A vast public collection of real-life rejection
Does this mean that if you are a scientist you get a handwritten rejection from the New Yorker? As a poet, you barely get a scrap form letter. I'm on the wrong end of things yet again.
These are rejection letters from a different world.The end of the great commercial fiction era, when we non-MFAers could sell to the glossy magazines and newspapers.That Wolfe letter reminds me of the kind of correspondences I used to carry on with editors back in the early to mid 1990s. That was when people still used to be able to write letters. Even e-mails were different. It wasn't this Twitter nonsense like now, the one-liners on MySpace pages and e-mails that resemble telegraph messages sent on a budget -- back fifteen years ago, it was common to correspond with editors and other writers and contacts and get 1,000-word e-mails that were polite, cordial, told stories, and were often literary as hell.And Redbook. Fiction in Redbook. A whole generation doesn't know this. Do they not have time for anything but pictures and easy-living tips? Or is the mental capacity not there? Are people simply dulled? It's very sad how things have changed now.The New Yorker rejection is also from another time, as far as I know. In 2003 a note like that from an editors there, many months after you mailed your best story, was a possibility. Not now. Do they still write encouraging little notes like that? I have unanswered work out there for over a year. Are they no longer replying to submissions? Are they logging work, or is it better to resend at this point? Nobody responded to an earlier comment about the state of the New Yorker (and how it seems famous writers are permitted to submit "everything" they write, but us nobodies are limited to two submissions a year). Does anyone know what's going on over there? Or does nobody really care anymore? Are any of these blog readers still trying to break in there? Or have any of you actually sold them anything recently?
anon: I think it means if your story is passed on by Henry Finder (book editor at the NYer) you get a hand-written rejection.Also, neither non-MFAers nor MFAers are going to get published in the NYer over the transom. I think that's the reality. I'm sure there's the rare story of a slush pile discovery, but in terms of odds, you'd be better off playing the lottery.
By the way, doesn't it seem like this blog has grown a second head from when it started?The first head is the one that gives us rejection letters and the funny comments about them. A bit lighthearted. A few funny links on rejection in the news thrown in for variation.I like that head. It's been a stress relief of sorts. It isn't controversial. But its limitations are proportionate to that -- it isn't going to change anything in the literary world. It will give us chuckles now to ease the frustration of submission, but it won't be remembered after blogger bites the dust. It might help me see that such and such a publication or agent is as inattentive or clueless to others as to me, but it won't change the establishment. Nobody hates this head, I don't think. It can lead to a funny book for writers, "Dealing With Rejection" or something.However, there's only so much that head can do. It's like a comedy sitcom. And somewhere in all the yuks that got stirred up with frustration and sour grapes, something else rose out of the murk. That's the new head, the second one. It's something very different from the first. It's more serious and deadly. It's very smart and isn't afraid to say what you're not allowed to say by questioning the literary establishment. Its purpose seems to be to analyze the death of fiction and figure out what has been lost and how to bring it back, as well as featuring rejected story corner and being direct enough that writers and editors have to come here and defend their various positions. The establishment hates this head. I, however, like this head. It's powerful. I like to listen to what it says -- where the first head has helped take away some frustration, this head has taught me quite a bit and got me to see the world of publication in a new light. I've learned from it. And even better than helping ease frustration, I've learned that I'm not alone in what I see wrong with publishing today and with the state of fiction and the literary establishment, the whole system. I'd like to see this head take that whole system on, go on and do something big.So I like both of these heads in different ways, for different reasons. And I almost feel like there's a growing tension between them. Can Funny Rejection Slip Head and The Death of Fiction Head continue to work their respective missions without distracting each other and getting in the way? I kind of don't think so.
noplatform: you may be right. But if so, why do they still have an open transom? Why not be honest and say that their fiction is arranged and mostly agented?By keeping the illusion, The New Yorker then becomes a major part of the problem.
anon: Well, I'm sure there are all sorts of reasons the NYer doesn't want to close down the transom. 1. The large number of submissions lends a certain prestige. 2. Accepting submission gives the appearance of a more democratic, less elitist institution. 3. The hope can remain, for writers and editors, that the undiscovered gem could, amid the thousands of submissions, turn up. I'm sure the NYer would like to be able, even now, to discover writers.But I think it's unlikely, or even impossible at this point, that they'll discover someone unsponsored from the slush pile. I'm guessing unpublished writers they publish are brought to their attention through avenues other than the slush pile. Probably the moral thing to do would be no longer to accept submissions.I think it's also worth pointing out that what you call the literary establishment is on somewhat shaky grounds lately. Heads are flying in publishing; houses are merging; every major NY house is owned by a conglomerate. I certainly sympathize with the anger and resentment toward what appears to be a literary behemouth--I feel it myself frequently--but I'm trying to sublimate my anger in a more fruitful direction. I think publishing is headed for a major paradigm shift, like the music industry. Certainly, NY publishers will exist, just as there are still major record labels, but publishing opportunities and ways of reaching readers will be expanding beyond NY. I don't know, maybe the "death of fiction" head of this funny monster of a blog could instead spearhead the "death of conventional publishing" movement. I don't see that fiction is dead at all, but traditional avenues for publication and reaching readers seem more and more clogged.
Great comment, anon May 12, 2008 11:14 AM."Can Funny Rejection Slip Head and The Death of Fiction Head continue to work their respective missions without distracting each other and getting in the way? I kind of don't think so."Here, I respectfully disagree. No reason why humor can't be part of a serious mission. If anything, humor gives such a mission more power, more steam.
I wonder how much clout a blog full of anonymous comments hosted by an anonymous blogger can really have in the real world. For all anyone knows, all the anonymous commenters are the same person, perhaps even the blogger. As one of the anonymice, I even know the answer to this puzzle.
Dude: I have a day job. How could I be the one making all these anonymous comments? I barely have time to read them all. But to your point...I'm still mulling over the questions about what kind of change this blog can effect in the real world. Maybe we need some subcommittees to figure it out.
"I wonder how much clout a blog full of anonymous comments hosted by an anonymous blogger can really have in the real world."Depends what you mean by the real world. The illusion crafted by the media elite? No, that's not the real world, so who cares if this will continue to be ignored there. (Actually they're *not* ignoring it, since they're finding it with Google too, but they're keeping it out of their own publications. But it's already influenced them. It's influenced programming (Esquire magazine) and gotten some to come here (Ted Genoways VQR, Howard Junker). So it's doing something good.) The real world is reading it. Look at the search stats. Bottom of the main page. That's not one or two mice hitting reload all day. And the establishment knows it and it's driving them crazy.Ditto on the humor as part of a serious mission. It seems a necessity, I think. Big two-headed funny monster, you're all right.
Oh man, is this ever my kind of site. Thanks to RJ Keller for raising my consciousness ... I can't even work up the nerve to submit something that WOULD surely be rejected! LOL! Be patient with me and in the meantime I'll wallow in READING about the rejections experienced by others. Vicarious rejection as it were.
Anon #2:I think people are dulled. I see it.I agree that something is missing in people and that just about nobody writes letters anymore (or knows what they're missing).Don't know what to do about it though.
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