I grew up as a Pentacostal boy from a small village inside of Kongsvinger and I always knew I was going to become a rockstar. I wrote songs, played the bass and by the age of twenty five I’d released my first album. The writing took longer to mature. At twenty, traveling around Europe I wrote a poetry collection that I submitted to a publisher when I got home. It was duly rejected.
That didn’t stop me. I kept writing and I kept being rejected but I felt there was some kind of progress. My writing got better with every rejection and the publishers started sending feedback of why they turned the manuscripts down. Eventually after 86 rejections I took unpaid leave from the newspaper where I worked to finish a short story collection.
When I was ready to send it off I decided that this was it, make or break, I would not see my 87th rejection. My wife had a printer at her work so I gave her the manuscript. She asked me if I wanted to look through it one last time before submission and I said “No, just send it.” She wrote my cover letter, forged my signature and sent it off to the two biggest publishing houses in Norway. Then we went on holiday.
When we returned home I found a letter from one of the publishers saying that although there was a lot of good material, it had several strange beginnings and endings and they wouldn’t publish it. I still had one more chance, but I was thinking that this was it, I’d have to stay with journalism. A couple of weeks later I still hadn’t heard anything from the other publisher. I’d made a promise to myself not to look at the manuscript anymore, but I picked it up anyway. Leafing through it, I realized something was very wrong, 17 pages were missing at random. Something had gone wrong with the printing. I rang the publisher that rejected me and I told them why the beginnings and endings were strange and they asked me to resubmit it.
After reading it, they rang me back and asked me to come in for a meeting. For the first time in my life I was inside a publishing house. The editor was excited about the manuscript and said they would publish it and we wrote the contract there and then. When I returned home that day, the other publishing house had finally replied and I got my 87th rejection.
Levi Henriksen (b. 1964) is a Norwegian poet, novelist, short story writer and singer-songwriter. He’s had 32 books published and released 9 albums and set himself up with a job he can’t be fired from.