Sunday, July 3, 2011

Rejection is a Gift

It hurts when you open that e-mail or envelope and read, "Sorry...we don't have a place for your work."

Some rejections can be downright rude, like the one I got from an unnamed editor who returned my query letter with "NOT THIS ONE!" scrawled across the page. Really? Was that necessary? Did he not consider that I was going to doubt my ability as a writer even with a gentle, "No thank you?"

There are contemptable editors out there. (Not many, thank goodness.)Maybe this guy had just broken up with his wife, or his dog died. Perhaps he had a hernia, or a sunburn. Whatever his problem, I crossed out his publication in my Writer's Market with a giant X in Sharpie Marker. Two can play at this game, a##hole! And yes, I did feel better aftwrads.

I have framed my best rejection letter. The handwritten note reads, "Too bad we don't have enough space for all that we love. Keep trying.B." Isn't that wonderful? It was written by the late Betty Shipley, 1996-1998 Oklahoma Poet Laureate. I never met her, but when I thanked Ms. Shipley for the rejection, she sent me an autograghed copy of her chapbook "Somebody Say Amen." When I learned she died about a year later, I cried as if mourning a relative.

I used to keep rejection letters, back when they were snail mail letters. I may still have that snarky one. The letters remind me the distance I have travelled from no to yes, and I get far more acceptances now. You just have to keep writing and sending out work.

Rejection is part of writing.
One poet I know immediatly mails her poems to someone else as soon she opens her rejection notice. "If three editors say no,I reevaluate them," she told me.

It takes elephant hide and steely nerve to be a writer. You are not a real writer until you have been rejected, so get over it, send the work somewhere else, and keep writing.

Embrace the Rejection.


  1. Here is one I received from Flashquake.

    Thank you for your interest in flashquake. Our decisions were difficult, but we have decided not to use your submission(s). We have included below our editors' comments on your work; we hope you find them useful. Please note that we are closed to submissions until September 1, when our Winter issue reading period opens.

    Rita L. Smith fiction
    Title: Lazy Days
    Editor 5 Vote: No
    Ed. 5 Comments: Good start but the ending didn't work for me,
    didn't tell me anything about the characters.
    Editor 6 Vote: No
    Ed. 6 Comments: Too superficial, and there's an error in the 6th
    paragraph: "lightening" should be "lightning".

    Title: Forgiveness
    Editor 1 Vote: No
    Ed. 1 Comments: This is just too contrived.
    Editor 2 Vote: No
    Ed. 2 Comments: Not enough story to justify the twist

  2. I don't know if it's true that a person isn't a writer until she's been rejected (and I have been rejected). I think a person is a writer if the person writes. I agree that rejection is part of the process if you want to be published, part of learning, part of growing thicker skin (or any skin). I've always admired those people who toss their work right back out there without pausing to wail. :) I do agree with "Embrace the Rejection."