I still have the first rejection letter I ever received from a publisher, nearly ten years ago now. I received it before I had the first clue what I was doing, how to pitch or write a book proposal, or even a good recipe at that. I still wrote the proposal and attempted rewording all of my grandmothers and great grandmothers recipes, which at that stage were still on individual note cards and bits of paper, stuffed into a shoe box that I would sort through periodically and add to a word document.
No shit my proposal was rejected. But the effort and guts it took for me to put something together (I’m pretty sure I googled ‘how to write a book proposal’), take a risk not just at being rejected, but also the possibility that it might actually be accepted, was a gutsy move on my part. It’s a accomplishment that I’m still proud of, so I hold onto to that piece of paper (I did dump the other ones that followed though- I’m not a masochist).
With the spirit of celebrating risk taking and rejection, I am proud to share a (losing) piece I submitted to a national newspaper’s travel writing competition. It didn’t win, especially when pitted against some pretty exotic adventures and beautifully succinct writing. BUT I wrote it, edited it, and then entered it. It’s a shame there was no rejection notification to accompany it because I would have saved that one too.
The Rituals of Autumn in Ohio
“I’ll take three apple fritters, two apple cider doughnuts and a Dutch apple pie please” I say, arms already heaving with bags of fresh local apples, farm made apple butter and locally dried jerky, a separate basket of bulbous gourds and a couple of pumpkins for carving at my feet.
I’ve spent the better part of an hour getting to Patterson’s Fruit farm, and another 20 minutes getting to the front of this bakery queue. Driving here, sat in the middle of the backseat of my parents car as if I were a teenager again, this time sandwiched between my two children, we spend the ride gawking out the window as we navigate the back roads of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The sidewalks disappear, white mailboxes stand at attention like soldiers at the end of each long narrow driveway and farmhouse-like estates are tucked into the trees, blending into the landscape beneath their textured canopy of rich colour.
When we arrive at the farm, a ritualistic destination of the surrounding locals during September and October, we find it covered with big wooden bins heaving with pumpkins and gourds, baskets stacked with round shiny apples, and a sprawl of large pregnant pumpkins, lining the grounds in every direction. The sun is warm on our faces as we pile out of the car, the thick sweet smell of apples hanging in the air. Groups of school children flutter by on a tour, while young families and older couples lazily wander around the grounds.
My children’s eyes light up, “Where are we?” they mouth, their eyes skipping from one place of interest to the next. A playground with giant tire swings likened to those of my own childhood (before someone deemed them ‘unsafe’) and miniature-size barns filled with hay is the first stop. We explore and play until we are unable to ignore the smells wafting out from the nearby bakery in the farmhouse shop, decorated with earth-toned ears of hanging dried Indian corn around the perimeter and filled with jugs of maple syrup from the farms arboretum, ground cornmeal for making breads and pancakes, fruits from the orchard, and baked goods. This farm is famous for its pies, fritters and doughnuts, all made in house with local products.
Behind the farm shop sit orchards, which we can just make out from the top of the gentle hill we are on. During peak season locals turn up in droves to hand pick apples and strawberries. It is through these fields to the orchards that the farm runs tractor-pulled hayrides each year, another Ohio autumn ritual. Given our time constraints and jet lag we have chosen the more low energy option, a porch swing, freshly popped popcorn, and of course the jewel toned view, which we take in from a wooden picnic table as we sit and enjoy the fresh baker’s treats while the children roam the open space with sticky fingers.