Motley Microfiction: The Truth Behind Rejection Letters

The Truth Behind Rejection Letters

“Oh. My. God.”

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s this short story. It’s… it’s… the most — most beautiful — it’s –”

“Shh, calm down. Let me see it.”

“Here you go.”

“Sweet Jesus. You’re right.”


“What are we going to do? Our magazine is nowhere near the caliber worthy of such a piece, and we’re Asimov’s!”

“I guess there’s only one thing we can do.”

“I’ll do it. Wanna make sure it really captures my feelings, y’know?”

“Okay. Keep it professional, though.”

“How about this: Thank you for the opportunity to read your story. Unfortunately, we’re not able to accept it at this time…”


Writing (Photo credit: jjpacres)

Let’s talk about rejection!

This summer, I set out with two goals: to write more, and to submit some of my work for publication. So far, I’ve had great success on both goals. This blog is the direct result of the first, and I’ve had some of my flash fiction published on The Drabblecast this summer.

Still, I’ve yet to cross the barrier that would really make me feel like an author: I’ve yet to get paid for a piece of fiction. So I keep submitting, in spite of my horrible case of slush-phobia. Part of it is sheer stubbornness, and part of it’s that people who are published continually advise us amateurs to stick with it if we’re serious about writing. You have to be okay with accumulating huge piles of rejection slips if you want to hear “yes” someday.

I have another reason: I think the submissions/rejection game is kinda fun.

Now let me clarify: no one enjoys getting a rejection slip, and I’m no exception. On a couple occasions, I’ve gotten pretty bummed out after getting yet another rejection after getting my hopes up. But also know that there are human beings on the other side of the email. That means two things: 1. Rejection slips are proof that someone read my writing, and 2. Despite their professional tone, there’s some human warmth and goodwill behind every rejection I receive.

It works the same in my part-time job as an essay-grader for the Georgia graduation test. The process is entirely anonymous. I don’t know anything about the kids I’m grading for, and they don’t receive anything from me except my score. But I often hold a one-sided conversation with the kids in my head over what they write about. Sometimes I wish I could attach a note in return saying that while they didn’t meet the standards to pass, I very much enjoyed their piece anyway.

So when I get a rejection slip, I like to supply that missing bit of conversation. Today’s story is the result. Funny how those slush readers always say such nice things behind my back, eh?

What experiences have you had in the world of submissions and rejection? How do you view rejection, and how do you cope with it so you don’t get discouraged?


11 thoughts on “Motley Microfiction: The Truth Behind Rejection Letters

    1. Thanks, Misskzebra. It’s definitely an attitude I have to choose and not one that would be my first response. I’d much rather not get rejected to begin with, but if it’s going to happen, better to have fun and laugh a little in the process. 🙂

  1. I guess it’s better to get rejections than to never submit? I always get a sinking feeling in my stomach when something is rejected—but then I usually know that the story just needs more work. I got a rejection AND acceptance email all in one not long ago—my story was rejected for the specific anthology I submitted it to, but they liked it and wanted to use it in another one. That was pretty great to hear!

    1. Huge congrats on the anthology acceptance! 😀 I agree, though: better to think of rejection as an invitation to polish up the piece a little more. It’s like echo location, perhaps?

      1. Thank you! It’s pending edits, but they shouldn’t be a problem, I hope. I’ll make an announcement when the anthology comes out (and shamelessly demand people purchase it)
        I think too often I abandon the piece—but I should polish it up instead. Lots of times, I take a piece already written and try to submit it somewhere it might not fit, rather than taking the opportunity to write something different.

      2. Yeah, I know what you mean. Creation is hard, and editing is another kind of hard. But it takes both to create good stories. For me, editing is always the hardest, but I also kinda like it. It gives me that same sort of satisfaction as picking at a scab. Does that make sense?

  2. This is what I’ll think of the next time an article of mine is rejected, LOL. And I loved the little reference to Isaac Asimov! The Foundation series was my first Asimov series, and its still my favourite! 🙂

  3. The professional publishers and agents are all lightweight compared to my 3 (adult) children. If I can get any of my three lovelies to compliment my writing – I know it will be a breeze going through the publishers and agents.

    So far, they graded my – publicly well received novels – as slightly better than school compositions 😦

    I might be born in Nazareth – but have better luck elsewhere 🙂

    1. Wonderful to hear the perspective of an author with some real publications under his belt! A prophet’s never appreciated at home, though. My husband is my toughest critic as well, but I must admit, he’s usually right! 😉

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