Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rejection Joys

Oh, those sweet nothings whispered in the ear, the breathy purr, the "No. Get lost." Doesn't it get you excited?

Rejection! Everyone has to have an opinion on rejection. So my question is: Are there good rejections? Are there rejections that encourage you?

I got a rejection today, and it was of the "good" variety, if there is such a thing. I'd sent a story to AGNI, a pro literary magazine edited by a major American critic, Sven Birkerts. Rejection... but a perosalized and flattering one. He made a point to state this was not a normal rejection note, and went on to praise my story and lively writing and to say that he definitely wanted me to submit new stories. What does this mean? Well, I guess it means a major critic likes my writing, which is confirming in a way. It's "good". Not as good, say, as an acceptance. Or, you know, money. But a good that's better than a bad, at least. Right track? I hope so.

It's odd getting back into the whole short story thing. I wrote a few back in my gradschool days, got a few published, and then spent a number of years working on long novel projects. But the last year or two I've reacquired a taste for the short story (and had to relearn, in a sense, the whole form, as I'd forgotten - or never known - a fair number of things). And now I have a little pile of them and it's time to send them out into the world. Back out into Acceptance and Rejection Land, always a mystical place of subjectivity, a surreal landscape guarded by grad students, quirky eccentrics and gaggles of squint-eyed and jaded writers (kinfolk, of course).

So now that I'm back "out there" I guess it's time to revisit some of my ideas on rejection (many of which were formulated during my time as an editor). So... opinions? Are there helpful rejections? What's your attitude towards them? No emotion, file them away... stew a bit, get on with things... hysterical breakdown... crying jags... alcohol and pill benders... And do you distinguish between different types? What was the most helpful or motivating rejection you've had? If you have a story, lay it on me.


Bookworm1605 said...

Fairly recently I've experienced the spectrum of rejections and I definitely appreciate the positive variety of the species. One in particular, from an anthology, came at a low point for me and gave me just the boost I needed to pull myself out of the dumps. Essentially the guy said he almost, almost, almost accepted my story for his book and went on to praise several themes I'd worked hard to include. Then he gave me some great feedback on how to improve the story and sent me on my way. That was a good one.

On the other hand, I just received a rejection that was borderline cruel. It was basically a form letter that had a list of common reasons that stories are rejected. Some of the listed reasons were "No sci-fi element present" and "Lack of conflict." The two that were checked on my letter, "Poorly edited manuscript" and "Failed to hold interest" felt like low blows to me, the latter more so than the the former. This was one of my favorite stories and I might have shoved it aside if not for the fact that I had already gotten a very positive rejection on it from a pro market wherein three different editors called it a great story with lots of potential.

So, my lesson from all this is that you have to take all rejections with a grain of salt, but I definitely love the good ones.

Ms Kitty said...

I'm venturing into the world of book publishing. I spent 6 months writing queries to agents, with either a form rejection or complete silence as my reply.

This week I've sent two queries out, one to a paper publisher and one to an e-publisher.

I think the hardest thing to get over was the review that made the "Egg salad sandwich" crack. It really threw me. I blogged the review, its still up there if you care to look.

Once I got over that - I found some good things in the review, with a little help from my friends. Also I had to remember that only a percentage of excerpts got read at all.

I make the pitch cut, which many of my more 'experienced' writer friends did not.

And, Book, "failed to hold interest" was the complaint from both reviewers.

I choose to make it a call to action. To keep searching for a publisher, out of sheer cussedness, because I think that the work has merit.

Who knows? There is a niche for everyone.

Ink said...

I think one of the things that helped me with rejections was working as an editor at a lit mag. You really see how subjective everything is, the politics that go on. Rejections don't always correlate with story quality. It was a great experience for a writer, really. You see the nuts and bolts of the system rather than just the glossy view from the outside.

HowLynnTime said...

I call rejections, blisters - and I don't count them. I could not even give you an honest guess of my number. To me - the only important ones are the ones with some personal feedback. If some busy person takes the time to say something, I pay attention. I accept it - and it's on to the next thing.

Here is why. I used to play alot of golf. I played so much I got a ton of blisters. I love to play golf and I have never gotten a hole-in-one. Sometimes those blisters are telling you something - such as you need to get some new shoes - adjust your grip - or maybe buy a book on manuscript format. Mostly they just sting as you continue to play. Eventually the spot toughens up and you forget about it.
Not everybody will be a tiger on the course - but lots of old duffers play too. I don't have a magic number that says if I get 600 blisters - that's it! I quit.
I don't give rejection the power to take my dream of that maybe - hole-in-one. So I don't count them.
Every blister - the work to reach it - makes you a little better.
If I stop on blister 602 and query 607 is my hole-in-one - then It is my fault for giving up to soon.

I love to write. That's what counts. Not the blisters.