WRITING: On A Suc­cess­ful Writ­ing Year or, There Is Life After Rejection

(This post originally appeared in January, 2011 at Nothing to Flawnt in my gastarbeiter appearance on that weblog, with thanks to Marcus Speh.)

Yes, thank you, yes, yes!

The writer’s dream come true. Gra­ciously accept­ing con­grat­u­la­tory com­ments from his peers on his lat­est pub­lished piece. But what did it take out of him to get here?

Like a new mother for­get­ting the agony of child­birth when she holds the new babe against her breast, the writer doesn’t look back at the years of rejec­tion slips, the mis­car­riages of writing.

We found your work not quite a fit/not suit­able for our journal/REJECTED.

Most writ­ers really started back in grade school. Pat­ted on the head and encour­aged by teach­ers and of course, a mother who loves every word. Some­times there are years in between bouts with the muse but at some point we decide to take it seri­ously. Put some effort into it. Sub­mit. And that’s where real­ity hits fic­tion and the pain of rejec­tion adds lay­ers to character.

Many years ago–at that par­tic­u­lar moment when light­ning struck which I mis­took for that “time to get seri­ous” sign–I did some research. Armed with a hand­ful of short sto­ries and many, many poems, I hit the track. Of course, back then it was all print­ing out, cover let­ters, envelopes (two–one the dreaded SASE) and postage. I went through Duotrope and selected what I thought were among the “upper ech­e­lon” of lit­er­ary jour­nals, those found in the cam­pus library: Glim­mer­train, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, the col­lege reviews. Twenty of the best. Those that reg­u­larly pub­lished the lat­est Joyce Carol Oates. Back then, I strictly obeyed the “no simul­ta­ne­ous sub­mis­sions” warning.

And waited. And waited. And waited for some kind of response.

These days, with online sub­mis­sions the norm, it is so much eas­ier to sub­mit. Cheaper, too. In truth, I feel for the edi­tors who must dread in some ways just know­ing each morn­ing that though there may be a pearl in the onslaught of words, there is indeed that onslaught that the ease of sub­mis­sion has opened up.

Over the years I’ve learned a bit more about the sys­tem of sub­mit­ting and the one thing that was always stressed, the same thing that out of ego but more, out of impos­si­bil­ity due to lack of funds we tended to ignore, was to sub­scribe to a mag­a­zine in order to find out exactly what it sought by way of writ­ing. Well, you can only afford so many mag­a­zines and you can talk your­self into think­ing you fit.

One of the best moves I’ve made was join­ing the won­der­ful com­mu­nity of writ­ers at Fic­tio­naut. It did, of course, open some doors and make some amaz­ing friends that are so sup­port­ive of each other that a writer need no longer feel alone and small. Bet­ter yet, it revealed the dif­fer­ent styles of con­tem­po­rary fic­tion and poetry writ­ing and what was being sought by the jour­nal edi­tors. Not only do the links make the mag­a­zines eas­ily acces­si­ble online, it offered sam­ples of the editor’s writ­ing! What bet­ter way to see exactly the tone, style, voice, topic, etc. that an edi­tor looks for in select­ing, than to see what type of writ­ing he/she presents? That in itself was invalu­able and ben­e­fi­cial to both sides; less head bang­ing and less read­ing of incred­i­bly mis­matched submissions.

Another thing that such a com­mu­nity of good writ­ers can offer (besides some cri­tique if requested) is the oppor­tu­nity to learn by read­ing and writ­ing. I know that per­son­ally, the work of my friends has had a direct impact on my own style of writ­ing. I find it easy now to write a story in rela­tion to either a theme or a word count. A word count! Some­thing I just couldn’t com­pre­hend as rel­a­tive to story at all!

While I’ve gone off into dif­fer­ent direc­tions in my own writ­ing and have wan­dered into hyper­text, flash, and code, I see these same explo­rations into new media brought about by the inter­net and the com­puter by the mag­a­zines and by the writ­ers and artists. Mar­cus Speh has dab­bled in hyper­text nar­ra­tive. As have Dorothee Lang (edi­tor, Blue Print Review) who has taken it fur­ther into com­bin­ing story with visu­als. Meg Pokrass has found a niche in tak­ing advan­tage of Xtra­nor­mal, a free ani­ma­tion pro­gram on the web and has com­bined story with audio/visuals with exper­tise and her inim­itable flair. There are more and more venues will­ing to accept the new media form of writ­ing that an online pres­ence can offer that tra­di­tional print form never could.

So yes, life for the writer has changed. The nar­ra­tive, the meth­ods, the writer him­self, as always, adjusts and expands to ful­fill both the read­ing audi­ence and that inner need to be read. There is indeed life after rejec­tion; all I needed to do was grow into it.

This entry was posted in WRITING and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.