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Submissions and Rejections: Introduction to Harper & BrothersThese are some of the threads of the American literary dialogue that Smith brought with her to the kitchen table with her yellow foolscap to type out her life, ten pages a morning for several years. It was a singular and personal meditation, but Smith had no intention of leaving those pages in a box somewhere. She continually submitted batches of them to publishers: in Decem-
4 ber of 1940 she sent fifty pages of "They Lived in Brooklyn" to Houghton Mifflin and a section to Random house; in 1941 she submitted sections to Scribner's, Greenburg Publishers, Ives Washburn and Little Brown & Co.; in 1942 she submitted it to Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer. And she was repeatedly rejected. Finally, in May of 1942, she submitted it to the Harper & Brothers 125th Anniversary Nonfiction Contest, carefully referring to it as a "manuscript" rather than a "novel."Smith's hopes that she would have a chance in the Harper & Brothers contest must not have been great, because a week later she wrote asking to have her "novel" sent back so that she could work on it some more. This must have prompted the publishers to look at it because there is a handwritten note on her letter in the Harper files: "Since it is a novel it is not a candidate for the contest. Too literate to dismiss quickly. Write & say it is being read as a regular entrant -put in weeded pile." The note is signed EFL--EFL is Elizabeth Lawrence who eventually became Smith's editor and confidante. Lawrence's secretary wrote Smith a noncommittal letter that her novel was being considered "in the regular way," and that they would notify her "in a week or so" 10. A month later, in an agony of expectation, Smith wrote back asking their decision. Law-rence had passed her findings along to the senior editor Eugene F. Saxton, and he wrote to Smith that her book has been held up because it had "aroused a great deal of interest," and also asked whether any of the characters in the book represented real people 11.Eugene Saxton and Elizabeth LawrenceSmith had been waiting too long for her big break to let this opportunity take its own course. She immediately wrote back a long letter, giving an account of her background, her writing, her projects, and the revisions she planned on making, ending it by saying she was coming to New York in a week so that they could discuss it in person 12. There she met Elizabeth Lawrence, and the meeting went well 13. When Smith returned to Chapel Hill, she received a phone call, via her upstairs neighbors, that her novel had been accepted for publication. In July Smith trav-elled to New York again, this time meeting with Eugene F. Saxton as well as with Lawrence. After the meeting, Saxton sent her a contract, but she returned it unsigned: it was a 50/50 split, and Smith was worried about the film rights, of which the Leland Heyward agency expected a share. Her impatience finally got the better of her and she wrote a letter giving Harper & Broth-ers fifty percent of everything. Later she would regret this hasty move.