Norman Bridwell’s Tiny the Big Red Dog became Clifford the Big Red Dog after his wife suggested that the dog be named after her imaginary childhood friend.
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Anthony Burgess, felt that the film version of his book, A Clockwork Orange, glorified sex and he feared that he would only be remembered for that one book because of the flawed screenplay.
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A Wrinkle in Time, a science fiction fantasy novel by Madeleine L’Engle, was rejected by over 25 publishers “because it deals overtly with the problem of evil, and it was really difficult for children, and was it a children’s or an adults’ book, anyhow?” It has been challenged many times according to the American Library Association.
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Many successful authors have had to overcome rejection by publishers to finally get their works published. Here is a very short list of some of them:
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – 26 rejections
- Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery – 4 rejections
- Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis – 15 rejections
- Carrie by Stephen King – 30 rejections
- Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen – 140 rejections
- Dubliners by James Joyce – 22 rejections
- Dune by Frank Herbert – 23 rejections
- Feed Me, I’m Yours by Vicki Lansky – 49 rejections
- Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 38 rejections
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling – 12 rejections
- Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison by Charles Shaw – probably 50 rejections
- Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – 18 rejections
- Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl – 20 rejections
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding – 20 rejections
- Lorna Doone by Richard Doddridge Blackmore – 18 rejections
- M*A*S*H by Richard Hooker – 22 rejections
- The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – 15 rejections
- The Ginger Man by J. P. Donleavy – 35 rejections
- The Peter Principle by Laurence J. Peter – 16 rejections
- Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann – 10 rejections
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig – 121 rejections
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Isaac Newton spent a considerable amount of time looking for hidden messages in the Bible. His study of the Bible also convinced him that the world will not end before 2060.
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Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, probably the best living translators of Russian works into English, refuse to use any English words in their translations that did not exist at the time of the works they translate. They used the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary as their guide.
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Pippi Longstocking’s full name is Pippilotta Provisiona Garbedina Dandeliona Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking.
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Playwright Lilian Hellman, companion and lover of author Dashiell Hammett, was the inspiration for Nora Charles in Hammett’s The Thin Man. Hammett claimed that she was also the inspiration for many of his female villains.
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The wealthy character Philomena Guinea in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, is fashioned after Olivia Higgins Prouty who paid for Plath stay in a mental hospital as well as her tuition to Smith College. Prouty, who also suffered from mental illness, is the author of Now, Voyager and Stella Dallas which was a popular soap opera on the radio for 18 years.
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Beatrix Potter, who wrote the Peter Rabbit books, did not like children.
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An early draft of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was eaten by his dog, Max.
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On a Personal Note
The recent suicide of the gifted actor and comedian Robin Williams has stunned everyone who is familiar with his work. I remember seeing him when he first appeared as “Mork from Ork” on an episode of Happy Days. He was wild, and unlike anyone I had ever seen – truly in a class by himself. Later I was amazed to see this frenetic comedian in straight dramatic roles in movies such as Awakening (which was based on the true experiences of Dr. Oliver Sacks). At 63 years of age, and with a brilliant career behind him, he should have been basking in the glory of a life that touched so many people. He should have been happy; he had it all.
When I first heard of Robin Williams death I was immediately reminded of the suicide of someone I had worked with on community projects many years ago. He too seemed to have everything going for him, but like Williams, he took his life. And I remember being upset with this guy who was truly gifted, and had a wife and two young children who needed him. Over and over I asked myself why he would do this to himself, his family, and all the people who admired and loved him.
Finally, I got the answer when I spoke to someone who had been in contact with a grief counselor about his death. In short, I was trying to rationally understand why he committed suicide. What I didn’t understand was that life was so painful for him that he had become irrational. No matter how hard we try, rational people can never understand the acts of those who are irrational. We simply have to understand that they are incapable of calmly and clearly assessing what is going on in their lives, and seeing that there are reasonable alternatives to oblivion.
Armed with a deeper understanding of suicide, I can now look at people who “end it all” in a different way. I still feel a great loss, and I still feel sorry for them, but I no longer blame them for doing whatever was necessary to end the pain. At the same time, I hope we can get more help for those who cannot help themselves. And if you happen to be depressed, get help!