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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Rejection in Reflection

So I got a rejection email today that stung me particularly strongly. I had aimed above my usual standards, it's true, and while I was realistic about the chance of receiving an acceptance, I couldn't help but hope in a small hidden part of myself that this would be the breakthrough for me. I wasn't surprised when it wasn't, but I felt rather condescended to by the actual rejection letter. After stewing about this all morning, I went back to reread the letter and to try and identify what it was about the wording that was bothering me so much.

And I discovered that it wasn't really the letter, which was nicely if ambiguously written, so much as it was just having someone somewhere decide that I was not worth her support.

Here's the actual wording, which as you can see is diplomatic and not meant to discourage and was not all that condescending either (though maybe a touch):

Thanks for sending in your manuscript. We rely on submissions like yours, since a good portion of what we publish comes to us unsolicited. Unfortunately, we won't be able to accept this one for publication—we're a very small company, and can only put out a few each year. Please feel free to submit again in the future—as our tastes are continuously changing.

Thanks again for your efforts,

This is how I read the letter (or remembered it all morning anyway):

Thanks for letting us reject your manuscript. We rely on submissions infinitely better than yours, since a good portion of what we publish comes to us unsolicited, and in your case also unwanted. We would never in a million years accept this one for publication--we're a very discerning and elite company, and can only put out the best of the best each year and yours didn't even come close. Please feel free to submit again in the future if you've had a brain transplant or maybe a complete breakdown of personality resulting in yours being replaced with one that has talent--as our tastes are continuously changing ha ha not really but we say that to make you feel better.

Thanks again for letting us reject you,

Sigh.  I'm somewhere betwixt reading between the lines and projecting, I'm afraid.

(And if you are wondering why I don't say who the publisher is, it's more about me being ashamed at having aimed above myself than about protecting her. She did, after all, write a very nice rejection letter.)

Rereading what I've just written I think to myself, "Jeez, Jessica, what did you want her to say?" Yes, I wanted her to say Yes, but given that she can't, there's not a good way for her or anyone to reject something as personal as poetry. As personal to me as my poetry. No matter what she says, I'm going to hear something else from inside myself, and doesn't that suck for her? And for me? Sure does.

I'm going to have to try to do better next time. Because there will be a next time. There could be one now, if I go and check my inbox, which, excuse me, I'm going off to do.


awyn said...

The wording sounded familiar; I wondered how often this template's been used. This blogger received an identical one from McSweeney's five years ago.

As form letters go, though, this one's not so bad. What’s more annoying are those publishers who demand “no simultaneous submissions”, then take 6 months to a year to let you know they’re not really interested in your work. Some explain that your poems "don't fit the current editorial need", or actually apologize that their editors are "subjective", etc. The ones that especially sting, though, are those bluntly texted: “Not for us, sorry” or "I'm just going to pass on this one. Good luck submitting elsewhere." Ouch, ha ha.

I wouldn't be discouraged by this one rejection notice, Jessica. Good poetry finds its way to those readers who would instantly recognize it as such. As for this particular rejecter: their loss. :)

Renee said...

I think I've gotten that same rejection letter before; hang in there, it is discouraging, but its just one magazine =)

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Thanks, Awyn and Renee. I agree it's not such a bad rejection. The thing I found interesting was that thinking about it on and off all morning yesterday in my mind I began to remember it as a stronger, more personal rejection than it was, and that came from me, not from the letter.

It could have been any letter; it was just the timing....and how I was feeling about my writing already.