May 24, 2004

when is rejection a good thing?

Before I began submitting stories to literary magazines, I never understood the concept of a good rejection. A rejection is a rejection is a painfully throbbing abscess, right?

Dan called today. He was home, I was out. ďIf you got bad news, small bad news, would that completely depress you?Ē IE: are you in good enough shape to hear more awful shit?

ďSmall bad news?Ē

ďWell, you got an envelope. Self addressed. Thatís not good, right?Ē

ďItís a rejection. Open it anyway.Ē

So he opened it. And read it. Sure enough, Tin House said no. But with a handwritten Ė and signed Ė note addressed to me by name, saying they liked my writing, would love to see more. Tin House is one of my favorite lit mags as well as a very prestigious one. I donít think Dan quite understands why I was delighted by that note, but he wasnít about to kill my good mood. But this is how people get published. The editors read your work, become acquainted it, start to smile when they see your name on the first page. Next thing you know, youíre in. Thatís what happened to Melissa Banks, I believe. She developed a relationship with the Zoetrope editor over a series of near-misses, ended up with a commission to write a story, which became the lynchpin for a set of linked short stories, A Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing. Her first book.

This short story of mine, the one I wrote in December and January, the one I said was a breakthrough for me, thatís the one thatís now garnered three requests to see more. This has never happened before. For me, handwritten notes are a step up. Granted, Iíve sent few stories out thus far and those to few venues, but still. I didnít get more aggressive because I could tell they werenít ready for prime time. This one is, it seems. Enough so to get past the first two, maybe three, readers at Tin House and land me a handwritten note from the classy Missouri Review too. And also to make it to the top five choices at the respected Folio (thanks, Lara). And who knows? Maybe in the next batch of submissions, itíll garner an even nicer phone call, one saying ďWe want to publish it.Ē It feels eminently possible. Within reach.

Iím thinking the time is nearly right to begin sending out the next story. And write another new one, too. Because this slush pile lottery? Itís getting fun.

Posted by Tamar at May 24, 2004 09:49 PM

Congratulations on the good rejections! I know what you mean, there are good and bad in the pile. I keep a separate folder for rejection letters. (Less upsetting that way.) Keeps me humble, for sure. And grateful for everything that works! Keep on sending them out! You know I am your fan!

Posted by: Leya at May 25, 2004 03:26 AM

Wow, what a nice affirmation and validation of all your very hard work. It really is only a (brief) matter of time before you're published and then publishing that book and becoming famous and signing autographs. (I wonder if I have anything of yours I can then auction on e-bay? hmmm, note to self, shoplift at Tamar's.) Heh.

Posted by: toni at May 25, 2004 01:34 PM