes, two reject. And with each rejection I have to buck up and remember that I WANT rejections. But that I don’t have to read anything into them. It ain’t easy.
      Thanks for always being so supportive. I love seeing you here.

      • Amy Reese
        August 28, 2015

        Oh, you’re sweet. Sorry, I’ve been a bit absent. My son’s homework is kicking my butt. The homeschool to school transition has been a rocky one, but I’m hopeful.

        Keep up the great writing. You’re a wonderful writer and always inspire me. It will come together! I need to put myself out there, too. Right now, I’m just trying to keep up a writing schedule.

  9. laineyloveslife
    August 4, 2015

    Boom! Congrats on 1 or 2 acceptance out of the many rejections! 🙂 The only way to go is forward! 🙂 ✽_✽ ❤︎ laineyloveslife

    • jgroeber
      August 28, 2015

      Aw, thanks! I just keep plugging along. I’m actually glad that I put it into writing. 100 Rejections. Putting it out there makes receiving them easier. Ha!

  10. Jennifer Berney
    August 5, 2015

    I can’t wait to see your writing tour the internet! And this is one of my favorite-ever posts. I’ve done lots of thinking on rejection (I collect them too!), but your point about “it only takes one” is a revelation to me.

    • jgroeber
      August 28, 2015

      Know that you’re one of my inspirations, Jenn. Truly.
      I keep thinking of you and your marriage cabin. Hoping all is well.

  11. Bean
    August 5, 2015

    I love this! What a great way to think about this. No doubt about it, I have learned more from my rejections than my successes. We only come out stronger. Looking forward to hearing about your “one” and the others along the way.

    • jgroeber
      August 28, 2015

      Thank you, Bean! You know you’re the safety blanket that got me through high school and then all those lousy college boys. Beans ARE really good for your heart, apparently. xoxo

  12. Dawn Quyle Landau
    August 6, 2015

    You do know I adore you, right? Each post is just more wonderful… As I lie with a yummy grand baby boy on my chest- glad ur keeping me company!😊💓

    • jgroeber
      August 28, 2015

      You and that yummy grand baby. I am so honored that I was there, too. What a delicious picture.

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