Yesterday, another one of my stories was rejected.
Unlike the last rejection, which, incidentally, also plummeted me into despair, this was, in my humble opinion, unaccounted for.
In my last rejection, I could see the flaws of my story, it’s inadequacy. I knew what I had done wrong, what I could have done better. But this time, the winning entries were placed on the website, for all to see, and I could not help thinking that compared to my story, they were dull and unoriginal, that I had been cheated of something, somehow.
Of course, the case could very well be that my story was terrible; but, deep down, I knew this was not so. This was the best piece I had written so far, the most strange and unusual; yet other stories, about heartbreak and loss, cliché and overdone (written by other teenagers my age, mind you, not adults) won over mine, some of them even poorly-written. And I could not help feeling bitter, deep inside, as a result.
For this incident only spawned more writhing tendrils of self-doubt, and brought the shadows at the back of my mind to its forefront. Perhaps I am overestimating myself, perhaps the story was no good after all, and I was simply delusional in thinking I had been discriminated against in any way.
Or not. It is strange, growing up as a racial minority in Australia – you are never sure, when you are treated unfairly, whether it was not personal, and you just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person, or if it was because you looked different, and they didn’t like that.
If your name sounded different, perhaps, on a short story entry.
I could not help noticing that every single one of the stories which did gain a place contained at least one character with vivid blue eyes, and names like “John Kent” and “Elizabeth Avalon”, and were written by “Edwards” and “Mullivans”, and that in my story the characters were ethnic, though it was not explicitly stated.
And I felt angry. Deeply, deeply angry, to my core, that my art, which is so great a part of me, would be disregarded this way due to discrimination. It was an anger many people who live in the Western world feel when they do not live up to the ideals of Whiteness in a society of white hegemony. A pale imitation of the kind of anger so many black men in America must feel when their people are shot, out of sheer racial prejudice, and are told their lives are less worthy. One that burns and flickers quietly, at their core. In Australia, the situation is much worse than in countries like the US, or even the UK – just turn on any television channel, and you are treated to a parade of advertisements and shows depicting smiling blonde-haired and blue-eyed individuals, with not a single racial minority among them, never mind the fact that 26% of our population was born overseas.
If I were to ask them outright, I am sure they would deny that they had disregarded my story on any racial grounds. With a smile, they would probably tactfully state that judges choose according to personal taste, and to try my best elsewhere. That perhaps it was the story and the writing itself which was not good enough in their eyes, rather than the writer.
But I know better. It is not a case of blaming my own failures on racial discrimination; this story, which I wrote, was original and special, and, well, better than the winning entries by the other young men and women. This might make me sound conceited, but I’m not: I simply know good art when I see it, and this time, probably for the first time, I did make good art.
It irks me, that’s all, that some middle-aged fellow who judged the stories is probably sitting around, enjoying his lunch in the sunshine, while I spent the last half an hour curled up in bed, in the darkness, quietly weeping tears of anger and tears of sadness.
But the sadness does not do anything. Emotions do not change things; only actions do. So rather than mope any further, after writing this post, I will expand upon and edit the rejected story, a lovely, little story, like a tiny star winking in my heart, which gave me such pleasure to write.
And once I have done that, edited and rewrote, over perhaps a period of a week or so, or more, I will send it out again, this time to somewhere else. I will not listen to my step-aunt, who, after reading one of my pieces, told me, very politely, I had printed it from somewhere on the internet, that it wasn’t mine at all because someone as young as me could not have written or imagined such things, let alone a female teenager of Asian descent.
Looking at history, were not the greatest writers and creative minds of our age Caucasion males and females, or, with the likes with Miyazaki and Ishiguoro, Asian males? There is no-one in the writing world who I can look up to, no Asian female writer who wrote strange, unusual fantasy stories, and gained a place in the upper echelons of literature. To some this might not be important; after all, our race is simply phenotype, a sign of genetic diversity; but it is very important to have role models in life, whether you are a shy girl living in Australia writing stories in her room or an actress in Hollywood carving a place for herself in cinema history.
But, that is okay: I shall be the first. This is not some false conception of grandiosity; I know it in my heart, know it as only as an expression of the universe can know things. If you believe it, you can achieve it, and I do believe.
And if my next piece is rejected also, whether on grounds of race or age or inadequacy, I will write another one, and edit it, and send it out again, and I will write another one, and edit it, and send it out again, and I will write and write and write, for writing is something I can do as long as I am thinking and breathing, it is my blood and my life, it is everything, and no-one can take that away from me.
My heart is hurt, deeply, deeply hurt, for injustice, especially racial injustice, pierces me more deeply than anything else. It seeps like black poison through my body, staining my organs and sinew. Sensitivity is a liability when it comes to dealing with failure, or poor treatment. But this is not over; I believe in myself, and I believe in the stories within me.
No matter how much other people may tear me down, strangers and relatives, or even the little black crow of self-doubt perched on my shoulder, I will keep on going, and in the end, I will triumph.
Those endure, succeed.
Wish me luck. And for those of you who do believe in me, whether you are reading this or not, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I won’t let you down.