Let’s hear it for Donal Ryan – The Latest Candidate for Patron Saint of Unpublished Authors
We’ve all got our favourite stories of authors that overcame crushing rejection to be finally vindicated by literary or commercial success. The website Literary Rejections documents hundreds of rejections that probably still keep publishers and agents up at night, pining for a second chance at Lolita (“I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.”), or even Chicken Soup for the Soul (“Anthologies don’t sell.”). Every aspiring author thinking about giving up should visit the site for solace and inspiration.
Now, into the Parthenon of the finally vindicated author, steps Irishman Donal Ryan, a 36 year old civil servant from Limerick who writes in his spare time. His manuscript for The Spinning Heart was rejected 47 times, and that was his second book, the first was probably filed away in a sock drawer somewhere. According to the Irish Independent, his manuscript was only noticed after an intern pulled it out of the slush pile at Dublin’s Lilliput Press and “raved about it” to the boss, Andrew Farrell. Farrell thought enough about it to make an offer, and, after Lilliput agreed to publish it, Doubleday Ireland wanted in on the action. Donal went from sitting by the window, waiting for the postman to arrive dragging the usual canvas sack of rejections and bills, to having a co-publishing deal with two respected publishers. In 2012, Lilliput published The Spinning Heart in hardback, and Doubleday did the same in paperback.
The Shining Heart went on to win Ireland’s Bord Gáis Energy Book of the Year prize, and last month it was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Longlist in this case is a bit of a misnomer, because the Mar Booker list has only 13 titles.
In an interview for last year’s Dublin Book Festival, Donal mused about the best and worst things about writing. He said, “The worst thing about writing, so far, is rejection. Months and years of unread manuscripts; unanswered letters; emails floating ignored in the ether; crushed hopes; politely delivered heartbreak.”
Now, doesn’t that ring a bell? If you’re not up to fifty rejections, you’re not even trying.