The Truth Behind Rejection Letters
“Oh. My. God.”
“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…”
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?