I’ve learned to take my fair share of rejection. But every once in awhile, one comes along that really gets to me, down deep where my muse and I live.
Example: the rejection I got yesterday for “The Postmodern Bullcrap Devolution of Daddy’s Little Girl,” a story I wrote about a year ago in response to the Writer’s Digest Your Story competition. The prompt was to write a short-short story about a character getting a chance to be on TV that results in the character’s humiliation.
Well, as anyone who knows my writing can attest, I’m an expert in humiliation, but the TV angle didn’t come naturally. I clustered, I freewrote, I lay awake at night, and eventually came up with an psychological piece about a woman coming to terms with being rejected by her alcoholic father. The TV thing was an add on, tacked on like lace on a hem. I sent it off to Writer’s Digest with my heart bursting with hope, sure I was going to be lauded as the next Faulkner or Hemingway.
I pouted about it for a week, then started shopping Postmodern around.
Months passed. The story made the rounds to half a dozen-ish markets. I got a few form rejections and, even better, several promising personal rejections. I revised, I revamped, I even lost the TV aspect, finally admitting that the whole TV angle dragged the story down.
But still no dice.
I entered what I now call Angry August, the month where my spirit was broken from months of rejection. On August 1st, I decided to give Postmodern one last try. I found an e-zine with a astonishingly high acceptance rate and again, sent it off, sure they would be grateful to get work from a writer of my caliber. Dammit, I was going to get in this time.
I heard back from them yesterday, 167 days later. I submit their response for your enjoyment:
Deepest appreciations are tendered for your sharing of your fictional "The Postmodern Bullcrap Devolution of Daddy's Little Girl."
Unfortunately, it pleases me not-- or, in the least, insufficiently. Please keep my humble journal in mind as you continue writing, and consider submitting other pieces in the future.
All for the Best in the Best of All Possible Worlds,
The Enormous Sea Urchin*
*name changed from one non-sentient sea creature to another to somewhat obfuscate the identity of the publication
Yes, I’d been rejected by a sea urchin.
Last I checked, sea urchins couldn’t even read. Yet, somehow, this one not only read, but also considered itself sufficiently self-aware to evaluate the story I’d slaved away at for so many profitless months. I pictured some acne-pocked, chubby teenager in his basement bedroom cackling as he hit the SEND button. How dare these people send me such an inane rejection? I’d been the paragon of professionalism with them. Didn’t I deserve a modicum of respect?
I stared at the monitor, which turned red before my steaming gaze. This proved it. I truly was an expert in humiliation. My own.
A good night’s sleep changed my attitude. I still would have appreciated more professionalism in their response. But I’d like to think the sea urchin angle was someone’s idea of a cutesy joke, rather than someone’s effort to hide behind anonymity.
Rather, my change of heart came about something I knew I could change—my own lousy attitude. I finally figured out what I should have known from the beginning: Some stories just aren’t meant to see the light of day. It looked like Postmodern was one of them. I wrote it. I learned a lot from it. But it was time for me to move on.
So I move on now, a little humbler and a little smarter, God willing.
One last bit of crow to eat: Sea urchin, I apologize for all the snotty thoughts I sent toward your little corner of the ocean. I won’t say you were right, but you weren’t 100% wrong. Perhaps you’re more self-aware than I am.
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