Writers have a lot of experience with rejection. And we learn to deal with it in different ways. I’ve heard the stories of writers who paper their walls with form rejection slips, who ritualistically burn the letters they receive in sacred ceremonies (okay I made that one up) but for me, receiving rejections has been a mixed bag. On the one hand, they’ve been proof of how serious my commitment is to writing. They’ve also been like some sort of editor-code which I’ve spent the last four years or so trying to crack. At least I thought they were.
Since 2002, when I started to send things out for publication, I’ve kept each story in its own folder (a real one, one I can hold in my hands) and I’ve piled in all the rejections with it. Some of my folders are mighty fat. Considering I’ve sent out approximately 10 long stories (my short ones I tend to not sim-sub so much) that’s a lot of rejection letters hanging around my house. The other day I asked myself why I wanted to keep them at all. What purpose could these varied, but boring slips of paper serve? I know I’m committed. I don’t need the growing pile of forms to tell me I want to write. Now, I just write. I don’t need them to try to convince myself not to write, because if I listened to my negative side I wouldn't be writing at all (bear with me).
So with great satisfaction I cleaned out all my story folders. I threw away all the little forms, all the handwritten records of when each journal responded (I’m trying a carefree approach: when they arrive, they arrive; patience is a life-long so far unlearned lesson for me) and even the forms with the inky signatures and hastily-scrawled Thanks or Sorry. (I used to try to divine meaning out of the tiniest of pen marks.) The only rejections I’m keeping are the ones in which the editor took the time to write whole sentences, ones that tell me specifically what the editor liked or didn’t like, ones that might offer encouragement during those bleak moments of doubt. These rejections (and the pile is sadly thin) are placed in a special bowl on top of my letter writing desk. These are the only rejections out of the hundreds I receive that actually mean something. Even if only to me.
Some fun rejection links:
Ten Things About Literary Rejection
and the amusing
Paper Napkin Email Rejection Service (Ouch)
- Originally from Vermont, I now live in North Carolina. My work can be found in recent issues of REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Jabberwock Review, The Emerson Review, Storyglossia, The MacGuffin, Confrontation, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, wigleaf, and Pank, among others, and forthcoming from Gargoyle #57 and REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters. One of my stories has been translated into Farsi by Asadollah Amraee, and many others by Jalil Jafari, two of which have been published in the Iranian journal, Golestaneh Magazine. For two years I worked as an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. Currently, I serve as a mentor for Dzanc's Creative Writing Sessions. I'm working on two novels and a short story collection. In May, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the 2011 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.