A Long Fall from the Top of a Tree

Today’s guest post is from the talented Darrelyn Saloom. Follow her on Twitter. To read more from Darrelyn, click on “Guest Posts” under the Categories head on the left nav. Pictured above: Sisters Jane Ellen Wilkerson Kane (1951-1983) and Darrelyn on a typical summer day (1966).


One of the most painful parts of being a writer is rejection. But is it a bad thing to be rejected? Or is it a gift of navigation? Did the editors not understand your brilliance, your humor, your fate? Was that it? Or did you rush off a piece that was unpolished and would not fit their criteria in the first place? I tend to think it’s the latter. And I’ve often made that mistake. 

The first rejection letter I received sent me into a funk for weeks. But what pulled me free was to think of my sister Janie. And the time we spent in trees. Which may seem like a stretch, but it is, after all, the characters, settings, events, and perspectives that make a writer’s story unique. Only my memories can be divined for solace as I think.

So I thought of the day on Sunny Lane when Janie scurried too high in a tree. A middle child and fearless tomboy, she spent most of her time outside, with me (the youngest) trailing close behind.  On this day though, unable to follow, I stopped halfway as she climbed and climbed to the top of a tree.  And then I heard a snap, a whoosh, and a thud. And then silence.

When neighborhood kids realized what happened, they scattered about the yard and shrieked. In less than a minute, someone ran towards the house for my mother. But for the first few seconds after Janie hit the ground, time blurred as in a dream, and then stretched into long minutes of utter stillness and quiet. In other words, I freaked.

Janie slipped in and out of consciousness for over an hour. We kept a vigil round her bed, cool rags upon her head. (Parents didn’t rush off to hospitals in those days.) When fully awakened, she remembered nothing of her misstep: the snap, the whoosh, or the thud sound she made. Bruised, sore, unsteady on her feet, she viewed the fall not as an accident, but a defeat.

As dust scattered sunlight to paint the sky pink, my sister and I returned to the tree. And I watched as she rose with determination to sway and wave from the top down to me. Up and down she climbed a number of times for her own satisfaction. But with each ascent she carved an indelible lesson: Get up! Get up! And refuse to be beat!

And though it may be a cliché, with its ups and downs and bruising mistakes, a writer’s life is like climbing a tree. So I’ve had many occasions to remember that day on Sunny Lane. With every blunder and rejection, I summon Janie’s inspiration: the gift of navigation.  So I revise and rewrite.  And refuse to be beat.

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0 thoughts on “A Long Fall from the Top of a Tree

  1. thelady22

    As always, another emotionally stirring piece from Darrelyn. For me, it’s not rejection as much as when someone re-writes what I’ve written. It feels a little bit like I’ve raised a puppy and then given it up for adoption to someone else. Agreed on the pic. Adorable!

  2. cynthia newberry martin

    Isn’t it wonderful when moments of our childhood stand out so clearly? From your words I can almost see your sister as she heads back up that tree. You must miss her very much.

    As I was growing up with my sisters, it seemed as if that was my life. And yet how small a part of it it turned out to be.

    Yesterday when I received a "little rejection by email," I thought to myself–get up, get up, refuse to be beat.

    Thanks, Darrelyn. And I love the picture of the two little girls hanging from the tree.

  3. Stacey M

    What a perfect analogy to writing. Thanks for sharing this story. It is so hard not to get in a funk when rejected, but I find that my love for writing always takes over and I continue on. Perhaps I will never be recognized in the way I crave, but hopefully my family will appreciate my efforts some day.

  4. Jennifer Kemzuro

    I feel inspired! Beautifully written. I know we are supposed to keep climbing, however, some days that is hard to keep in mind. It’s was great to read this today. A letter of agreement I mailed out didn’t come back yet and I start to second guess myself. Thanks for sharing this motivating post. Also, I love the picture!

  5. Jenny Kane

    Darrelyn,
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. You have a gift to encourage and inspire us to keep writing. If we live in fear of falling, we will never see the view from the top. We have a choice each day, to keep our feet planted or to continue to grow and keep climbing. You really captured that here. Your sister’s courageous spirit shines through your words.

  6. Sally G

    There have been times when someone’s writing (textbooks, really) has had the effect of making me slip in and out of consciousness upon reading, as Janie did after falling. Unfortunately, unlike Janie, I had full recall upon coming around. Good story, good analogy. I’m glad the South Louisiana soil is soft and family bonds are strong. You obviously inherited the same gene for forging ahead during rough times as Janie did. We’re all glad about that. Sally G

  7. Dr. Castle

    "Parents didn’t rush off to hospitals in those days."
    Too true. God knows I’ve had my share of rejection. Years later, I look back and see why. The important thing is ‘gettin back on that tree’! Another great article, Darrelyn.

  8. Chris Fruge

    Its a great lesson to take away from your sister. She certainly leads by example, the ONLY way to lead and teach really. I fall quite often, off of skateboards, off of mountain bikes, off of the wagon, onto the wagon, and even out of trees. If it weren’t for the gift of pigheadedness I inherited from someone, or some thing, I’d be so damned boring. Thanks D.

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