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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Would Your Prefer A Fortune Cookie Rejection?

A reader inspired a final "question of the month" for 2007 with this letter:

I'm kind of upset about a recent form reject from FIVEPOINTS. The submission was targeted -- I actually do read their magazine, I like some of the stories in it, and what I sent was completely targeted to it and highly polished, sent out only after close analysis of what they publish. It was addressed to the editors, went out with a personalized cover letter, and so on. And in return? Well, you'll get more insight out of the paper slip you pull out of a Chinese fortune cookie ... and their cheap slip wasn't all that much bigger. But that gave me an idea, so here goes: My suggestion to them and other journals is to go ahead and run with the "fortune cookie" motif. It's cute, it speaks to their level, it's easy to mass produce, and for serious-but-undiscovered writers it helps take out the vacuity of this whole routine. They don't have to send us the cookies but maybe they should go the extra mile and print "learn Chinese" with a word on the back side, or at least give us a few lucky numbers at the bottom so we won't feel so cheated out of postage and paper and time and feel so trampled from the deal. Maybe they could list the names of a few other journals worth supporting, so we could take the advice and get some more SASEs out in the mail. I mean, I was so incensed by the cheapness and thoughtless of their tiny slip which had been sent in response to what I know is a great and well-written story that I took another close look at my issues and did some googling on the contributors. And as a result I did find out one interesting thing about FIVEPOINTS: as far I can tell every last one of their contributors are either teachers or MFA graduates, so I figure that until I become one of those I won't ever meet the needs of that magazine.

Suppose for a minute you could receive your literary rejection in some form other than an email or a letter (i.e., a cake, singing telegram, melting ice sculpture, or fortune cookie). How would you most like to receive your next rejection?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

And The SQ Winners Are...Not You

In case you forgot (in the last couple of days) that you didn't win the SQ contest, this follow up congratulatory email came in to the rejected:

congratulates the winners and finalists
in the Fall 2007 SQ Fiction Contest
First Place ($2500)
Ree Davis — Watermark
Second Place ($1500)
Edan Lepucki — Animals
Third Place ($750)
Josh Weil — The Last Thing You Need
Ten Finalists ($100 each)
Elizabeth Bloom Albert — Do You Have a Name?
Wesley Brown — Too Young for the Blues
Kay Eldredge — Thinking It Through
Alicia Gifford — Wreckers
Elaine Kim — Sunshine
R. S. Koya — The Royal Abduls
Michelle Lee — Speaking After Rain
Hannah Pittard — The Year Helen Turned Forty-One
Judith Slater — The Time of Plenty
Michael Wolff — The Complaint
The new
StoryQuarterly Love Story Contest,
will be accepting both fiction and nonfiction,
and will run from January 1 to March 31, 2008.
For details, please see

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Rejection Falls Between the Stalls

A published author sent in this amaaaaazing rejection for a novel that eventually got rewritten and published. Check out the last line of the first paragraph below: "If only you'd bloody well write something people would want to read." WTF?

Dear Writer,

[Title of Novel] is very well written, moving, funny, distressing, provoking, and so very, very dark you’d want to top yourself. [Name of Protagonist] has a great voice, though she also seems extraordinarily perceptive and articulate for a [young aged person]. And how does she know what’s going on with [Name of Different Character] [Details of Specific Situation and Page Numbers]? The difficulty with first-person narration is the narrator can’t be everywhere at once. Yet despite all these compliments, I don’t think I could sell this one either. It’s not fair, is it (but what is)? A good writer, which you are, with a good story and a good voice to tell it in, should be able to find a publisher – but I can’t think who I’d approach. I could say it falls between the stalls of literary and commercial fiction, but that would be a cop-out. I suggest you try other agents – publishing is a totally subjective business, and I’ve been wrong before – and don’t lose heart. If only you’d bloody well write something that people would want to read without resort to the bottle or the noose!

I’m sorry, really. A second time.

All the best, [Name of Agent Withheld]

Thank you, fine published author, for sending this rejection in and giving us all a little hope and good cheer for 2008! We all really want to read your book.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, Happy Rejection

I submitted two stories to StoryQuarterly's contest and got back two identical rejections in yesterday's mail. They go like this:

Dear Writer, Rejected
Thank you for entering “Title of Story” in the StoryQuarterly Fiction Contest. The piece was read and carefully considered by several of our editors, in a competition made challenging by the number of entries we received and by there being so many, like yours, that deserved particularly close attention, based on the positive responses of the editors. In the end, we could choose only a handful of stories, however, and hard choices had to be made, and we regret that your story was not one of our winners this time. We’re grateful for your participation in the contest, and we hope you will keep StoryQuarterly in mind for your work in the future. An announcement of the winning stories will soon go out to the magazine’s readership, along with a schedule of open reading periods and future contests. Again, thank you for sending your work, and please accept our kind wishes for a wonderful holiday and a fulfilling New Year.
The Editors
Dear Writer, Rejected
Thank you for entering “Title of Story” in the StoryQuarterly Fiction Contest. The piece was read and carefully considered by several of our editors, in a competition made challenging by the number of entries we received and by there being so many, like yours, that deserved particularly close attention, based on the positive responses of the editors. In the end, we could choose only a handful of stories, however, and hard choices had to be made, and we regret that your story was not one of our winners this time. We’re grateful for your participation in the contest, and we hope you will keep StoryQuarterly in mind for your work in the future. An announcement of the winning stories will soon go out to the magazine’s readership, along with a schedule of open reading periods and future contests. Again, thank you for sending your work, and please accept our kind wishes for a wonderful holiday and a fulfilling New Year.
The Editors

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Term that Launched a Thousand Rejections (Not)

Here's a little Christmas present that was waiting for me in my mail box today from a reader, extolling the wisdom of blogging agent Kristen Nelson. Here's what the note says:

FYI, You write: I am a published, award-winning author of fiction and creative nonfiction

Kristen Nelson at Pub Rants writes: "Several attendees posed a question about their 'creative nonfiction' work. This, of course, puzzled the agents and editors sitting on the panel. Why? Because there is no such genre as creative nonfiction. All nonfiction (and fiction for that matter) is creative by nature so calling something 'creative nonfiction' doesn’t really define it. And then I remembered. This is a term often used by universities and writing programs but in publishing, we don’t use it. If you are writing a memoir, it’s called a memoir. If you are writing a collection of essays, it’s called a collection of essays.If you are writing a prescriptive nonfiction self-help book, then that’s what you call it. No agent will ever call and editor and say, 'Yo Jane, I’ve got a creative nonfiction project to send your way.' So I would exorcise this term from your writing/publishing vocabulary (and if you head a writing program, see if you can get that terminology changed). It’s actually a disservice to writers trying to break into the publishing world. Now, don’t worry. It’s not like I’m going to delete every query that uses it but it will raise an eyebrow and show you up as a novice right when you are trying to demonstrate your savvy and professionalism."

It apears that Nelson has never heard of the most prestigious nonfiction journal around, which is entitled, hello, Creative Nonfiction. (Incidentally, I am proud to report that I have had the good grace to be chosen for publication by Lee Gutkind and the editors at CN.) I also will continue to call my nonfiction work creative because I think the above reasoning is ridiculous puffery used to fill up a blog. BTW, I very much doubt that the term "creative nonfiction" has ever been responsible for any of my esteemed rejections. (Raise an eyebrow all you want: me no care.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Under the Christmas Tree for You!

Here's a little present for you from Gertrude Stein. Hang it on your bulletin board and repeat it to anyone who questions why you are indignant about getting rejected:

"It is a very strange feeling when one is loving a clock that is to every one of your class of living an ugly and a foolish one and one really likes such a thing and likes it very much and liking it is a serious thing, or one likes a colored handkerchief that is very gay and every one of your kind of living thinks it a very ugly or a foolish thing and thinks you like it because it is a funny thing to like it and you like it with a serious feeling, or you like eating something and liking it is a childish thing to every one or your like something that is a dirty thing and no one can really like that thing or you write a book and while you write it you are ashamed, you know you will be laughed at or pitied by every one and you have a queer feeling and you are not very certain and you go on writing. Then some one says yes to it, to something you are liking, or doing or making and then never again can you have completely such a feeling of being afraid and ashamed that you had then when you were writing or liking the thing and not any one had said yes about the thing.”*

May you each get a Literary Yes (or two) wrapped up this season to wash away all writerly fear and shame.

*As quoted in Two Lives by Janet Malcolm (Yale University Press, 2007)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, all you writers out there. May all your publishing wishes come true.

Merry Christmas, Rosemary Ahern.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Fantasy Literary Letter #5

Dear Rosemary Ahern:

Flannery said, "The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location. " Today, while writing what I know will be the last and most triumphant revision of my novel, I found it. I found the location. Meet me there?

Writer, Rejected

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Not Enough Detail)

A reader sent in an excerpt from this strange agent rejection:
"Dear Writer: We loved this idea, and we found it very fresh and charming. We were eager to dive into your work! We liked the double narrative from [name of character] and [name of different character], and we think you really structured your story well.

....Unfortunately, we didn't feel like there was enough descriptive detail about [specific topic addressed in novel] past here – the glamour days of [place addressed in the novel] didn't really come alive for us on the page. Since this recreation of the past is crucial to the storyline, we felt that without it, we weren't as caught up in your characters and their lives as we wanted to be."

They love, love, love it.....but not enough. Note the hairpin turn at "unfortunately." Damn the past and its lack of details! Also, what's with the royal we? That's a whole lot of douchery.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Classically DeLISHious

Novelist Rhian Ellis (After Life: A Novel [Penguin, 2001]) over at the delightful blog Ward Six posted the above fabulous rejection from Gordy Lish. Hop on over to the Ward and read a little more about it. Ellis' post is entitled Raymond Carver and Gordon Lish (and Me). I like the homespun feel and earnest wordiness of Lish's rejection. Feels like he doesn't ever want you to give up on him or Quarterly, which you've just got to love. "This magazine is wide open -- to everyone and everything. It only remains for you to teach us who's who and what's what." Also: "A fact or three." Something warmly genuine about this one. A good old blast from the past.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Writing Rejection = Marriage Depression

Check out Daniel Clay's article entitled "Coping with Rejection" over at 5th Estate. It's interesting in a British way. For instance, his first line is "Rejection is part of being a writer the same way depression is part of being married." Last line: "Write what you believe in and what you care about, and take your pleasure from writing rather than how your writing is received. You might only be pleasing yourself if you follow this outlook – but at least you’ll be pleasing someone."

Thoughts 0n this piece anyone?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

'Tis the Season

Oh the joy of being hit up for a holiday subscription by the very folks who rejected you!

Prairie Schooner will sell me the short story collection that beat mine out and a subscription for just $32. See the pretty snowy art work? I guess you can't blame a smal press for trying. I don't even mind being called "Gentle Reader," which if truth be told is an apt description of my approach toward books and fellow authors. But I do not like being referred to as a "Friend of All-Story," which I am not. Something about the Zoetrope attitude really bugs me, even during this lovely time of year.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Somberg's Dating Service?

A reader sent this rejection in from Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger Agency, saying she found it kind of amusing: "Dear Writer: Thanks for sending along the opening pages of [title of novel]. Truth be told, though, I'm afraid they didn't draw me in as much as I had hoped. I'm pressed for time these days and, what with my reservations about the project, I suspect I wouldn't be the best fit. Thanks so much for contacting me, though, and for giving me this opportunity. It's much appreciated, and I'm sorry to be passing. I wish you the very best of luck in your search for representation. Best, Andrea"

I thought it seemed pretty standard, so I asked why the writer thought it was funny. Here's what she said: I thought it was funny because of how the novel didn't grab her in the way she had hoped it would. She didn't get a ton of pages, so it was like meeting someone on-line: "Oh I thought you were going to be different. Sorry my mistake." The writer goes on to tell this related story: I once had a guy I was interviewing tell me he expected me to be a knock-out because of my voice on the phone. When he met me in person he told me that I wasn't as attractive as he expected me to be. I think the rejection amused me in the same way.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mclean's Idiot SavAgency

This is a rejection letter from Laurie McLean, an agent with Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada at an agency they call Agent Savant, or maybe that's the name of Laurie's blog. I don't know. Anyway, this letter is so incredible that I think I will let it speak for itself (with thanks and condolences to the reader who sent it to me):

"Dear Writer: Thank you for sharing your work with me. I know that writing a book is a time-consuming and emotional process, so I appreciate the effort you have expended to reach this point in your publishing journey. Alas, I must reject what you have been kind enough to submit. Like the rest of the arts, publishing is a very subjective business. Even though the founders of the agency have written or coauthored 14 books, most of which have been successful, they still get rejected. And although we have sold books to more than 100 publishers since 1972, our clients' work is still rejected. Nor do all of the books that we sell succeed. Michael, Elizabeth and I are eager to find new books and writers, and we love to get excited about them. But the only way we can make a living is by selling books to the large and medium-sized New York publishers, and selling small books by new writers to big publishers is becoming more difficult. So finding new writers is the hardest part of our job. And it's getting harder. Like editors, we receive thousands of submissions a year and reject more than ninety percent of them. This forces us to use a form letter. But rejecting manuscripts that become successful books is a publishing tradition. Assume we're wrong. Persevere until your books reach the goals you set for them. I can't suggest a publisher or an agent who might be interested in a particular writer's work, but directories, your publishing network, and the Association of Authors' Representatives might lead you to the agent you need. Persistence rewards talent. I can't make a living saying no, but as author Joe Girard says: 'Every no gets you closer to yes.'"

Why is she quoting Joe Girard? "Every no gets you closer to yes?" Does she think we are cheesey motivational salesmen? One word: pukey.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Stoli with a Twist

A reader sent this Sam Stoloff rejection to LROD for posting. I believe this is a form query rejection, and I think Sam does a very nice job of making a routine response sound personable and individualized.

"Dear Writer: Thank you very much for your query, and my apologies for having taken so long to get back to you. I'm afraid that, although under other circumstances I might want to take a look at some of your work, I am swamped with submissions and current commitments at the moment, and so I'm simply not able to consider your project right now. However, I do appreciate the opportunity to consider your writing, and wish you success in finding the right person to represent your literary interests. Sincerely, Sam Stoloff"

Note how politely tentative he is: he might want to look at some of your work under other circumstances. But he is swamped and overcommitted. In the end, you kind of feel sorry for him that he's not going to get to read your amazing novel. Now, that is really quite classy and brilliant. Well played, Mr. Stoloff. I wouldn't mind seeing one of your more personalized rejections. Can any one help out on that?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Today We Rise Above the Rejection

Let us rise above the rejection today. Let us take in the fine words of Doris Lessing, story-teller extraordinaire. This is an excerpt of what she said when she accepted the Nobel Prize: "The storyteller is deep inside everyone of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise... but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us - for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative."

Think of this: At 88, Doris Lessing has undoubtedly received her share of rejections in life and literature. We shall forge onward, too. (Excerpt courtesy of GalleyCat.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No Doubt About It

Remember these agents? From the "it just takes one" series?
Dear Writer: Thank you so much for sending the Nelson Agency sample pages of [title of novel]. After a careful reading, we are sorry to say that we don't believe this project is right for our agency. Because this business is so subjective and opinions vary widely, we recommend that you pursue other agents. After all, it just takes one "yes" to find the right match. Good luck with all your publishing endeavors.

Kristin Nelson
Sara Megibow

A blogger sent it in and mentioned that there was an additional note from Kristin: "The writing is top-notch , no doubt about it, but I honestly couldn't think of an editor who this would be right for. I'm open to seeing future stuff from you."

She couldn't think of one editor? That seems sad.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Eureka! We've Been Discovered

Dudes, something crazy has happened! LROD got a review over at at the Entertainment Weekly website. (I shit you not.) Hop over to EW's Popwatch Blog Section and check out the article entitled "Failure is the New Funny at 'Literary Rejections.'"

Here's a highlight: "...[W]hether you're a writer who's looking for a better way to deal with cruel dismissal than crying into a cup of herbal tea, or you're simply a bookworm who wants to better understand the indignities your future favorite authors are suffering on their way to their seven-figure book deals, Literary Rejections on Display is worth checking out."

Now, let's all close our eyes and pretend it was a book review.

Jeff Kleinman's No Critism Rejection

A reader sent in this rejection. Note the praise. Note the despair. Note the smattering of jaunty agent lingo: "Alas!" "Let me know where it lands!" I declare this rejection a beautiful specimen, demonstrating just how lame publishing is right now.
"Dear [name of author]: This is beautifully done, but I think I'm the wrong guy for it. I passed it on to my colleague Laney Becker, who does a lot of women's fiction (I thought maybe it could be considered women's fiction, which is why I sent it over to her), and alas she felt that it wasn't quite up her alley, either. I don't have any criticism - it's gorgeously done - and I'm sure you'll find an agent and a publisher in a heartbeat for it, but I guess we just don't have the vision for it. SO sorry - would have loved to work with you on it - and do stay in touch and let me know where it lands!
All best,
Jeff Kleinman
Folio Literary Management"

It makes you want to shout at this dude: "So just publish the damn thing if it's so beautiful, gorgeous, and beyond criticism." I guess the book wasn't exactly Chick Lit, or probably Jeff's zany side kick Laney would have snapped it up. And what is Women's Fiction anyway? I thought most readers today were women, so wouldn't that make it Reader's Fiction or People-Who-Buy-Book's Fiction? But really, why bother to argue the point? Today, it all seems so futile. BTW, the author notes that her fabulous novel still isn't published. Something is wrong, my friends. Something is terribly wrong.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Rejection Withering on The Orchid Vine

Where to start with this misguided Orchid: A Literary Review rejection? I'll skip over the pretentious journal title and go straight to the hugely long and rather ridiculous quotation by Charles Baxter, which the editors apparently include as an excerpt on the top of each rejection. The quotation is from Baxter's Letters to A Fiction Writer (Norton, 1999). In it, Baxter explores the writer's "burden of sorts," saying: "You are lugging something around that seems to be part of your being, or, as we would say now, is "hard wired" into you, so much so that you have become its container, but the only way to express it—almost literally, to bring it out—is to write it. What "it" is, in this case, is a piling up of selves, of beings, and of stories that are being experienced from the inside." Are these editors kidding? I'm supposed to feel inspired by this? Also, am I a luggage carrier, a computer or a container? I can't figure it out. (BTW, "A piling up of selves?" Give me a break.)

But hold on a sec, because I'm only half way through this baby: "What is it like to be you, to be me? You can't answer that question by answering it discursively. You can only answer it by telling a story. That's not therapy. You're not sick. You're just a certain kind of human being." (Good to know that I'm not sick. I actually thought I was mentally ill all these years instead of just being a rejected writer.)

But wait; there's more: "It's exactly like the necessity the musician has in humming a tune or playing a piano, or the necessity an artist has in doodling and sketching and drawing and painting. It's almost involuntary. Something needs to get out: Not expressed but extruded." (Help! Please!)

I know you're exhausted, but luckily we have one more thought to add to this melange of mixed metaphors: "As the composer Camille Saint-Saens remarked, 'I write music the way an apple tree produces apples.'" (No offense, but I write novels the way five elephants giving birth consecutively over ten years produce other elephants, or Café Lattes for that matter, so don't give me this "involuntary urge" business or "natural fruit on the tree" stuff.)

The rejection itself, once you finally get to it, offers a cheery little list of the kind of stats you might find on this blog: number of rejections, misguided words of editors, etc. (Please click the image above to read the rejection.) The editors of Orchid, Keith Hood and Amy Sumerton, offer this: "We're writers, too, and understand the disappointment of rejection. Please keep in mind that we're all in good company. The average story is rejected 25 or more times before being accepted....Please keep in mind the words from Charles Baxter quoted above. Take care and keep writing." I think if they ditched the incomprehensible quotation, the rejection would actually be okay. Don't you?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Literary Friendships: LoveYouHateYouLoveYou

A couple of readers have written in to share rejecting experiences they've had with their literary friends. This prompts us to take a break from teasing publishing professionals and turn an inward focus. (Always a good thing to do this time of year.)

The first anonymous confession says: "A friend sent me a note yesterday, outlining that when she had an agent (indicating reason for not having agent was laziness on her part) and was awarded a grant (same), that the "money and ease" would be lovely, and then...the friend noted: What I like about you is that you can be one of those generic writers that can get published anywhere and no one cares...."

The second anonymous confession says: "BTW, in the past year: 1.) One acquaintance fell into a [publishing] deal by some crafty feminine wiles; 2.) Another was nominated for the Pushcart on a first effort; 3.) Yet another got a pilot deal; 4.) Oh? Still one more got some shelf space at a magazine;5.) I got rejected by Barnes and Noble. As a cashier."

Pretty funny. But it does point out some of the pitfalls of literary friendships. So, let's discuss. As a writer are you jealous of your more sucessful friends? Or is someone jealous of you? What's the worst thing that you ever did out of envy, or that someone did to you? Please share your best stories.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Merola Shinola

Marianne Merola at Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents sent this Zen lesson in simple rejecting to a reader who wishes to share it with you: "Thank you for thinking of me in connection with your writing. I don't think that I would be the best person to work with you on this project, but I do wish you all good luck placing it in the right hands." Except for the weird literary agent speak ("I do wish you all good luck"), it is a pretty nice example of noncommittal rejecting. Well played, Marianne.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Rosemary Stimola Shorthand Rejection

A reader sent in this one-line/no-caps rejection from the literary agent Rosemary Stimola, noting that the agent actually misspelled her name: "thanks, [first misspelled name of author], but not quite for me." Geez. I guess agents from New Jersey don't necessarily tax themselves with the fineries of proper sentence-making.

Why Am I A Mailbox Head?

Do writers ever get publishing acceptances by mail, or does the good news only come by email and phone? Are we all just "waiting by the mailbox" in vain? Please share your postal-publishing experiences. A reader named Heartbreaker, who sent in the question, needs to know.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Toilet Ad--Some Kind of Message?

Listen up, Googlidiots, what's the deal with the ad that's now in rotation at the bottom of my blog? It says: BATHROOM IDEAS--Explore bath & shower products for innovative, stylish bathroom ideas. Is this some kind of rejecting commentary on my work? You don't think I get enough crap from the editors and agents in this business? (Google = Cold.)

Lost Love Connection Rejection

Here is a truly entertaining rejection, which was sent in by a reader, who had previously been set up on a disastrous blind date with an editor. Apparently, learning of the bad date (where the author was bored silly by the editor and got drunk to pass the time), the author's agent couldn't resist sending the novel to the rebuffed editor just to see what would happen! Here's a choice line in the rejection letter: "....the ending seemed way too convenient to me. I was genuinely captivated by...[the] relationship once it kicked in … but then disappointed when they broke off so easily...." Sounds like a subliminal message about the blind date to me. Funny!

Monday, December 3, 2007

NM Writings Again!

Don Williams at New Millennium Writings strikes again. Seriously, this guy is on my last nerve. My last notification from him was November 17th. I don't like to be in contact with anyone that often. I'm thinking of taking out a restraining order on the dude.

It's Not Easy Being Gay

A reader sent in this rejection from Kathy Dawson at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. She says:

"I've had a chance to read [name of novel] and I enjoyed it. [Name of author] has a nice way with dialogue. Ultimately, though, I'm not sure Harcourt would do well with this. It can be difficult to publish a male gay novel successfully, and I wasn't sure that this was quite different or literary enough to stand out in the way that it would need to. I wish I had better news....I really appreciated your thinking of me.
All my best, Kathy"

Hmm? Guess being gay means you have to be better than everyone else. Would someone say this to a straight dude? Seems like discrimination to me that when they stop publishing writers, they start with the gays (unless you're Edmund White or David Leavitt).

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Sundance, Raindance

We got ourselves a Sundance invitation, ladies and germs. Mike Mohan left a very nice response to my complaining post about the no-finalist policy for the Sundance workshops.

Here's the comment:
"Mike Mohan here-- I wrote that very email. I'm really happy to chat with anyone on this site if they have specific questions about Sundance, or our processes. I'm serious-- by all means just call me at 310-360-1981 or email me at There are some days where we're really busy in the office, but I try to get back to everyone even if it's not the same day they called.

There are several really good reasons why we don't give an official term like "finalist" to applicants who are selected to submit their entire script... the first of which is that we don't want to be seen as some sort of contest. Our applicants are applying to attend a screenwriting workshop, not win an award or some prize. But there are other reasons as well, and I'm more than happy to chat with anyone about it-- and also hear what you have to say. Maybe there are ways we can do this differently, and I'm open to any and all suggestions. Cheers, Mike"

Pretty damn decent of Mike, right? So, here's my question for Mike: What does it mean when you hear nothing at all (as happened to me this year)? Is it just an oversight, or did my script suck extra hard this time around? Or maybe there's a policy where Sundance only gets in touch when you are a finalist...I mean in the second cut.

Farhad Manjoo Not Sold on Kindle

That crazy hipster-nerd Farhad Manjoo (I wish I were him) over at has been using Amazon's Kindle e-book reader for a week. He gives it a mixed review:

1) convenient for traveling
2) pleasing ink-on-paper display

1) $400.00
2) bad graphics display

Still, there is something eerie about the little device; it seems to have our future written all over it, doesn't it? Someone will come out with a perfect, cheap version, making actual book libraries a thing of the past. I think I can see it happening already.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Jim Thomas Likes it Gentle, But Not Enough

A reader sent in this Random House rejection, which is rife with disappointment:

"I really wanted to like this one, and a lot of it I do like....I was swept away by the love story. I think the [particular ethnicity] angle is used to good effect and makes this a little different from what's out there. There's a sweetness to [author's first name's] writing that's nice, too. Overall, however, I didn't find myself trusting the voice. Exposition and character don't feel as evolved as they should; they seem sketched out, a bit simplistic. It's too bad, too, because, as noted, there's a lovely gentleness to [author's first name's] hand. But not enough of this manuscript is hitting for me to feel comfortable taking it on and trusting that we can take it the rest of the way. Nick also read it and felt similarly, liking the love story but feeling a bit let down by the rest. Frustrating!"

I wish some fine editor would do a nice thing and actually edit a work that they like "a lot of." I guess an editor has to like all of it, or like it enough, or trust it more, and if he doesn't, I guess it doesn't matter how sweet and gentle the writer's hand is, or whether or not there was a sweeping away by good old fashioned love. Love is disappointing, after all, as is literature. (It can also be sexually frustrating, apparently.) Alas!

Ad Nonsense

I got an interesting missive from Google today, indicating that instead of the ridiculous ads for sofas and scammy literary agencies (see the bottom of my blog), I can customize and tailor and hand-pick my own ads. Just for fun, I've decided to customize some google ads on my site (look to the right). I chose the most suitable topics I could find; that's right, science, animals, and sports. You can get cheerleading uniforms here, now, china golf (whatever that is) and cheap ski lessons! I can't wait to see what exotic animals and science nerds show up.

Whatever you do, though, don't click the bastard. This is purely for the purpose of making fun of lame google ads. What will they think of next?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Annoying New Millennium

Don Williams, the editor of New Millennium Writings, and the mad-Max of maniacally frequent fiction and nonfiction contests, writes me emails more often than my spouse, my mother, my agent, and my best friend....combined. I think he must have taken aggressive marketing classes. I'm telling you, I cannot open my email without seeing his name. But, alas, it puts me off.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Now Even My Blog Works Against Me?

Apparently some editors at literary journals (online or otherwise) will now not consider work that's been posted on your personal blog (even just in draft form) because they consider the work to be previously published.

Is this fair or unfair? Let's have a debate.

Smooth Talker Wes Adams

A reader sent in this rejection from FSG's Wes Adams:

"I think [the writer's] heart is in exactly the right place in these spirited pages and yet I agree that he is in need of strong editorial direction. Unfortunately, though I tried, I just don't feel inspired enough by one or the other of the two main parts of this enterprise--the writing or the story--to believe that I would have the right vision and energy for the job. I enjoyed the chance to consider this, though, and I hope that I'll be seeing this out there in the world between boards before too long. "

It seems to me that Wes is indeed the kind of guy who knows when a heart is in exactly the right place. He hopes to see a manuscript between the boards! That's a lot of smooth talking lingo, no? I particularly like his final punt: he doesn't like a) the writing and b) the story. Oy vey! What's left?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Heartbreak Rejection

It's a real kick in the pants when two people beat you out for the Flannery O'Connor Fiction Prize, which includes publication of your short story collection. So much for the fantasy that your manuscript was next in line for glory. This rejection came in today's mail from the University of Georgia Press. For all those who were worried that I'd win and then start stalking Rosemary Ahern in earnest, you can rest easy. No such luck.

This one really hurts.

Presidential Respect

According to Sam Stein over at The Huffington Post, Hilary Clinton led her colleagues in a move not to cross the picket line to participate in CBS' Democratic debate scheduled for December 10th, should the workers decide to strike. Senator Clinton said this about her decision: "The workers at CBS News have been without a contract for close to two and a half years. It is my hope that both sides will reach an agreement that results in a secure contract for the workers at CBS News. But let me be clear: I will honor the picket line if the workers at CBS News decide to strike." Following her announcement, Barack Obama and John Edward said they would also honor the strike.

I like that the Hilster refers to the writers as workers. As it should be.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Dan Lazar Wants Magic

A reader sent this line in from a rejection by Dan Lazar who is an agent and all-around nice guy at Writer's House: "I'm afraid this one isn't striking hard enough magic with me." (The writer adds, "And I don't write fantasy OR magic realism." )

Though I respect Dan, I'm thinking striking hard enough magic with me may really take the cake for weird rejection language. Maybe he was having an off day, or maybe one gets bored of the usual love-romance-dating metaphors after the thousandth rejection letter.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Rejection Confection

I recently had a story accepted at one literary journal and had to withdraw a simultaneous submission from another. I won't say which magazine because not long ago someone figured out my identity based on a letter I had written (as had been predicted by many readers of this blog), and where's the fun in that? So, here's the reversal rejection minus the names:

Dear Fiction Editor: I am writing to respectfully withdraw my story from your consideration, as submitted on [date in 2007], about [number >8] months ago. The story has been accepted elsewhere for publication. I have a sense that it matters very little to you, but I thought I'd be polite anyway and get in touch to let you know. Thanks so much.

Best, Writer, Rejected

As you can see I'm geting saucy.

Democratic Slush Pile?

The Invidivual Voice has unearthed something called the Democratic Slushpile. Readers will vote on which slush-pile entries should be published. In a recent post, the Individual Voice says: "While on the surface this appears democratic, the thought of having to read through the Dreaded Slush Pile for free seems like slave labor and yet another Slush Pile Conspiracy." Something about this idea seems terrible. Any formed opinions out there on this one?

Friday, November 23, 2007

It's a Googlazine Just For You

According to a recent techcrunch post, Google is going to start letting bloggers create customized print magazines with customized ads. But if the ads are anything like they are on my blog, they are hardly customized. Remember the Ikea sofa? And anyway, wait a second, aren't we trying to escape printed matter? Isn't that the beauty of the blog?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

One Story, One Donation

A couple of writers who were rejected from One Story sent me the latest correspondence they received from the hot literary journal, which has been written up in the New York Times as "a little spot of hope":

Help Make One Story a Long Story

Dear friends,

One Story is proud to announce a new chapter in ourmission to save the short story. Recently, we have been granted charitable status by the IRS. After five years of publishing out of our apartments,volunteering our time, and scrambling for resources, we will now be able to ensure One Story’s future. We have already been awarded our first grant by the New York State Council on the Arts. Our goal is to build a large community of readers who share our passion for short stories. We want One Story to be a permanent part of the literary landscape, atop magazine that protects this unique form of American literature. Make One Story your story, by contributing to this effort. We are seeking an engaged group of donors who will help us reach our goals by contributing funds, sharing contacts, and volunteering time. No amount is too small. We’d even love your ideas about where you’d like to see your donations have impact, and what special events would spur you and your friends toextend your support. Please visit and join us today inpublishing One Story.

Sincerely, Maribeth Batcha

PS After five years of running on a shoe-string budget, our printer bills have started to pile up. Adonation today will truly help see One Story through this transition period! Click here to help!

I don't know: "Here's $50; publish my story." How about that for a suggestion?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Amazon Launches E-Book

In case you thought books were dying and soon there'd be no more rejections for you, Amazon is announcing a long, healthy, lively future for books (ie, the e-book) I know, snooze. But Newsweek has the scoop, which is worth reading if you can stomach Jeff Bezos, the Amazon guy taking credit for re-inventing the wheel. Perhaps this is truly what's going to happen next in publishing. Who knows? I just see it as a continuation of the rejection.

Nothing new there. And so it goes.

Monday, November 19, 2007

(Frank) Rich Rejection Reversal

As usual that diabolical genius Frank Rich put me to shame about my own personal lack of political sophistication. In his Sunday New York Times opinion piece, entitled What 'That Regan Woman' Knows, he places the Judith Regan-HarperCollin's lawsuit beautifully into relevant perspective: "She knows a lot about Mr. Kerik, Mr. Giuliani and the Murdoch empire. And she could talk." That means I have to redact my original rejection of her story, which wouldn't be so embarrassing if there were a precedent for it.
Does anyone out there want to take back a rejection of my fiction, too?

Writer's Strike = Books

A Pepperdine University study reported in the Washington Post found that 42% of Americans surveyed said that if the networks have to resort to airing reruns to fill their schedules during the writer's strike, they would read more. So if the strike continues, it will create a bigger reading audience, which means we'll have a better chance at getting our books published.

Ironic, isn't it? No matter how you slice it, many thousands of writers are suffering somewhere.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday S. Sunday

Joe Klein's (I hate to plug the dude) New York Times review of the biography Gonzo: The Life of Huter S. Thompson by Jann S. Wenner and Corey Seymour has this little rejection tidbit for you today. Apparently Thompson donated a rejection letter to the Rolling Stone to ward off imitators. It opened as follows: “You worthless, acid-sucking piece of illiterate shit. Don’t ever send this kind of brain-damaged swill in here again.”

Now that's what I call straight and to the point. I'd kill myself too.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ikea Sofa

The ad on the bottom of my blog is for furniture now. What the hell is that supposed to mean? I blame the Judith Regan posts.