Posts Tagged rejection

Things Other People Posted

I’m half pretending not to be part of Facebook anymore, but one reason I don’t want to totally be off of it is that many of my friends find and post blogs and articles I’d never see otherwise. Here are some links that might be of interest to writers. Possibly they will result in longer posts when it isn’t almost Christmas and I still have lime-cardamon buns and apricot cookies to bake.

The poet and writer Claudia Putnam, author of Wild Thing In Our Known World, posted an article from another writer on the role of privilege and connections in the struggle to be published. And today, Dec 26, I found another article Claudia posted written by the artist and writer, Molly Crabapple, whose take is similar but slightly different than the first one.

She also recently posted this little bit by author Chris Orcutt about responding to rejection, while another online friend, Mitch E. Parker, editor of Camera Obscura, posted what might be called the Duotrope of Rejection Letters. It appears he actually posted this same link in the comments to the aforementioned blog. The Rejection Wiki contains the copy of various rejection letters sent out by numerous journals. It can be both interesting and somewhat informative to compare what you received against what is reported here.

Just this morning Nathan Bransford, past literary agent and current social media guru, posted about creative fatigue, something many of us may be facing as the new year steamrolls our way.

Any thoughts on any of these blogs/posts? I hope some of them provide you with something to mull over this holiday season.

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Sometimes Early Success Is Not Helpful

When I first started writing, I wrote poetry and was reasonably successful in finding a places to publish. Most were in small, independent “journals.” One appeared in a college journal, Kalliope, in the same issue as Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, Kathleen Norris, and Kathleen Spivak. That was my biggest success. Eventually, I decided I wasn’t a very good poet and started writing and sending out short stories. I was asked for rewrites and usually received a comment or two, if only a scribbled, “Thanks. ” I took an upper level fiction writing class at Colorado State University during which I handed in two or three stories. This class was huge, maybe forty students, mostly kids in their early twenties. Four or five were slightly older. The professor, an odd, quiet man and published writer, called out two stories he considered possibly publishable, both belonging to older students. One of them, titled, Casanova With Fleas, was mine. His suggestion for me was to cut; the original was around 12,000 words. I cut it to  6,000 and eventually to between 4,000 and 4,500 words. Meanwhile, I wasn’t particularly happy in my job, especially when I learned the only other employee of the senior transportation program I worked for made significantly more money than I did. The director of the program wasn’t willing to increase my pay even though I basically ran everything but volunteer recruitment. I decided to quit and give myself a year to see where I could go with writing.As soon as I gave notice,  we flew back East for my husband’s 20th high school reunion. When we returned, I had an acceptance for Casanova and a check for $35 dollars from a start-up journal, Modern Short Stories. I never did like the name, nor its pulpy look, but they were trying to produce a popular journal to be sold in places like smoke shops and airports. The unfortunate timing, though, made it so I’d met my goal before I started, and I think I wasted a good part of my year, not seriously tackling the business of writing.

My writing group usually has a holiday dinner at my house or a special-event restaurant in place of one of our December meetings. This year we plan to release Flying wish-papers  as well as set our yearly and/or quarterly goals. The trick will be to write goals in such a way that success is achievable without undermining the desire to more completely fulfill each goal. Possibly those of us who are inherently lazy can overcome minor fulfillment of our goals by staggering goals or setting new short-term quarterly, or even monthly, goals.How do others handle setting goals, and has anyone else had the experience of prematurely meeting a goal and having your motivation self-implode?

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Sigh. Vietnam Veteran Story

I was working on this story when I decided to enroll in The Literature of the Vietnam War class at Colorado State University, taught by John Clark Pratt. I hadn’t been an English major in college and only subsequently did I take a few undergraduate literature courses and graduate writing classes. This was one of the best classes I ever took. We read numerous books I’m sure I wouldn’t have encountered if I was reading on my own, such as Into A Black Sun. (Takeshi Kaiko)

We also read The Quiet American (Graham Greene), a novel by a Vietnamese officer, which, to my knowledge, is not available. We did not, notably, read Going After Cacciato. I don’t remember if there were any veterans in this class, but there was a woman who had been a nurse who brought orphans our of Vietnam. One of the requirements of the course was to write a paper. I asked if I could instead submit a short story. Dr. Pratt agreed, and I think I can say with assurance that he thought highly of the story. He encouraged me to join his graduate workshop the following semester, which I did.

When the story was ready to send out, I decided to start at the stop. Why not? So I sent it to the New Yorker. And then many more until finally, not quite twenty years later, it was accepted at this now defunct Internet journal.  Although I was happy to finally have it find a home, in many ways it was a comedown from my New Yorker submission. The text of the personal rejection follows. I since changed the title.

June 12, 1989

Dear Ms.—–, A very natural, appealing, modest story, but I’m afraid the parallel between the brother’s war fixation and the narrator’s divorce seemed to us at once a bit unconvincing and a bit heavyhanded. But there’s a lot in SOLDIERS to admire, and I thank you for the chance to consider it. Try again.


Daniel Menaker

The rejecion letter

Partial Reading List, Literature of the Vietnam War

The Quiet American, Graham Greene

Into a Black Sun, Vietnam 1964-65  Takeshi Kaiko

The Laotian Fragments, John Clark Pratt

Parthian Shot  Loyd LIttle

The 13th Valley John M. Del Vecchio

Paco’s Story Larry Heinemann

No Bugles, No Drums Charles Durden

One Very Hot Day  David Halberstam

One to Count Cadence James Crumley

Bridge Fall Down Nicholas Rinaldi

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