Tag Archives: rejection

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?

In Praise of Slush Readers

Celebrate the small victories! (Photo credit: AlaskaTeacher)

I’m putting on my bragging pants for a moment. I’ve mentioned the Drabblecast’s weekly flash fiction contests before. They pick a 100-word story and a 100-character story most weeks to feature on the podcast. Well, I’m super-proud to have written the 100-character stories featured on both this week’s AND last week’s episodes. I’m not planning to share those stories here because they’re much more awesome if you listen to them on the Drabblecast, lovingly performed and produced with music and everything.

So what are you waiting for? Go listen to the episodes! You can download them here and here respectively, or just subscribe to the Drabblecast on iTunes and get alllllll the podcast goodness.

Here’s another 100-character story I wrote, apropros of today’s topic:

I read the whole Twilight series yesterday. I know I could write it better. My apologies in advance to the slush readers.

English: A Slush drink
Mmmm… tasty slush pile… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Poor slush readers. They have it rough. They have to read every single story someone sends the magazine for consideration. Even the Twilight fanfic. And while I haven’t slush-read for a fiction magazine since high school, I’m sympathetic for personal reasons.

You see, my day job involves a slush pile. Several times a year, I grade the essays written for the Georgia High School Graduation Test. At least once, every kid in Georgia gets locked into a classroom for two hours to write an essay on a surprise topic. The score received on this essay determines whether they graduate. Who gives that score? I do. All those essays arrive anonymous and in randomized order for me and my coworkers to read through and score. During testing season, I’ll spend somewhere between 6-10 hours a day reading handwritten essays by surly teens, all on the same topic.

Given that, it’s a grueling slush pile. These essayists just want to graduate. They’re not interested in creative writing, especially not under pressure. But every once in a while, you’ll run across something amazing. Something that makes all the slogging through bad grammar and bad handwriting worthwhile. You’ll read a remarkable essay. It might be hilarious or moving or both. It’s the kid that you just know will grow up to be a Famous Writer. You’d pay money for her book now, if you knew her name.

Now that I’ve started polishing and sending my own short stories to fiction magazines, I’ve run into a mental roadblock. I know how bad slush piles get, and I have a deep phobia of contributing to the problem. I don’t want to waste some unknown stranger’s time with something that’s obviously mediocre 30 seconds into a read-through. Rejection’s dandy, but the idea of boring someone? Horrifying.

So slush readers, I promise you this: I’ll only send in my best, most entertaining pieces for rejection. And I promise not to inflict any badly rewritten Twilight fanfic. Even if it would be better than the original.

For you writers out there, do you also get intimidated by aspects of the publication process? What are your tricks for overcoming your mental roadblocks so you can press on with your writing?