Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's personal

Dear Jessica:

While I really enjoyed your essay, and found much to admire in your writing, I've decided to pass on this submission.

Please feel free to submit to us again. I'd love to see more of your writing.

All the best, Editor

When I first started submitting my work for publication beyond the local alt-weekly, a personal rejection like this had me flying for days. The guest editor from Smokelong thinks my characters are strong! A Narrative editor is asking to see more of my writing! The folks at Swink and Booth think I should keep submitting to them! Even Brevity, one of my top favorite journals, rejected me with a lengthy paragraph about how my essay had made it to the final round! The editor told me not to lose heart about this "close-but-no-cigar" news because, after all, they receive a large number of excellent submissions, and just can't publish them all.

It felt validating to know that editors had taken the time to carve out a note to me personally, to offer words of encouragement. The editor at Revolution House, who recently rejected my Cuba Libre essay, actually said that she was sure I would find a home for the piece soon. Sure enough, Recess Magazine accepted it just a few days later. So, yes, there are some victories folks. But. Not enough.

Each time I click on an email, subject line RE: SUBMISSION, my heart flutters with disappointment as soon as I see how short it is. I've now submitted many pieces to many, many places, and my "Submissions" folder weighs heavier and heavier with "thanks, but..." The personal rejections are starting to feel like cruel jokes. Why, if they like my writing, if they want to read more of it, won't they just publish "The Cave"? It's the title, isn't it? "The Cave"... how lame.

I'm starting to lose heart. This week alone I've been personally rejected by Hunger Mountain, Literary Mama, and, just this morning, as my peanut butter and honey toast swirled uneasily in my stomach, I clicked on a very prompt reply from an editor at Salon, my dream destination. She enjoyed reading my piece! But it's not quite right for their purposes. Best of luck placing it elsewhere.

So I strapped my fussy baby to my chest. I stripped the sheets from our bed and by the time I loaded them into the washer, Mallory was nearly asleep. I love feeling the warm weight of her body against me. I love sniffing the sweet-smelling fuzz on her head, the scrape of her tiny fingernails on my chest.


  1. At least Mallory is there to remind you of what is important. Rest assured, I am facing many "thanks but no thanks" letters as well. Keep doing what you love and what you know you are great at...our time will come! xoxo

  2. Hang in there! I can imagine it getting incredibly tiring. Maybe you should just aim bigger and go for the novel. ;) Half friend is releasing her first in September.