Rejection (a four-letter word with nine letters)

Remember that Dr. Seuss book: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish? (Oh, how I loved reading that to my son when he was young!)

Whenever I think  of submitting my writing–my lovely and precious words!–my mind feels as jumbled as that Dr. Seuss title: This magazine or that? This poem or essay or that one? Or hey, I see that this editor ran a marathon and I’ve run marathons so it must be a sign from the universe (It wasn’t. I was slammed with a rejection in less than two weeks).

I hate to submit. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Because really, in how many occupations/vocations does one find him/herself facing rejection on a daily basis?

But at the same time, I also love to submit. I love it, love it, love it. Because for a brief moment in time I truly believe that my work will be regarded with multi-syllable adjectives of praise.

Until I hit the Send button. As soon as my submission leaves my cozy little writing room in my snowy and cozy corner of Alaska, I’m seized with doubt. I imagine editors sneering at my work. “Who does she think she is?” they’ll say, and then they’ll read my work out loud in pompous tones, laughing like hell.

The most devious thing about writing is that if you don’t submit, you’ll never be published. Yet if you do submit, you’ll be hit with rejection. It’s inevitable. It’s a fact of life, like period pains and underarm odor.

Here’s a few frightening and disheartening statistics: Top-tier literary journals publish less than 1% of manuscripts. Literary agents reject approximately 96% of authors. And publishers? Well, those odds are even more dismissal.

Now that my second novel is finished and sent off to New York (where they may or may not accept it, since it wasn’t exactly the novel they asked for or expected yet was the only book I could write at that particular time and particular moment in my life), I’m gearing up to send out my work. My goal is five to ten submissions a week.

Last week I sent out four: Two chapbook contests and three groups of poems. Wait, that’s five. Okay, so I guess I did better than I thought and hooray for me for actually meeting my goal (though a swift kick in the behind for my shoddy math skills).

I’m going to start posting my rejections too, like Jac Jemc does in her Rejection blog, though I’m going to do so a bit less blatantly and simply slip my rejections inside my regular blog posts (I’m not as brave as you are, Jac).

But onward to more cheerful topics. Well, not exactly cheerful but still, I can’t stop thinking about Tara Sparling’s post “I Hate Women’s Fiction and I’ll Tell You Why.”  Because listen to what she says:

Because Men’s Fiction isn’t even a thing. Most booksellers (except Amazon) pretend that Women’s Fiction isn’t a thing, either, by not specifically listing it as such, because they know it’s patronising and insulting to female readers, who make up a significant majority of the reading public. But just try, as a female writer, to sell a book to an agent or publisher and get away from the term ‘Women’s Fiction’. You can’t. Because behind the official lists, it’s the biggest genre there is.

Hooray to you, Tara! And then it gets even better, for she says:

But I do have a fundamental problem with the fact that if a man writes a book which has within it themes such as love, marriage, family and anything even vaguely domestic, it is Literary Fiction; but when a woman writes about the same issues, it is immediately labelled Chick-Lit.

Yes, yes and yes! (I’m developing a bigger writing crush on Tara Sparling each time I read this.)

Talking about crushes, I seem to have bombed out of the whole NaNo crush thinger. Just not feeling it. I have been writing like crazy, and writing each day. And I am on Chapter Five of a new novel. But mostly I’m editing up poems and essays and short fiction pieces and working on a memoir and, okay, okay, instead of being in a monogamous writing relationship, I’ve been kind of slutty.

And last but not least: Kevin Brennan’s Yesterday Road is only 99 cents for the Kindle version through Dec. 8. Whoa!

And, of course, winter pictures of Alaska. You know, just because.

Denali, from the Coastal Trail, just a few miles from our house.
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Sleeping Lady, across the inlet.
Sunset, around 4 p.m., and we’re still losing about four minutes of light a day.

4 thoughts on “Rejection (a four-letter word with nine letters)

  1. Rejection bites. This is a crazy job. Like you said – so much rejection. And I don’t even want to calculate my hourly wage. Oy. And I hear you on sending the publisher a book that wasn’t what they were expecting. Mine just rejected my latest. It’s still my usual “Fido-friendly fiction” with lots of dogs and they loved the themes, but it’s a fairy fale (for a 40-year-old) and they want me to make it “less magical”. But I don’t think that works for me. I wrote the book I wanted to write (and I had a very fun time writing it) so I’ll probably just self pub it and see if they’ll want the next one. That’s great that you’ve been writing a lot. I haven’t written in a while – things have just been crazy busy (mostly because my mom’s been in the hospital/rehab and we have to move her to assisted living) but hope to get back in the swing of things next week! Gosh, I wrote a novella! Good luck with your publisher!


    1. I think my hourly wage is in the negative digits, which really bites. I’m glad you decided not to make your book “less magical” because I think we always have to stick to our visions when it comes to our work. Oh, we do need editing and we do need to rewrite and make changes, but there’s a big difference between minor and major revisions. The cool thing is that with self-publishing, authors actually have the upper hand, kind of/sort of, or at least the illusion of the upper hand, lol.
      Hope your mom is feeling better and that you get a chance to rest and take it easy once she’s in assisted living. Tough times but hang in there, okay? Take care, and big hugs.


  2. What a great post! I’ve been slowly submitting stuff, mostly to contests since they offer a definite date by which you will know whether you won. Still, when I had submitted four poems for one contest and all them were rejected, I was heartbroken. I thought, you know, the odds would be better ;( Still, like the lottery, I can’t win if I don’t play. Good luck with all your submissions! And never mind about NaNoWriMo. In my humble opinion, NaNoWriMo is best for writers who need the crazy deadline to get any writing done. You obviously were doing just fine without it 🙂


  3. Thanks, Marie. I often feel as if I should change my middle name to Rejection. Or maybe have it tattooed on my forearm, so I’m always aware of the realities. Cheers, happy writing and good luck with your submissions (good, good luck!).


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