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
  • Cur.ren.cy – 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!)

Thanks

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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!

Sincerely,

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

Juked

Elimae – personal

FRIGG

Passages North

Monkeybicycle

Gigantic – personal

Fractured West

Neon – personal

Blood Orange Review

Mud Luscious Online

Black Warrior

Brink

Word Riot – personal

A-Minor – personal

Used Furniture Review

Third Coast

Beloit Poetry Journal – personal

Smokelong Quarterly

Camroc Press – personal

Flashquake – personal

Phoebe

The Collagist

Corium – personal

Grey Sparrow Press – personal

Kill author

Necessary Fiction – personal

Caketrain

The Northville Review

Revolution House – personal

Slushpile – personal

 

 

 

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: http://courtmerrigan.wordpress.com/failure/

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.

REJECTION WIKI Click Here: http://www.rejectionwiki.com/index.php?title=Main_Page

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.

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?

A brief comment on Kate Chopin’s short stories

I was so happy when I got my Kindle recently, that I went on a free book downloading spree, to reaquaint myself with old favorites or to introduce myself to new ones.

Of the many thousands of free books (published prior to 1923) available to Kindle owners, one of them is The Awakening and Selected Short Stories. I remember reading The Awakening in college, and how much I loved it, so I skipped over that novella length piece to jump into shorter stories I hadn’t read before.

Ms. Chopin instantly transports the reader to New Orleans and/or the Louisiana countryside of old, and engages us with stories that are charming and engaging. She is a writer of an old-fashioned type, that uses dainty description to help bring her scene to life, but it is effective.

Beyond the Bayou

The bayou curved like a crescent around the point of land on which La Folle’s cabin stood.  Between the stream and the hut lay a big abandoned field, where cattle were pastured when the bayou supplied them with water enough. Through the woods that spread back into unknown regions the woman had drawn an imaginary line, and past this circle she never stepped. This was the form of her only mania.

The stories are brief but alive with a vibrancy that I was happy to reconnect with after so many years had passed since my first reading of her work.

On a personal tangent, I continue to wonder about the current state of short story writing.  When I return to such beautiful classic tales such as Ms. Chopin’s, I feel a bit sad to think that the works of many writers are, perhaps, mouldering on the shelf if they are not being taught in university classrooms.

In turn, it makes me seriously consider the fate of current short story writers too.  I recently read a piece in The Missouri Review that suggested writers have submitted work to them for fifteen years but eventually, they published them.  Here is the excerpt:

For at least six years I’ve been reading work by Anna Solomon, our fiction winner, inviting her to send revisions in a couple of instances—and yet we’ve finally said no, until now. John Hales, the nonfiction winner, has been faithfully sending us near misses for probably fifteen years, perhaps more.

All I can say is: Are you f*ing kidding me? I don’t know Mr. Hales but what I can say is that he must be a serious masochist. How do you take 15 years of repeated rejection while still thinking, “they may not have liked anything I sent in the last 15 years, but THIS one is the winner!” Also, who has 15 years to sit around waiting for someone to like their work enough to publish it.  I seriously question why The Missouri Review would put out that kind of information about itself.

Finally, if Ms. Chopin had been writing today, I have no doubt her work would have also been repeatedly rejected.  She would have been told, “too much description” or “nice story, not in our style” or “Dear Ms. Chopin, the Blank Review has decided not to use this story at this time.”

So my advice is go back and re-read the classics, and marvel at how they ever got published. Perseverence may pay off, but it could take you decades to get there, according to the Missouri Review.