The Simon Cowells in your life

Jennifer Hudson is a Dreamgirl in the movies, and in her real life. She’s getting knock-out reviews for her co-starring role in the movie Dreamgirls with Beyonce Knowles, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy. She beat out 782 other singer/actresses for the role of Effie White. She’s already winning awards and is expected to be nominated for the Oscars. And this all happened after she was voted off the American Idol TV show, with Simon Cowell telling her she was out of her league.

She didn’t let it crush her. On The View on Monday, Hudson said Simon’s words were a push to prove him wrong. “I take everything as a lesson,” she said.

As writers, we all have Simons in our lives. Contest judges, agents, editors, critique partners. And it doesn’t stop after we publish. Even Stephen King and Nora Roberts get bad reviews. Even they had rejections before selling, with editors who didn’t think their work was good enough to buy.

The difference between Stephen King and a writer you never heard of is that he persevered and the other writer–who might have been just as talented–quit. A published writer in my local chapter critiqued for a newbie who swore she had tough skin. Instead she dropped out of the chapter and stopped writing, convinced she had no talent. But the truth was she had no grit.

My former CP, Karin Tabke, always used to write “Rip it up, ladies” when she sent us a sub. She wanted to know what needed to be fixed. And now she’s published. Anyone who knows Karin will tell you she has a lot of grit.

This verse from These Days by Rascal Flatts is about the one who made it and the one who gave up:

Yeah, life throws you curves
But you learned to swerve
Me I swung and I missed
And the next thing ya know
I’m reminiscin’ dreaming old dreams
Wishing on wishes
That you would be back again

Life throws all of us curves. I had a curve thrown at me on Tuesday. I’m not Pollyanna. I felt crappy for a couple hours. Then I became determined to make my book better, more curve proof. That same night I wrote a much stronger beginning than the old one. Like Karin, I’m grateful I found out what was wrong so I could fix it (although the person delivering it was more of a Randy/Paula mix than Simon). Like Jennifer Hudson, it was a lesson for me.

I don’t think any of the people who read Magical Musings will miss one swing and then give up. I think you’ll all come back swinging again.

A while back I wrote a poem, The Rejection Letter Blues, calling for chocolate and booze. I did have chocolate on Tuesday. Then I emailed my CPs for sympathy. And then I wrote the new beginning.

How do you deal with the Simon Cowell encounters in your life?

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32 Responses to The Simon Cowells in your life

  1. Liz Kreger says:

    WONDERFUL post, Edie! Thank you for a reminder that perseverence is one of the keys to being published. Talent has to be there, of course, but you also need to roll with the punches and come back up swinging.

    I’ve developed a tough skin over the past few years. You have to and you cannot take everything personally. Maybe your book is great, but the market just isn’t ready for it, or the agent you subbed to just had a fight with his/her significant other, wasn’t feeling well, or saw one too many submissions of your genre. Its all selective. The important thing is that you pick yourself up, dust off the rejection and take another swing at it.

  2. Kathy Calarco says:

    I love the anology, Edie! Using Simon Cowell as an example is what I do, too. Simon is my favorite judge on American Idol, although, I don’t always agree with him. (Is it really necessary to tell someone they sound like every lounge act he ever heard?)

    Anyway, he keeps it real because he reminds us of the subjectivity of all art forms. He thought Jennifer Hudson was “out of her league,” yet, she didn’t let him stop her. (I wonder if he meant that she’d be better off finding something better than being the next AI. hmmm….)

    I think we need Simom Cowells to keep that top skin layer strong as armour.

    The first really horrible contest judge I encountered nearly crushed my dreams. I coped by sharing my pain with other writers. They brushed me off and stood be straight again. I also sent a response to the contest judge (she signed the form, which I respect to this day.)

    That was a year ago. I learned, I lived, and moved on. I think it’s very important to share your pain.

  3. I love this post, too, Edie. I once read that Elvis Presley took part in a talent contest and came second. No one remembers the person who came first, LOL. You take your knock, you rub the bit that hurts, and then you get up and keep going.

  4. Edie Ramer says:

    Liz, I recently watched Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith, a true story of a man (formerly from Milwaukee) who persevered through tremendous odds and hardships to reach his goal of becoming a stockbroker at an elite firm. He went on to form his own successful firm. At the end of the movie, people in the theater clapped. I think inside all of us is the feeling that if we believe in ourselves, we can do it, no matter what Simon Cowell or his ilk say.

    I don’t know why some people give up and others keep on going. Maybe the ones who give up didn’t believe enough.

  5. Edie Ramer says:

    Kath, the first thing I do–well, second, after the chocolate–is write my CPs. The first bad contest critique stings the most. The next one won’t be as bad. Your skin toughened.

    Simon’s my favorite AI judge too. He makes me laugh, and so many times he’s right on–although not always, as Jennifer Hudson proved. And even if he is right, the singer can take the experence and get better, even if it’s just to make him eat his words.:twisted:

  6. Edie Ramer says:

    Michelle, I never knew that about Elvis. I love this information. We’ll have to put that in our project somewhere. :mrgreen:

  7. Rebecca says:

    Loved this post and the poem, Edie!

    Your story of rewriting the beginning reminded me of the first time I sent one of my opening scene darlings to two multi-published writers for a critique. Oh, I was just certain they were going to wonder why I wasn’t already published, genius that I was. 🙂 Imagine my shock and dismay when my baby came back to me all battered and bleeding. What did they mean I used too many descriptors? How dare they say I was trying too hard! The nerve of them cutting out 25 of my favorite adjectives! That scene was gold I tell you, GOLD.

    Well, after I nursed my bruised ego for a little while, I went back and reread the two paragraphs they’d kindly rewritten to show me how it ought to look. Hmm… maybe it *was* a little tighter. Maybe I didn’t need 350 adjectives after all…

    And you know what? To this day I still make some of those same mistakes, but I wouldn’t have known it if they hadn’t been kind and brave enough to point it out. Sometimes it takes as much courage to give someone you know and like an honest critique as it does to recover from one. And if it came from someone who was just being rude? Well, we’ve got great examples all around us from those who never gave up, and thanks for the reminder, Edie.

  8. Lynne says:

    I’m sorry you had a rough spot earlier this week, Edie. It sounds like you’ve handled it well, though, and I would’ve expected no less. I believe you have it in you to see this through and keep going.

    I don’t watch American Idol and probably never will, because it sounds, umm, kind of awful to me. I can take a tough critique as well as anyone, but when it comes to meanness for entertainment’s sake, you can pretty much count me out.

    But then, I’m weird that way. 🙂

  9. Edie Ramer says:

    LMAO, Becky. I always tell everyone how tight I write, and I was shocked about a month ago when Michelle told me that I needed to tighten up my first pages. And she didn’t just tell me, she showed me what I should cut.

    Thank God for CPs.

  10. May says:

    I haven’t yet met a critique I can’t take.

    What I have met are critiques I don’t know how to fix.

  11. LaDonna says:

    Edie, the examples you used were great! I remember The Nora commenting about her first novel with a Spanish guy hero. She said it was pitiful! If someone can start like that, zoom to the top I’m a believer. I guess it’s like anything, the more you do it, the better you get. Or in Nora’s case, the greater you get. 🙂

  12. Marcia says:

    I’m like you, Edie. Give me a few hours to encase myself in tears and heartache, but then I sit my butt back in the chair with some freshly baked Nestle’s Tollhouse cookies and a tall glass of milk. 🙂 My fingers flow like nothing happened and I keep on keeping on. I have to remind myself that commiserating won’t get the book written.

    Taking criticism is a part of the job. I dealt with my worse criticism about a month ago. It still stings and nearly brings me to tears when I think about it, but at the same time it’s very complicated, so I won’t go into details. However, it made me think a LOT about writing. By giving into the cold-hearted criticism, I’ll never get the chance to prove anyone wrong. And I LOVE proving people wrong. 😈

  13. You do write tight, Edie. Just not that time :).

  14. This is fab. Thanks so much, Edie.

  15. Lindsay says:

    Very interesting topic. I’m a total newbie as I’m still working on my first novel, so I have yet to experience official rejections (which I know will come). Last night I counted the pages I have written so far, and was so excited just to know how much is there. Right now, for me, it’s not about getting published but just about writing. And in a way I think we all need to keep an element of that in the back of our minds. When I hear about people giving up because of a rejection, I can’t believe that they truly love to write or they would do it regardless. Am I totally off base?

  16. Edie Ramer says:

    Lynne, I go down but then I bounce back.:wink: I think there’s something inspiring about all those hopeful singers getting up in front of the judges and the cameras. It’s kind of like what we do, only they’re watched by millions of people.:shock:

  17. Edie Ramer says:

    May, that’s why it’s so great having CPs who tell you how they think it should be fixed. Although sometimes they don’t know how to fix it either. I recently reread Donald Maass’s WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK, after Michelle reminded me about it. What I learned from was probably in my subconscious when I wrote my new beginning on Tuesday. Without it, I might not have written it.

  18. Edie Ramer says:

    LaDonna, that’s a great story. I never heard that about Nora’s first hero. Hey, maybe you’ll be the next Nora.:wink:

  19. Edie Ramer says:

    Marcia, there are no freshly baked cookies in my house, although I might be able to manage Tollhouse. 😀

    Hugs on the criticism. You said “cold-hearted” and I think that’s the difference between Simon and Randy–and even Paula. Jennifer Hudson proved Simon was wrong. You’ll do the same thing. Go, Marcia, go!

  20. Edie Ramer says:

    Stacie and Michelle, a big SMOOCH to both of you.

    We need a kissing smiley.:grin:

  21. Edie Ramer says:

    When I hear about people giving up because of a rejection, I can’t believe they truly love to write or they would do it regardless.

    Lindsay, you have it so right. I think this subject is big enough for a blog all by itself. With all the rejection in this business, you have to love writing to keep on doing it.

  22. Karin says:

    I LOVE SIMON!!! Simon is necessary! Paula and all her sugary compliments gets on my nerves. Being told you are good when you need improvement serves no one but the contestant’s ego. That will get you far in a cut throat industry. Simon cuts to the chase and tells it like it is. While his delivery leaves much to be desired, his opinion for the most part doesn’t. The guy is in the biz and can spot talent when he sees it. It’s how he made his gazillions.
    And quite frankly, at the time he nixed Jennifer Hudson, she *was* out of her league. She hung in there, improved and then voila, the rest as they say is history. Just because your level isn’t where it needs to be at one point doesn’t mean it never will. But you must not walk around with blinders on!
    I have a writer friend who just flat out refuses to accept her writing deficiencies. So long as she says “It’s how I write and what I write,” she will not sell. She has stagnated and refuses to do what is necessary to get out of the rut. One must constantly grow and evolve to succeed.
    I am anxiously awaiting American Idol.

  23. Edie Ramer says:

    Karin, I agree with Simon most of the time, and he’s actually my favorite judge. For me, it’s an entertainment value, a snarky pleasure.

    Simon has recently taken back his words about Jennifer Hudson being out of her league. She lost on a Barry Manilow week, and her voice doesn’t fit Barry Manilow. That would be like MaryJanice Davidson writing a Linda Howard book.

  24. Edie Ramer says:

    Karin, I forgot to add that there’s always room to get better. My goal is to make every book better than the previous one.

  25. Zoe Winters says:

    kickass blogpost. I love this. I don’t want to necessarily be the writer who “gets lucky” early. I want to be the writer that had people say: “you completely suck” so I can come back later and go…”um, yeah, ok, well look at what I just did.”

    I know it’s a bit childish but to me one of the most kickass character traits are people who look at rejection, take what they can learn from it (critiques of the actual work) and then who can look at the editorial “you suck” comments when they come by or the “you’ll never make it” comments and just go “pffft whatever.”

    And Lindsay I’m not sure if all people who give up give up writing altogether. They might just give up trying to get it published. I really believe if you’re a writer, you’re a writer. That’s not an award or title bestowed upon you by an outside source, it’s who you are because of what you do.

    I think a real writer, always comes back to it. They might not keep trying to get published if they can’t handle the rejection but they’ll always write SOMETHING. Because that urge doesn’t just go away.


  26. Edie Ramer says:

    LOLOL, Zoe. It’s too late for me to get lucky early, but I wouldn’t have minded. Don’t we all want to go “pffft” to the people who told us that? Or are we two the only ones? 😈

    I think you’re right about people writing for themselves. I have a former CP who does that. I last saw her at the little cafe in Barnes & Noble cafe, writing away. She wasn’t sending anything out, it was just for herself. More power to her.

  27. Hi all,

    I am a first time poster here but a long time lurker (thanks for recommending SAVE THE CAT — loved it!)

    Great post!! I too think the Simon Cowells of the world are a necessary part of life. Rejection is a part of life. Three days ago I had a health scare that didn’t go away for 19 hours until test results said everything was okay. It really put into perspective the fact that I sold my first manuscript two months ago. I still have so much to learn and I know I have more rejections in my future…and that’s okay. I am still here and I am still swinging. That’s what is important!

    And if you haven’t seen “DreamGirls”…go. Jennifer Hudson is truly an inspiration.


  28. Edie Ramer says:

    Christyne, glad you loved SAVE THE CAT. I’m even gladder that your test results came out okay. And congratulations on your first sale! That’s fabulous!!!!

    I do want to see Dreamgirls. My husband doesn’t want to see it, and I might have to wait for it to come on DVD. I picked the last two movies we saw, and he gets the next choice. By the time we go again, the movie probably won’t be at the neighborhood theaters. 🙁

  29. spyscribbler says:

    Whine on my blog, of course. 😉

    *Hugs* on the “Simon” on Tuesday … but aren’t you glad it inspired you to write a better beginning?

  30. Edie Ramer says:

    LOL, Spy. My CPs usually get the grunt of my whining. That comes with the job.

    Tuesdays lesson wasn’t really a Simon. She was telling the truth, very nicely, and yes, I’m glad she did. It’s all good. 🙂

  31. Theresa says:


    This was a wonderful and totally inspiring post. And I love Michelle’s comment about Elvis. I’d heard that somewhere too, that he’d placed second. Gives hope for all of us, doesn’t it.

    As for the Simons of the world. I think they are essential. Maybe they aren’t always right, but it does give you another pair of eyes to look at your work through. And it also gives you someone to try to prove wrong– which generally means you’ll work much harder.

    My first year in college– I took this poetry class. Now I’d won every writing competition there was in high school and thought I was pretty hot stuff. But my poetry was along the lines of Robert Service– it rhymed. And my professor hated it. He was sweet about it, but it was obvious he thought it was horrible. I ignored him though– until he came to class one day totally drunk and totally ripped my latest effort to shreds, in front of everyone. Called it a second rate effort and me a no-talent hack poet. And I was just totally devestated and then I got furious and decided to show him. So I wrote exactly the type of poem he raved about and surprised myself to find how much I liked it. Long story short– he got fired because of his behavior that night, and the new professor loved this poem. I ended up winning a couple of contests with it. But i would never have taken that leap, if it hadn’t been for his harshness. I was too happy in my complacency.

  32. Edie Ramer says:

    Wow, Theresa! That’s a great story, and inspiring too! I think my newest beginning is better too, so it shows there’s value in hearing the truth. The funny thing is both you and Michelle told me I needed something more, but like you with the professor, I ignored you. I wasn’t ready for it yet. I needed the outside opinion. The other contributing factor is that I recently reread Donald Maass’s Breakout Novel Workbook.

    Sometimes it takes a village, and the Simon Cowells are part of the village. 🙂

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