The Big "R"

Since reading Susan’s post, I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of rejection. It can get under your skin like a splinter, one you only notice when someone else touts their acceptance to the journal that just rejected you.

Right now I have submissions out to eight publications (would have been nine but received a rejection yesterday). After this post I will send out to three more publications, two of which I’ll submit online. The online subs seem to respond faster (sometimes), but I like the ritual of printing poems, finding stamps, envelopes—the full Monty.


Was speaking with a friend about her unlucky string of submissions when she told me of another friend who had sent out more than 70 submissions WITHOUT an acceptance. Nothing like someone else’s sad story to make you feel better about your own life and work.


There are no substitutions for tenacity and luck.


I emailed a few poets about their views on rejection. Here are a few excerpts.

>>> Pet Peeves? Those rejections that say something like "we really enjoyed your work but it wasn't right for XYZ magazine." Hmmm ...  so they can't publish what they enjoy? Also, magazines that take forever (one year) and then when you write to inquire on the status they reject you. It's like you prompted them to reject you by asking ... So I've become very superstitious about even asking - I'd rather just forget about that submission than ask.

But despite my pet peeves and frustrations with the process and the regular avalanches of rejections I subject myself to I do think that it is pretty special that we can send our poems out into the world and they will be read and considered for publication by even the most prestigious magazines.

>>> I really hate "we love this piece, but we don't have space at this time." Yes, you do. I've been an editor and I know that when you love a piece you make space. Or you hold until the next journal. If you're an online journal, this comment is even more ridiculous.

I hate journals that take longer to get back to you. Even worse: when a journal accepts and never seems to print the work!

Recently I worked with a magazine that was so freaking professional every step of the way, I can't stop telling my friends about the experience. I've also been very excited by the way good journals my (and others) work and tried to get it out there by submitting to Verse Daily, Pushcart, etc. I guess my point is, yes, big-name journals are ones you should submit to because they're prestigious, but thank Gouda there are smaller journals out there that make you feel good about the whole poetic process. Not just like a piece of poetry meat.

My main strategy is to have out to tons of places because I handle rejection better if I know there's still hope pending. Also, when I get a rejection I try to think "Wow, look at me, I'm a real writer now." 

>>> Speaking of writerly rejection...a fellowship I applied for said "NOPE" to me today (though my work passed muster enough to sign up for their regular services--so I guess that's like being a finalist?). In response, I went mad and readied work for new submissions! I sent my manuscript to two presses and individual poems to three journals.

>>> Sometimes I'll get the flattering rejection: "While we found your work engaging and your form meticulous, and I'm sure some other journal will scoop it up..." At first I get very cranky about it, but then I remember the time I took this risk and asked this guy in my class, Michael Silk, out on a date. I got the same response: "While I think you are awesome at calculus and I'm sure you'll have no problem getting a date for the dance...." Mostly I've forgotten the rejection part and remember how gutsy I was to ask out Mr. Silky Silk. 


Nin Andrews said…
Oh man. I sent some poems to Sentence over a year ago, and that's a review I like. And they rejected them. And then they rejected them again about six months later. Then they rejected the same submission again yesterday.
Jennifer Jean said…
Nin--I feel your pain! Similar thing happened to me from APR :( As Khan said in The Wrath of Khan: "I spit at thee with my last breath!" (that's me talking to APR not to you btw) ;)
Jennifer said…
When I send stuff out, I try to have two journals in mind for each package, and then when the rejection comes in I try to think positive: okay, that frees up those pieces for that other cool journal I was thinking about. I recently had a journal hold on to a package forever - they actually rejected me for the themed issue I submitted to but said I was in consideration for the next unthemed issue and then rejected me for that as well. The whole process took almost a year, but the final definitive rejection email came 1 day before the reading period of another journal closed, so I dashed the package out in time. If I hadn't had a list in my head of journals that I think might match those pieces, I would have missed that deadline.

Nin Andrews - that's crazy!
Susan Rich said…
Great stories. At the moment I have lots of work out at journals and no one is sending it back. In some cases, journals are hanging onto the work I sent last August. I think they've forgotten about me except that Submittable lets me know they're "active" a whole new crazy way for me to obsess.

Thanks Jan, and hope to see you at least for a lunch at AWP!
January said…
Nin, sorry to hear about Sentence. That's sucks. Well, if they are at AWP I would give them an earful.
January said…
Susan, have you queried those publishers. Maybe at AWP you can put a little bug in their ear about your submissions.

And yes, we have to have lunch at AWP.

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