Beginnings, Endings, Rejections

Received a rejection email from an online literary journal first thing this morning.  The email complemented me on the final pages (a good sign, I guess, that the editor made it that far) and said it could probably be placed elsewhere, just that it wasn’t ‘right’ for said journal.  Which is understandable, but this letter came only a week after I submitted it and while I DO, I DO recognize that it is good to receive a personal, as opposed to a form, email, I’m feeling a bit disheartened because I haven’t even finished sending this particular essay out yet.  Since the reading time claimed to be eight to twelve weeks, I assumed I had quite a while before this particular essay came back to me, one way or the other, and yet here I sit, with it once rejected.  I carved out time this morning to compose my final cover letters but I must admit I haven’t done so yet, although I’m by no means giving up on this essay.

It’s just – see, there was this TIME PERIOD. And all of the journals and magazines I’m submitting this essay to claim to maintain the same reading period, and so it’s one thing to send an essay out over the course of a week and know with some certainty that news of its future (or lack thereof) will trickle in sort of slowly, over the course of, maybe, the month of November.  A rejection so soon takes a bit of the proverbial wind out of the writer’s sails.  Also, I had it in my head to post about completing work, and how for a while I thought that the last 10 percent of anything to be the most difficult, but finding that so long as one alots enough time for that 10 percent, it can be actually a rewarding and enjoyable and mellow time, and then I was going to blog on beginnings, and my newest work, but instead my essay and I are rejected, not on a rainy, blustery November evening, when all the leaves are piled on the ground in soggy messes, the trees skeletal against ebony skies, a warm wool coat pulled tightly around me, when I can throw up my hands and say, well, fuck it, it’s been three months, already I’m a better writer than I was three months ago, nothing to do but go inside, drink half a bottle of wine, watch tv and start again tomorrow, no, instead the essay was rejected in one week, on a beautiful late-summer day, the sky all long expanses of blue and the air warm and the sound of children playing outside, when drinking half a bottle of wine and watching television  would seem sinful, or at the very least, unnatural, and the worst of it is, with only one week, I can’t say, well, already I am better than this essay. Instead, it’s certainly, right now, the best I can do.

I long for winter. I find it so hard to get anything done  in the summer, at least with my own writing.  I find it even harder to accomplish anything when I feel really good, when I feel like spending hours outside soaking up the last of the August sunlight, walking, hiking, talking with S., calling friends, making plans.  Physically sitting down to write feels so difficult sometimes, when I feel like I have a motor running inside me constantly, urging me to do anything but sit down with my laptop and my books.  I could go shopping or cook or run (which I did already, actually) or mop or go to the pool or any other of a million more enjoyable activities than sitting at desk, books and paper piled around me, waiting for something to happen.

I think I need to leave the house – yes, that’s the ticket.  I think my essay and I need some fluffy coffee drink and to sit out side and pitch it to magazines who will APPRECIATE us.  I thought I might have plans tonight but they apparently won’t be panning out, so the only mature thing to do is drink some sugary coffee and, in the words of a writer colleague of mine, keep on, keeping on.  I will not allow the doubts to begin creeping in about this essay yet.  It deserves its chance out there in the world of literary journals and obscure magazines. And if, come November, it doesn’t make it, well, hell, I’ll just post it here, where my essays can come to die.  After all, what good is a blog if not to post 25 page essays that have been rejected every where else.

For now, there’s work to be done.  At any rate, I’m looking forward to Monday morning, which is a nice change. Am pretty guaranteed that another rejection letter won’t arrive in my in-box quite so quickly.  Here’s to all those slow readers out there in literary journal land, who understand that a substantial period between submission and rejection allows a writerly buffer of sorts, a separation time necessary to say, well, yes, of course this essay isn’t right for you, how could it be, it’s awful, but I have something so much better, I’ve been so productive the last three months, lets you and I ever forget I submitted that crap and look, here is my newest work…

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11 Responses to Beginnings, Endings, Rejections

  1. Dorothy W. says:

    Well, sorry about the rejection! But … you know it is true that it’s good to get a personal response and one that says the essay might be placed elsewhere — hang on to that. I hope the disappointment passes quickly.

  2. Oh, thanks for the thought! Actually, I emailed the journal to thank the editor for reading, and he wrote back this whole long detailed explanation of what I need to do to improve the piece as a whole. He also told me not to get discouraged, etc. etc. – and I certainly wasn’t expecting any response from him, so that was really great. And another piece I pitched has been picked up (this is more mainstream, picked up by a magazine) so, well, I guess you never know. One door closes, and all of that…

  3. litlove says:

    I’m so glad you got more feedback, Courtney. I know how horrid it feels to have work rejected, no matter how prepared you are for it to happen (and even worse when unprepared!). It always dashes your hopes and optimism for a while. I think you did just the right thing in giving yourself some freedom and some time. I just try and sit tight for a couple of days and do other things. After that I usually feel more philosophical and just a lot better about this unkind process of being selected. Just hang on in there! Most writers say they can paper their walls with rejection slips, so you are in very good company.

  4. Dorothy W. says:

    That’s great to get all that detailed feedback!

  5. BikeProf says:

    Oh Courtney, I do so empathize with you. When I get a rejection, I try to do all of the looking on the bright side sort of things (“Oh, but they really liked my title!”), but it still really, really sucks to get one. So far this summer, I have received 2 rejections, and I’m patiently waiting for the third.

  6. Emily says:

    My grandmother had an author friend no one’s ever heard of in this day and age Nancy Hale who wrote quite a few books in her day. I visited her once when I was in college, and she told me she sent something like 22 stories to THE NEW YORKER, all of which were rejected, and that finally, they accepted the 23rd. Her advice, she said, to all writers was to pick up the pen (today it would be the laptop) the minute you receive a rejection and keep writing. I agree that getting out of the house probably helps, too. And a personal letter, from an actual editor, as well as follow-up, not a form letter from an assistant is a very good sign.

  7. Emily, what a great story. I do know that being tenacious is one of the most important pieces of this business, and I’m more than willing to do so. But in the face of those rejection letters it can be hard to remember!
    BikeProf – Your post on your site really helped me yesterday remember that this is nothing if not a slow, steady learning process…
    Dorothy – I can’t believe he emailed me so much feedback. Turns out it all hinges on one paragraph that he didn’t like. ONE paragraph. Great news for me.
    Litlove – thanks so m uch for the support. As much as I think we should all be published, all of the time, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in this struggle! Getting my more journalistic piece published helped soften the blow, as well…

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  9. whyyoutalksomuch says:

    It’s “compliment” not “complement.” It’s “outside” not “out side.” Maybe usage and spelling are the problem ’cause otherwise, your writing is beautiful.

  10. kj says:

    For crissakes…a rejection letter? Holy hell, Court…

    I mean, I DO feel for you. I understand what you’re feeling. But at least you got a rejection letter. At least you can assume it has been read, that someone moved through your words. As well, you received comments. That’s great news!

    But…of course, as you have already stated, all we CAN do is keep on keepin’ on. You’ll be published all over the place. Just wait and see.

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