2010-02-10

On Rejection

I am pretty good at rejection. That's the take-away from my romantic life at least: if at first you waste most of your life in love with the wrong men, keep looking for the right one -- he may be out there after all. In my case, he was (hallelujah, and against all odds).

So, too, I hope, for the writing. I keep writing it, and slowly slowly slowly it finds homes.

Or nearly does.

By last count:

One Master's degree eventually completed, with professorial mentoring raised to the "meet my agent" level -- which was exciting at the time. One story published, and honored with a prize. One essay published, and honored by a call-out in a magazine review. Another story bought by an actual paying magazine ... (let's ignore the fact that this mag seems to have ceased operation in the time between purchase and payment). One TV spec co-written, and championed by professionals in the biz, some of whom are complete strangers ... woo-hoo!

But getting there is mostly a story of learning to open the SASEs without the trepidation of a high school senior ("Is it thin or thick? Thin or thick?") Generally, I can read the form letter rejection and forget it rather quickly. Every once in awhile, though, I get one that's just plain rude.

Today, for instance, I received a rejection from a magazine that I had submitted a story to ONLY BECAUSE, when they LAST rejected me, they encouraged me to try again! Literally wrote, "please try us again" at the bottom of the form letter. So I tried them again, and got a rejection today at the bottom of which some jerk had added "I don't know who encouraged you to try us again, we never publish work like yours." Which is funny, because that was exactly the OPPOSITE of what their last note had said, and it's not like my writing changes so dramatically from story to story ... whatever. Suffice it to say, I was a little peeved.

(Almost as peeved as, when working as a lit scout, I brought a manuscript to the agent I was working for which she described as typifying "lazy writing" -- a phrase she actually then INSISTED I relay back to the writer. Who, by the way, had written A NOVEL. Which, no matter how bad, is not LAZY. I know. I write not particularly special novels myself, and it's still fucking hard work.)

But back to my own rejections:

Maybe an hour after I got that rude "no" this afternoon, I got an email from another magazine. A better magazine. A magazine I have actually read and rooted for since it started publishing. A magazine you can actually buy in bookstores. This magazine didn't want the story I'd sent, either. But the editor wrote this:

Dear Sarah,

My apologies. Your submission was misplaced in our system--the second time this story went astray on our end. As with your last story, I admired the quality of the writing, and though I don't think A Public Space is the right magazine for this story, I'd be interested in reading more of your work. You mentioned a new story on your blog that was the best thing you'd ever written--“Nothing Will Prepare You." If it's still available, perhaps you'd consider sending it here?


Umm, what? She read my blog? She did? Really? Cool. Wow. Talk about the best rejection ever (yes, it actually rivals the "no" I got from The New Yorker a thousand years ago, across which some intern had written "I really liked this -- sorry to say no").

All this to say, not all rejections make you want to jump off the Hollywood Sign.