Court Merrigan’s “Failure” – Insight and Inspiration

I first came across a Court Merrigan story in PANK Magazine. The Cloud Factory is one of those stories I read, then re-read and thought WHOAthis guy is seriously talented. And so he is.

But even if Court Merrigan wasn’t as supremely talented and didn’t publish a passle of stories (29 pieces to date), you could go to his blog and learn a lot by reading his “Failure” page.

CLICK to check out The Failure blog page by Court Merrigan:

Yes, his stories have been rejected 279 times  between 7/31/10 and 1/14/12. He’s got a 9% acceptance ratio. He makes all of his stats publically available on his blog.

What is even more helpful is his detailed commentary, beginning in April 2011, from each market rejecting his work. His most recent set of rejections (14 grouped together in one post) talks about A-minor and then the editor of the journal put comments on the post in response to what Court wrote. Can you get any better than that?

As a short story submitter, insights into how an editor thinks is the key to the castle. You’re not getting into the journal unless the editor (or editors, or editors and readers…) line up behind your piece. Any opportunity to peek behind the veil is welcome.

I learned about the Rejection Wiki by reading through Court’s “Failure” pile. The Rejection Wiki is a Wikipedia site and a great resource. You can search through by the name of a magazine, and find out how a “standard” rejection slip is worded, or if a rejection is more customized. For those of us submitting regularly, this is important. You want to know if you missed by a mile or if you were just off by a hair’s breadth.


Carol’s Failure wiki

So, what about Carol’s “Failure” you may be wondering? Yes, I’ve tracked every submission and response since January 2011.

Thusfar I’ve gotten 183 rejection slips, which shocked me. I never counted them until now, and I hadn’t realized I sent my work out that frequently to be reviewed but I guess I have.

My work is currently submitted to 33 markets for consideration on about 12 different stories awaiting placement.

I’ve had to withdraw pieces from submission consideration 17 times when those stories were accepted by other markets for publication.

My non-failure? 13 stories: 10 published, 3 more accepted and forthcoming soon.

Anecdotally I do get commentary from editors fairly regularly, and it so helpful and encouraging. I revise my stories obsessively – whether I get feedback or not – but the feedback helps with the revisions.

I got very nice comments passed on to me from the Smokelong Quarterly staff when Myfanwy Collins guest edited about a week ago. She and I had a lovely exchange on her blog (I left a thank you note based on her comments,) now we’re following each other’s blogs.

Just today I receieved an email from Chris Heavener, editor of Annalemma with individualized feedback which resonated with me. I’d already been in the process of revising that story (6 times since I submitted to Annalemma in November) and Chris’s insights and comments made perfect sense.

So there you have it. Court Merrigan has inspired me to share my failure with you all, and if this is something you obsess about too, you should go to Court’s blog and read through his postings on the subject. Read through the commentary too, you might just find an editor’s name you know. You can visit the Rejection Wiki to see if you got the “standard” treatment, or if you are just one more submission away from getting the almighty acceptance note.

10 Responses

  1. Carol, you are such a bulldog! And I mean that with the highest regard. Keep at it Ms. 13-times published!

  2. Hello Carol – thanks very much for this write-up. Was a nice surprise this Saturday evening. Sometimes it feels like you’re shouting into the dark, you know … Also very glad to hear you liked that story in PANK.

    I hemmed and hawed for a couple months last year, trying to decide whether to put it up or not. Sure glad I did. One other benefit of putting your rejections out there – it’s pretty cathartic. I have never given a single further thought to any of the listed rejections, once I listed them (unless they were accompanied by some useful editorial suggestions, which, as you know, happens sometimes). They’re done with me and I’m done with them. Simple.

    Good luck out there. Persistence is all.

    • Court, you really have a tremendous talent and this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned you on my blog. I know I’ve mentioned the Cloud Factory before – it’s an impressive story. I was so caught out by the turn in the story I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment – phenomenal writing. Also, I’m such a huge fan of what Roxane Gay is doing at PANK and I’m thrilled to say I’m going to have my first PANK piece published next month so stay tuned.

      Since we’re both “in the business” of submitting regularly, I can say by putting out your rejections you’ve introduced me to journals I’ve never looked at including markets like Revolution House and Flywheel Magazine among many others. I’m starting to branch out in where I submit and your open-kimono policy of sharing has been such a tremendous asset to me as a fellow short story writer. Thank you my friend.

      I definitely imagine in another year or two at most you’ll be telling us all you’re publishing your first, or maybe in two years time your second, collected short stories by some hip, indie press.

      Like you said, and I agree, you’ve just got to keep on keeping on. It’s a brutal racket we’re at, it doesn’t pay either at all or very much, but we’ve got to do it anyway so we may as well put our backs into it. I know I do, and for sure you do.

      It’s an honor to have you follow my blog. I really look forward to the dialogue.

  3. Amazing blog post Carol – I am unbelievably impressed by the amount of submissions you put out last year – that alone is a serious feat. The fact that you had 13 published is even better. Keep the story train rolling! 😉

    • Thanks so much Wren, I appreciate your comment. I really was shocked by my own number…it doesn’t seem possible that I was able to get that much done last year, but somehow I did.

      As you know getting short stories published is damn hard work. You should be incredibly proud you were offered a publishing contract this year for one of your stories, you amazing woman you!

      And here’s to another year of publishing success, for all of us. 🙂

  4. Hi. I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. I was recently nominated ( and have chosen you as one of my 15. Congratulations!

    • Thank you Beach Writer, I appreciate you thinking of me. This is the second time this month someone has nominated me, plus the Liebster blog award last month from another blogger friend, etc. I take these comments to mean you enjoy my blog, which I appreciate tremendously. Thank you.

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