This is the fifth of a series of articles on the lives and writings of St. Paul authors of note. Another will appear next Sunday.
One hundred and twelve rejection slips from editors of magazines good, bad and indifferent, were somewhat discouraging, without a doubt, but they were not sufficiently so to halt F. Scott Fitzgerald in his efforts to break into the magazines.
And Mr. Fitzgerald’s perseverance has led to several rather important results. In the first place, it brought Mr. Fitzgerald himself into the ranks of popular American writers at the age of 23 years, with a record of more than a score of clever fiction stories published In the best American magazines, and a much-talked- of novel now selling In its eighth edition.
In the second place, it added another St. Paul name to the list of writers who have made good, and incidentally made national rather than city property of certain rather widely held secrets concerning the doings of St. Paul society. These “secrets'’ have served as the basis of plots for some of Mr. Fitzgerald's most entertaining stories.
Still another result of the perseverance was the opportunity which it brought to the young author of enjoying a number of jokes at the expense of the magazine editors who had rejected his wares during the period when the 112 rejection slips were accumulating. For no sooner was his novel, 'This Side of Paradise,' published than magazine editors began seeking the work of the author.
One magazine which had refused a story, accepted it with alacrity when the success of the novel was assured, and after the story had appeared in this magazine other editors who had regularly rejected all the stories offered them a few months previously, including the particular pile which now appealed to them, wrote asking for “stories just as good.”
Mr. Fitzgerald is a native of St. Paul. He was born here September 24, 1896, and obtained his early education at St. Paul academy, which he attended from 1908 to 1911. He then attended the Newman school at Hackensack. N. J., and was graduated from Princeton university in 1917.
Mr. Fitzgerald showed his bent for writing at an early age, and some of his success should perhaps be credited to C. N. B. Wheeler of the St. Paul academy, who was always willing to accept a story from Fitzgerald in lieu of the compositions which formed a daily requirement for the young students of grammar and composition. The first published work of the future author appeared in the academy paper about twelve years ago, and was entitled “The Mystery of the Raymond Mortgage.”
At Princeton, Mr. Fitzgerald wrote much for the college publications, but is more especially remembered as the author of three plays produced by the Princeton Triangle club, one of which, “The Evil Eye,” was presented in St. Paul.
After being graduated from the university in 1917, Mr. Fitzgerald entered the advertising field in New York City and tried writing evenings and in his spare time. It was then that the rejection slips began to accumulate and it was not until 112 of his offerings had come back to him with the curt little printed notice which magazine editors employ for returning unavailable material, that he at last succeeded in selling two stories to Smart Set.
Finding that it was impossible to do his best work after hours. Mr. Fitzgerald took the plunge, came to his home in St. Paul in the early part of 1919, and devoted himself to the writing of his novel. “This Side of Paradise,” which was accepted for publication by the Scribner company in the fall of the year. It has since been published in England and Australia and is now selling in its eighth edition, having almost immediately lifted its young author to the plane occupied by a score or less of the popular American writers.
Since completing his novel. Mr Fitzgerald has published short stories in several of the leading magazines. including the Saturday Evening Post, Scribner’s, the Metropolitan and others. Smart Set has published a total of ten of his stories. He is now devoting his entire time to writing and recently disclosed of the motion picture rights of one story to Metro Pictures for $2.500. It was “Head and Shoulders,” as published in the Saturday Evening Post, but on the screen it will be known as “The Chorus Girl's Romance.”
“Flappers and Philosophers,” a collection of short stories by the St. Paul writer, will be issued from the Scribner press this month.
“Write ten hours a day and dream about it all night,” is the essence of the advice which Mr. Fitzgerald has for other writers who would succeed in “breaking in” to the big magazines. “Write out of your own experiences and don't give up if the editors fall to appreciate your efforts.”
Published in St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper (12 September 1920), 2nd section.