A book called Other People's Rejection Letters: Relationship Enders, Career Killers, and 150 Other Letters You'll be Glad You Didn't Receive may not seem like the most upbeat project to work on, but Bill Shapiro found it curiously inspiring.
"A rejection letter, after all, has remarkable power," he said. "A single piece of paper with a dozen words -- even a form letter typed years earlier by an inexperienced, possibly hungover assistant -- can sway or scar a life, causing one person to give up his dreams, another to work harder to achieve them."
Shapiro notes that over the last two years, probably more rejection letters have been sent out than at any other time in this nation's history. "Rejections for mortgages and small-business loans, eviction and foreclosure notices, for grant money and credit cards and college scholarships. And everybody knows somebody who's received a "Due to the current economic conditions, we have made the difficult decision to downsize our staff" note ... followed, some weeks later, by letters that start like this: "Unfortunately, due to the number of applications for this position ..."
With that in mind, Shapiro began gathering all types of rejection letters, both personal and professional, as "A not-exactly-rose-colored window into the national zeitgeist."
The results are sometimes hysterical, sometimes heartbreaking. Along with a rejection letter to Andy Warhol from New York's Museum of Modern Art and a letter from the U.S. Army to Jimmy Hendrix slamming him because he was not able to "carry on an intelligent conversation," here are some other excerpts from the book:
From Walt Disney Productions in 1938:
"Dear Miss Ford:
... Women do not do any creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that work is performed entirely by young men. For this reason girls are not considered for the training school ..."
From the New Delta Review, Louisiana State University Dept. of English:
"Thank you for submitting. Unfortunately, the work you sent us is quite terrible. Please forgive the form rejection, but it would take too much of my time to tell you exactly how terrible it was ..."
From the United States Marines:
"... We appreciate your interest in the Marine Corps.
However, since you are twelve, you won't be eligible to be a Marine for a while. But as our way of showing appreciation for your interest, we are enclosing a special Marine memento.
I want to give you this advice: The Marine Corps wants you to stay in school and get your diploma. The more education you have, the more valuable you will be -- to yourself, and to the Marines ..."
From a hairstylist to her client:
"... There comes a time when a stylist/client relationship has run its course and it would be best for both of us to not continue. I feel you should find another stylist who might better understand your needs. I will be canceling your future appointments."
From Jeff Harris, Executive Producer, in 1990
"To my friends at Carsey-Warner Company, ABC, to the cast, crew and staff of Roseanne:
My sincere and heartfelt thanks to all of you.
I have chosen not to return to the show next season. Instead, my wife and I have decided to share a vacation in the relative peace and quiet of Beirut."
From the Editors of PLAYBOY
"Thank you for submitting your pictures to PLAYBOY. The editors have viewed them and carefully considered your potential for Playmate of the Month.
While you are certainly an attractive young lady, we are unable to accept you as a candidate for this feature. The competition for Playmate is very keen and we must, unfortunately, turn down many lovely candidates ..."
In the end Shapiro concludes: "If you've received a rejection letter, count yourself as lucky, because the alternative -- silence -- is a hundred times worse." Amen to that!
For more information about the book and to use the easy Reject-O-Matic that helps you reject a friend, enemy or frenemy, go to otherpeoplesrejectionletters.com.