by | Mar 22, 2020 | Karna Small Bodman | 8 comments

by Karna Small Bodman

I’ve always liked that quote in the title. I’ve seen it play out in my own writing life as well as in many others. Before I wrote my first thriller, Checkmate, I wrote two light-hearted novels and collected close to 50 rejections from various agents and editors. Disheartened but determined not to “quit,” I began to research, outline and finally write Checkmate. I met an editor at a writer’s conference who said she liked my story, and after working with her on edits for close to a year (!), she gave me a contract, thus beginning a new chapter in my life — writing a series of political thrillers.

If you’ve ever suffered disappointments and thought about quitting, let me tell you about some other folks who had disappointments too, but began their own new chapters and new careers. See if you can figure out who they were:

–She was demoted from her job as a news anchor because they said, “she wasn’t fit for television.”

(Oprah Winfrey)

Walt Disney

–He wasn’t able to speak until he was almost four years old, and his teachers said he would “never amount to much.”

(Albert Einstein)

–He was fired from a newspaper for “lacking imagination” and “having no original ideas.” 

(Walt Disney)

–When he was 30 years old, he was left devastated and depressed after being unceremoniously removed from the company he started.

(Steve Jobs)

Dr. Seuss

–A teacher told him he was “too stupid to learn anything” and that he should go into a field where he “might succeed by virtue of his pleasant personality.”

(Thomas Edison)

–His first book was rejected by 27 publishers.
(Dr. Seuss)

–His fiancé died, he failed in business, had a nervous breakdown and was defeated in eight elections.

(Abraham Lincoln)

Steve Berry
I also want to include an author, friend and former President of our International Thriller Writers organization, Steve Berry who has done so much to encourage aspiring writers by telling them about his own difficult experiences.Steve tells the story about how he “has been a writer for 20 years, published for 12.” He goes on to confess that when he wrote his first thrillers, he collected some 85 rejections from various agents and editors until, finally, one offered to publish his historical thriller figuring the “time might be right for such a novel.” And, indeed it was. Now Steve’s books have consistently hit The New York Times Bestseller List. His new thriller is The Warsaw Protocol.

There are many more great stories of people who have “picked themselves up” after one or more failures. Their efforts are always inspiring, no matter their field of endeavor. 

Do you have examples of people who “started again” that you could share with us? Leave a comment as we’d all like to know. And remember the original quote, “You Never Fail Until You Quit.”
Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Lisa Black

    Well, no famous example comes to mind, except Oscar Wilde’s rejection from a publisher: “My dear sir, I have read your manuscript. Oh, my dear sir.”

    As for me, I spent 10 years as a personnel secretary before I went back to school with the goal of working in forensics (pre-CSI, so people thought I was a little strange). I had already begun writing, but it was 15 years and 9 full length novels before I was published. I probably should taken a creative writing course somewhere in all that schoolwork, but I had never thought of writing as a profession!

  2. Valerie

    It's so inspirational to read about who people who persevere in the face of daunting obstacles and hardship. Another one is Winston Churchill who battled crippling depression (he called it The Black Dog) his whole life. He lost 5 elections, including 3 in a row between the years of 1922 and 1924, and fought great odds to become Prime Minister at the start of WWII.

  3. Chris Goff

    I remember Mary Higgins Clark telling me that among her first rejections was a note from an editor that said, "What you write is light, slight and trite." And Tony Hillerman had a number of rejections, including one that said, "You'd have a good book here if you'd just get rid of that Indian stuff." Both of them went on to be New York Times bestselling authors.

    Mary Higgins Clark was an exceptional inspiration. After her husband died, leaving her with five young children. She struggled, doing a variety of jobs to earn money. She went back to college, got her degree, and worked to put her kids through school. She sold her first novel, Where are the Children, in hardcover for $3000, then discovered her paperback rights to that book had sold for $100K. Two years later she sold her second novel for $1.5M. Suffice it to say, she no longer had any financial worries, and her kids college was paid for.

    I was lucky enough to sit next to her at signings on numerous occasions. With only one or two coming through my line, I would open books for her to sign as her line wrapped around outside the door. (Go to YouTube and listen to Parnell Hall's song "Signing at the Waldenbooks.") But she was always so kind and encouraging.

    Who doesn't love a success story?

  4. Karna Bodman

    Lisa – you are a great example of perseverance….not only becoming a terrific forensic specialist, one who is called on to testify in court (you should be a consultant to shows like CSI) but now a bestselling author (and a talented Rogue!) and inspiration to others.

  5. Karna Bodman

    Yes, Churchill is another good example of one who persevered — glad there are now so many great books out about his life and times. Thanks for listing his efforts here.

  6. Karna Bodman

    Love that story about Mary Higgins Clark — I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but certainly enjoy her stories! Thanks, Chris, for giving us the details.

  7. Karen

    This is a wonderful, soul-centering post. Thank you for sharing, everyone, and to Karna for including the stories (like Oprah not being "fit for television") that made my eyebrows fly up. Hmm.

  8. Karna Bodman

    Karen – appreciate your visiting us Rogues here and adding such a nice comment.