Friday Speak Out!: Requested Material, Guest Post by Beth Cato

Friday, September 20, 2013
As I prepared for my first writers' conference back in 2008, I encountered a tip: buy a rubber stamp that says "Requested Material." That way, when you're sending out expected manuscripts and contracts, the agent or editor knows you're not part of the slush. I didn't have a single publication to my name, but my brain swirled with happy dreams. I had a finished novel that I knew--absolutely knew--was going to snare an agent during my pitch session. I had to be ready.

In a matter of hours, I ordered myself a custom, self-inking stamp for "Requested Material." I'd get to use that thing in no time. Right?

I attended the conference. I had two requests for the partial of my novel--yay! Publishing contract, here I come! However, the agents wanted the submissions by email. I was happy to save some money, but it also meant my brand new stamp didn't get used. Ah well. They'd need my signature eventually.

Months passed. The agents never responded. The reality of the whole writing life set in. There were no shortcuts. No stamping opportunities, either.

In despair, I trunked the novel. I devoted myself to short stories instead. Rejections trickled in. Then--finally--an acceptance, for a nonfiction story to a big publisher! I printed out my contract. Tears filled my eyes when I used that "Requested Material" stamp for the first time.

It's silly, really, that using a rubber stamp can mean so much, but it did. It was validation after a ton of rejections. My work was requested, expected--respected. Sure, I wasn't using the stamp to fulfill my ultimate goal of a novel contract, but this acceptance would boost the skinny bio paragraph in my query letters.

I kept writing and submitting my work. The stamp gained a sheen of dust, but every few months, I'd pull it out for another short story contract. I wrote another novel. The angels sang in chorus the day I signed with a literary agent. I kept working. Months passed. I slogged through another novel. Meanwhile, the rubber stamp was being used on a more regular basis for story contracts.

Then, it finally happened.

The journey took five years. Five years, hundreds of rejections, and more tears than I can count.

On July 4th of this year, I signed my novel contract with a big six publisher. And you better believe that I had that rubber stamp on hand and ready to go. Vivid red ink emblazoned the front and back of that priority mail envelope, the words there for all the world to see: "Requested Material."

Maybe the infrequent use was a good thing, as the ink is still as bold as when I bought it. Fine by me. I hope to get plenty more use out of that stamp in the years to come.

* * *
Beth Cato's stories can be found in Nature, Flash Fiction Online and Daily Science Fiction. HarperCollins Voyager will release her steampunk novel THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER in late 2014. She's originally from Hanford, California, but now resides in Arizona with her husband and son. Her fiction, poetry, and tasty cookie recipes can be found at

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Sioux Roslawski said...

Beth--When I first became a teacher, I was excited about my name outside a classroom door. Now, as B.B. King sings, "The thrill is gone," when it comes to the sign in the hallway proclaiming my name.

I hope that stamp of yours gets so worn out, you have to buy a replacement...,

Margo Dill said...

Your comment made me smile. I remember being so excited when someone was going to call me MISS DILL in my own classroom. Then after about a month into teaching, I thought that on a couple days I would like to change my name, so that when the kids say MISS DILL, I don't have to answer. . .

BETH: Awesome story. I can't wait to read your novel!!!

Jen Lud said...

Lovely! Such an inspiration. I am less than one year into my journey and I'm finding the ability to handle rejections is a writer's greatest asset! Never give up!

Lisa Tiffin said...

Fantastic, Beth! Love, love, love when persistence pays off. Looking forward to reading your book.

Marcia Peterson said...

Congrtaulations on your book! Very inspirational story, thanks for sharing it.

Unknown said...

Congratulations on the book! And I totally got it about tearing up when you got to use that stamp for the first (of what will be many, I'm sure)times. Perseverance. That's clearly an important part of the writer's life. said...

Good for you! I love that you kept at it and found a way to build up your writing resume until you found an agent. We all need to remember that patience pays off!

Von Rupert said...

Your story of the self-inking stamp made ME tear up. Congratulations on your writing journey and for continuing to embrace the joy of your rubber stamp. :)

LuAnn Schindler said...

Congrats! Good things come to those who are persistent!

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