May, June, July 2012 – Rejections

In February this year I shared a round of rejections with you, and as per many of subsequent blog posts, my submissions have slowed since May so not surprisingly my rejections are more spaced out as a result.

With that in mind, I’m sharing my May, June, and July 2012 rejections so you can see how it’s been going. The list is newest rejection to oldest, but I don’t think it matters.

  • Coriumpersonal rejection

My note on Corium: Prior to this rejection, I had 3 pieces I had to withdraw (Jan, April,  July) because stories were picked up by other journals. This time, even though I didn’t mention it, I subbed the piece exclusively, no sim-subs elsewhere. It wasn’t quite a fit, but I admire Lauren Becker, the editor, so I need to find a piece she likes. My quest continues.

  • The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts
  • – personal rejection
  • Juked
  • Matchbook
  • Gargoyle – personal rejection

My note on Gargoyle: This was my first experience submitting to Gargoyle. Mad, mad props to Richard Peabody, the editor, who has been doing his thing on Gargoyle for decades. How he has time to send personal rejection notes is a mystery to me given that he’s getting hundreds of submissions in the brief window he opens once a year in preparation for the following year’s edition of the magazine.

  • Sycamore Review
  • Right Hand Pointing – personal rejection
  • Flywheel Magazine – personal rejection
  • Quarterly West
  • A Public Space

My note on A Public Space: Sent inquiry after 6 months on status. No reply. Re-sent inquiry one month later (at 7 month wait period.) Personal reply received that they were backlogged on reading and my piece was still under consideration. Standard rejection form sent two months later. Total wait time: 9 months.

  • Booth: A Journal
  • Camroc Press – personal rejection
  • AGNI
  • Fringe
  • The Collagist
  • Hobart (print)
  • Diagram – personal rejection
  • The Prose Poem Project
  • Dark Sky Magazine – personal rejection
  • Salamander
  • Gigantic – personal rejection
  • This Great Society
  • Bellvue Literary Review
  • Kenyon Review
  • Juked

There you have it, make of it what you will. As for me, I continue to be very pleased with the level of personal engagement I have with many editors and I just keep on doing what I can to get the work out there.

What else is there for a writer to do anyway? You just have to keep at it, day by day.

If you have a favorite journal you’ve been hitting up, an editor you admire, a journal that maybe didn’t treat you as you would have liked, or a ridiculous wait period followed by a standard form rejection, feel free to share any and all in the comments (you know the drill, people!)


Writer resources and amusements

In my travels around the interwebs recently I’ve come across some sites that I thought I’d share with you in the hopes that they are useful to you … or perhaps are just an amusing diversion from your writing/editing or avoidance of same. (Never underestimate the value of a little procrastination, right?)

Literary Rejections on Display –

This one is a doozy. If you go into the archives under Dear Commercial Magazine Editor ( there are some heated debates about getting paid for writing vs. n0n-paying lit magazine markets.

I also enjoyed a more recent posting The Finest Fuck You Prose At The End of the World, about how Norman McClean, the author of A River Runs Through It, tells off an editor at Knopf.

Some of the paid writers post anonymously so as not to alert the editors of commercial zines, who they simultaneously get paid by and despise, that they have writers on staff who are inciting a revolt from within. It’s fascinating reading.

I’ve talked about the whole “pay” issue here before and you, my fine readers, haven’t necessarily voiced strong opinions either way. On Lit Rejections on Display, there is a heated debate (or was….) The issue continues to be unresolved in the lit mag community.

*                       *                       *

Fiction Contests and Other Opportunities —

This is a handy reference guide to fiction contests broken down by deadline month.

Also, I found Lit Rejections on Display in the “Invaluable” Blog Roll on the right hand side of this page. There were plenty of other blogs listed there too, and I plan on going back and reading through others.



Some Rejections Are Worse Than Others

I’ve come to expect rejections of all types. Standard form rejections, personal notes with commentary, and yes, even rejection in the form of pieces that got lost, journals that closed, or journals who – for whatever strange reason – never reply at all. All of this can and does happen, although the “lost” “closed” and “no reply” versions are pretty rare.

So, without embellishment on my part, I’m going to communicate what happened with one organization: Hunger Mountain: Vermont College of Fine Arts.

2/21/2011 – submit a script for a play for their consideration

10/8/2011 – sent inquiry regarding status of my submission

11/2011 – no reply

12/2011 – no reply

1/22/2012 – sent reply to inquiry stating play still under consideration, expect decision within one month

2/2012 – no decision

3/16/2012 – sent inquiry regarding status of submission based on information provided in 1/22/2012 reply

3/26/2012 – Here is the reply I received, verbatim:


Dear Carol Deminski,

Thank you for sending us (“name of piece sent”). We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, the piece is not for us.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this. And we do apologize for holding on to it for so long!


The editors,

Hunger Mountain

Vermont College of Fine Arts


Your mileage may vary with this organization, but I didn’t enjoy going through more than a year of waiting for a one line standard rejection form.



February 2012 Rejection

Okay, I’ve been resisting sharing my rejections. I’ve seen Court do it, I’ve seen Hannah do it, and there I was looking from the sidelines…but no more. I’m boldly going where…well, where Court and Hannah have lured me to go.

Here is the list of rejections from February 2012. I’ll note where the rejection had a personal note, vs. a standard form rejection. Make of it what you will…

I’d really appreciate any comments on this long list of shame. Do you guys find this interesting? Helpful? Amusing?


Wigleaf – personal

Carte Blanche


Elimae – personal


Passages North


Gigantic – personal

Fractured West

Neon – personal

Blood Orange Review

Mud Luscious Online

Black Warrior


Word Riot – personal

A-Minor – personal

Used Furniture Review

Third Coast

Beloit Poetry Journal – personal

Smokelong Quarterly

Camroc Press – personal

Flashquake – personal


The Collagist

Corium – personal

Grey Sparrow Press – personal

Kill author

Necessary Fiction – personal


The Northville Review

Revolution House – personal

Slushpile – personal




Potpourri Post: Metazen, Letters in the Mail, Zouch, The Artist and more

Today’s post is brought to you random topical inspiration.

My story Baby Crazy will be published by Metazen on March 6th. That’s only 2 days away – yay! I’ll post the link on Tuesday.

Do you subscribe to Stephen Elliot’s Letters in the Mail over at The Rumpus? I started getting them recently, and I like them. He sends one email a day and it has his personal observations about things going on in his literary circle, he talks about events he may have attended or promotional things he’s doing, and of course he talks about pieces on The Rumpus site. He uses a very casual style which is appropriate since the email is supposed to be like a personal letter. Anyway, if you haven’t checked out The Rumpus, you probably should.

Zouch Magazine recently followed me on Twitter, so I followed them back. Then I went to their site because I wanted to find out more about them. Turns out two artistically inclined Canadian guys who are into music and literature decided it was time to put up their own site and do their own thing. I notice the site is very visually inclined, so some stories are represented by a picture and you have to click on the picture to get to the content. Also, they are very actively looking for people to submit content so if you’re looking for a new market to check out, they’re a place to look.

A few days ago I got an email from an editor I’ve only submitted to twice (a third item had to be withdrawn when it was accepted elsewhere) but she was so nice, I want to share what she said to me:

I really enjoyed this story.  What did you send me last time? I know that I liked it as well.

I don’t think this is quite the story for [  ] either, but I have no doubt that one of your stories certainly will be.

I was like, what…me? You only read two stories and you liked them both? But what was funny is that she never told me that in the original rejection slips. Good lesson for me kids, behind those rejection slips people are forming opinions – even when they don’t share them.

And she was SO nice, she even offered to re-read the first piece and provide more detailed feedback. I need someone to love that story as much as I do, because I’ve been trying to get Family Picnic published for years. Nate Tower just accepted the only other story I had from that long ago, so The Paperboy found an adoptive dad, maybe if things go well Family Picnic will soon have an adoptive mom. Or at least, maybe it’ll have an adoptive aunt to provide feedback that leads me to the right editorial parent.

I’ve noticed something funny is going on now with my rejection slips – most of them are getting personal responses now, and in some cases they’re saying things like “this is well written” “I like the crisp language” or “this flows well” (all comments I’ve gotten recently, by the way) even though the pieces aren’t getting accepted. Believe me, this is a significant development for me…I feel like some invisible tide is turning.

When I consider how important it is to be published in places like PANK, Metazen, Foundling Review, Spilling Ink, Bartleby Snopes (twice), Dogzplot, Right Hand Pointing, etc. I think these brand name journals are helping me tremendously as I make forward headway. Then again, I don’t put all those names on my submission cover letters but let’s be real, I always put a few.

That takes me back to something Jacob Appel said in that Tips article I mentioned in my last post… he said a twenty-something MFA student slushpile reader might dismiss you out of hand if you have no recognizable pub credits but they’ll think two or three times if you’ve got heavy hitter names, maybe a Pushcart nom, or something. Ahh, back to their hierarchy of talent, right?

I don’t know.

I’d like to believe, and I do believe, that my writing has improved over the past two years too. I’ve had so many great editors give productive feedback and I’m listening – I swear I’m listening very closely to those snippets of feedback – and maybe my nose to the proverbial grindstone, plus my successful story placements, plus the ongoing goodwill of new editors equals the promise of further placement.

Hmm. This set of observations could be influenced by the sun shining and it’s Sunday and I can go out and enjoy the day too.

Finally, movies. Or, a movie. The Artist, in fact.

I recently made some very snide comments about how would it be possible for a French film to win over an American film for Best Picture. (By the way, j’adore Paris and Viva La France…) Then I went to see The Artist.

Yeah, it’s good. It deserved Best Picture over The Descendants.

Also, now I understand why Jean DuJardin (Mr. John Garden, for those of us who speaka de English) got selected for the lead role. He has a certain je ne c’est quoi about him that does strongly remind you of old Hollywood. He was able to use his face so wonderfully, and he must be dangeously charming in France, where he speaks the native language.

But… and there is a “but” here…

Movies just ain’t what they used to be, I lament to you, dear reader.

In two years from now, I’m not going to be talking about The Artist. I’ll still be talking about how phenomenal The Departed is, and it’s destined to be a classic. I’ll talk about the wonder of The Royal Tennenbaums, the razor-sharp and inspiring dialogue from David Mamet’s Heist (“Don’t you want to hear my last words?” “I just did.” BANG) and how far ahead of its time Close Encounters of the Third Kind was as a film, yes, these movies I will watch again and again along with my romantic favorites Good Will Hunting, The Piano and Groundhog Day.

But The Artist will, to me, be like Shakespeare in Love… it was a movie I saw, and liked, but I probably don’t need to see again and again and again.

Finding markets for short stories

I subscribe to the Gotham Writer’s Workshop newsletter, and in the latest issue, I found a link to an essay by Jacob Appel on Tips for Placing a Short Story.

One comment caught my eye:

In 1998, I won the Boston Review’s annual short fiction contest for my story, “Shell Game with Organs”—a breakthrough event in my career that led me to obtain my first agent. At the public reading sponsored by the Review, I informed the audience that more than seventy-five other journals, both large and small, had previously rejected the piece.

I commend Jacob Appel’s determination to get his story out. I marveled that it got rejected 75 times. I percolated on this, because it gave rise to an important question:

Is it possible that 75 markets could be a home for one story?

I spend a lot of time on Duotrope combing through the database, but I often find myself lost trying to figure out where to send my work. It takes homework to know a market.

There are a few things to know about a journal before you submit:

1. Editorial guidelines

2. The tastes of the editors based on real selections – read, read, read the stories

3. Interviews with the editor

4. If the editors are also writers, read their writings (optional)

Lauren Becker is a case and point for me. Her work as the Editor at Corium is tremendous, but there are many of my pieces I shouldn’t send to Corium because it’s not close enough to her editorial mark. And yes, she’s rejected my work because of that but her feedback has been helpful to get closer to the bullseye.

Editor Kevin O’Cuinn at Word Riot drives me (pleasantly!) batty with his wonderful rejection notices. Really I can’t thank him enough for the time and effort he puts into those notes. Alas for me, I still haven’t cracked the code on Word Riot yet. I will someday, damn it. When I do, it will be because of Kevin’s persistent guidance on what is appropriate to submit.

This leads me back to Mr. Appel. How is it possible to have 75 different markets that could have been the right place to submit the same story? Is it possible?

I don’t have THE answer, but I have MY answer: probably not.

The fact that Mr. Appel won a prestigious award from The Boston Review flies in the face of my comment, but I don’t think his experience is typical. If you got rejected for a story 75 times, chances are good you need to either rewrite it, or scrap it altogether.

After reading Jacob Appel’s essay I looked back over the list of journals I’ve submitted to over the past few years. I couldn’t say if there are more than 75 journals on the list. This year, even before I read his essay, I’d already begun combing through the hit lists of other writers as a way to introduce myself to new journals.

For example, I met Nicolette Wong, editor of A-Minor, on Court Merrigan’s blog. Later, I submitted to A-Minor … and yes, got rejected … but it was a great experience. Ms. Wong is an editor who certainly knows what she does and doesn’t want, which is always helpful.

I’ve raved on my blog before about Court’s “Failure” page, and he’s introduced me to journals like Neon, Revolution House, and Flywheel. I hadn’t looked at those markets before seeing them on Court’s list, but I’m glad I came to know of them.

There is no magic when it comes to finding the best markets to submit your stories. It takes upfront work to identify a market where a story could fit editorial tastes, and each interaction you have with the editor or staff is an opportunity to refine your understanding of that market.

After that, hopefully you can step back and watch your hard work and persistence pay off.

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.

Lessons From the Slush Pile

As I wrote about a week ago, I’ve started volunteering for an online journal as a slush pile reader.  I’ve already read over 50 entries, which is much more than I thought I would read.

So far reading from the slush pile has been a fascinating and sobering experience for me as a writer. I feel like I’ve learned far more about the submission process from an editor’s point of view than I would have reasonably expected.

It’s difficult to imagine how many submissions editors and their staffs have to review to get to the final selections for an issue. And the experience of having so many stories put in front of you at once immediately puts you in a comparative mode. I imagine now how some teams might debate and cull down their “Maybe” list into a concise, short list of final “Yes” pieces.

‘This story,’ an editor might think to themselves, ‘is well written, but I don’t like the ending. It’s not as good as this other story I just read a half hour ago.’  Or maybe the thought is, ‘This story just doesn’t go anywhere.’ (In my own brief time as a reader I feel like I’ve read quite a few stories with an excellent premise, but the person just hasn’t taken it far enough.)

And given the pace of life at small online journals and the avalanche of submissions, it’s difficult to imagine editors requesting re-writes and working with writers to hone a piece so it can be published, even though I know it does happen and has happened to me personally a few times. It makes me that much more appreciative of an editor’s time.

Of course all of this reading and evaluating gives me ammunition to look at my own work with a critical eye, or maybe I should say a MORE critical eye.

My early lessons from the slush pile would have me asking myself a series of questions before I’d submit any of my stories to any editor for their review. I jot a few of them here for your consideration and use, as you may see fit.

  • “Does this piece have enough to say?”
  • “Do I take the characters far enough in this story?”
  • “Is there emotional resonance?”
  • “Is the premise plausible enough within the context of the story that’s been written?”
  • Have I taken the premise of the story far enough?
  • “How can I up the ante or increase the tension?”
  • Is the ending coming too soon in the story? Too late?
  • Is the ending predictable? Is it too unpredictable?

This post is probably the first of several posts I’ll make on this topic, based on other experiences I have from the slush pile.

I’d like to hear from other writers, editors or slush pile readers out there who may agree/disagree with my questions above. Maybe you have your own set of “critical questions” you ask before you submit/and or accept a story for publication and I’d like to hear about those too.

My Big, Fat Rejection Notice(s)

If you are a writer, you have been rejected at some point in your writing career.  It comes with the job. I have a big, fat pile of rejection notices for every single short story I’ve ever written and submitted.

The funny thing is though, some of my rejection notices aren’t quite rejection notices.  Here is one example of those from a nice editor who will remain anonymous for purposes of this posting:

Hi Carol, thanks for sending (Story Name)… some good writing and a very good setup, but for me the ending was a bit disappointing… I would rather have seen the emotional long-term affects of the abandonment than the transition of “that’s not what happened” to ” maybe that never happened” as a literary device… so I am going to pass, but thanks anyway!

That wasn’t so bad, was it?  I actually feel better after reading rejection notices like this than those silly form rejections which tell me nothing and give me no feedback for improvement. In fact, I took this editor’s suggestions and made edits to the story in question to reflect a more emotional impact to the narrator than the literary device I had used.  This particular story hasn’t been placed yet, but I’m sure it will be eventually.

Here is another rejection notice which isn’t a full, flat out rejection:

Some nice lines in there, Carol. “scraped the remaining soldiers from the battlefield…” Overall, it does not seem right for (Journal Name) at this time. We have decided to pass.

The previous rejection notice was given on a story called A Full Head of Hair, which was published by First Stop Fiction because it was more in keeping with the style of their journal than the one that rejected it above.

What do I take from these rejections?  Well, a few things – very important feedback on the story, which I always read and consider carefully.  Also, when I consistently get great rejection feedback like “this is well written” or “nice lines” then I know my writing is at a quality level consistent with what these journals would publish even if that particular piece isn’t right for them.

And of course, here is the BEST kind of rejection notice:

I love what is here, but I wanted more development, and the last line wasn’t quite working for me…. I would consider a revised version of this if you are willing.

Not only was I willing to revise it, that piece was accepted and published. (You can try to guess which of my stories the note above was about….)

There are so many unsung editors of small journals out there who are incredibly generous of their time and feedback.  I have benefitted tremendously as a writer from their guidance and (at times) their tough love.  I’m glad there are publications out there who care enough about the writers who submit to them to give personal feedback on submissions. It helps create a positive feedback loop.

I’d enjoy hearing from you writers out there who have also had good experiences with rejection notices. Did they spur you to re-write, re-submit, or make a needed change in your writing?  How did the feedback affect you and improve you?

Reasons Why Your Short Story Was Rejected


Dear Writer,

Here are the reasons why your short story was rejected from our fine, upstanding and highly reputable literary magazine.  We have won no awards, and until we listed ourselves on Duotrope no one knew who we were, but our standards are extremely rigorous. 


We expect nothing but the best, we don’t accept haiku or limericks, and please stop sending us submissions in Russian, Polish and Slovakian. We called ourselves the Red Army Journal but we expect you to understand it has nothing to do with the actual Red Army.

Read all of the fiction in our archives before submitting, or permanently subscribe to our mailing list so we can send you five emails a week despite the fact that we will never accept your stories. Slavish devotion to our journal does not equate to reciprocal love.

Please send us documents only in kju, or opp formats.  If you have never heard of them, that is your problem, those are the only formats we accept.  We accept submissions on Thursdays from 2:35pm PST until 5:40pm EST except in months with 30 days, then we don’t.

As you know, we are only staffed by part-time volunteers whose mothers have nagged them relentlessly about why they got an MFA when a Computer Science degree would have allowed them to move out of the basement.  Regardless, we have entrusted your work to our lovable grunts, and here are their highly esteemed opinions which we have carefully crafted into a form letter rejection for you:

  1. I read the first line of your story and I kind of liked it, then my cat barfed on the floor and I had to go clean it up.  Have you ever smelled cat barf, writer? It stinks.  When I sat back down I was in a bad mood.  I re-read your first sentence and determined it to be the work of a hack. (FORM REJECTION)
  2. I liked your submission and sent it on to the second volunteer reader. She didn’t like it.  The third volunteer reader was not available (she is with her boyfriend and not doing her slushpile reading!)  I argued with volunteer #2, but she convinced me to go drinking instead.  On our third glass of Chardonnay we decide you are better off being rejected in the hopes you will take up Computer Science. You can’t get a good night’s sleep in a basement. One sentence personal rejection inside the (FORM REJECTION.)
  3. I hated your story.  I especially hated the fact that I had written a story that was similar to this one, and it had been my first rejection.  That magazine has never accepted one of my stories and I really liked that story.  That was my favorite story and it still hasn’t found a home. (FORM REJECTION)
  4. Your story was really funny and witty.  We don’t like funny or witty. (FORM REJECTION)
  5. Your story was 2001 words and if you read our submission guidelines, which you are now blatently violating, you would know that we only accept fiction pieces from 1-2000 words.  Why couldn’t you just edit out one word for us? Just pick a word, any word, at random and take it out.  Then you would have had a fantastic story and we would have accepted it.  (FORM REJECTION)
  6. Your story is perfectly attuned to our submissions guidelines.  I love this kind of writing and value it highly.  Unfortunately, I’ve run out of funding and I just can’t run this magazine by myself anymore.  I’m closing shop and getting a job as a waiter, but I’m sure you’ll find a home for this story elsewhere, writer.
  7. Your story was the best story ever submitted to us.  This story is so good, we wouldn’t be able to compare it to any other story we’ve ever published.  In fact, we can’t compare it to anything because your story has been lost in our electronic submissions management system. Bill left the magazine a year ago and the submissions management system has been a mess since then.  Maybe you’ll query us after you haven’t heard back in nine months, but it won’t matter, we’re never going to find it.

Reasons Why Your Story Was Accepted:

We only needed one more piece to complete this issue, and yours was small enough to fit perfectly.