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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Should Junker Get a GAK?

Debbie Yee pits Zyzzyva editor Howard Junker against Three Penny Review editor Wendy Lesser in a funny blog entry re:rejections. Check it out. She also left a comment linking to the above rejection letter by Howard Junker. (Thank you, Debbie.)

So? Should Howard get a GAK? Or is he trying a wee bit too hard? (Click the letter for a version that's easier to read.) I'm taking votes for the next week or so and will announce results whenever I feel like it. Like, maybe in 2-4 months. On a tiny cream-colored slip of paper. With Debbie Yee's heartfelt regrets.

A Poemphlet is Born!

Here's a rejection sent in by a blog-reader from the (apparently cruel, cruel) world of freelance journalism. The editor says: "I can't really do much with this. Some nice writing but it reads too much like a cross between a poem and a pamphlet. We aspire for more 3rd person reported." (I don't even think mean dude's insult is English exactly.)

Bathroom Art?

This one was sent in by a very accomplished cartoonist and writer, who keeps this rejection in a frame in his bathroom. It says: "Thanks for sending me your work. We are currently looking for very detailed full-page (full color) cartoons, which are extremely funny and witty. Your submissions don't quite fit these criteria." Damn that's cold!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Has Jane Dystel Said "Yes" to You?

I chuckled to myself when I read how Literary Agent Jane Dystel "loves to say yes....and tries to do it at least several times a week." Or so she writes in a depressing little section on her agency blog devoted to rejection. The page is called Why Jane Dystel Turns Things Down . Actually, it's worth a look for the comments section alone. When Jane doles out some tired old advice about reporting previous rejection comments to perspective agents, one particularly astute Anonymous pins her right down: "You said, "If others have read and commented on them (your novel) it's also a good idea to include that information." Huh? If you mean your friends and family -- isn't that a major No-no, as in, "My mom liked this book?" Obviously if you are talking about other agents/editors, then is that still a smart idea? This agent liked it -- but not enough to represent it; here, do you want it?" As the Big Bad Wolf said when dressed in Granny's nightgown: The better to reject you with, my dear.

Zyzzyva BlogRoll Request

Since no one among publishing's ruling class has ever willingly approached Writer, Rejected for any reason-- good, bad, or ugly--you can imagine my surprise at receiving an e today from Zyzzyva editor Howard Junker, who claims that writers tend to like his rejections. He wonders why he is not listed on my blogroll, which as you know is entitled Nonrejecting Blogs. The answer is of course that I cannot in good conscience include anyone in a rejecting position of power, not even the kindest of editorial princes. It wouldn't be right.

But there is an interesting page on Zyzzyva's Blog entitled Zyzzyva: the last word, Rejection. You should check it out. Also, if anyone has a Zyzzyva rejection on file, please send it in, and we'll judge for ourselves. Or perhaps someone out there would like to nominate said editor for a GAK! Award and give Rosemary Ahern a run for her money.

(NB: You have to live on the West Coast to publish in Zyzzyva.)

Melanie Jackson, Out of Reach

I don't know what got into me. Querying Melanie Jackson was like applying to Harvard when you know you're going to end up at Oberlin. But I let some friend (whose friend was an MJ client) convince me to give it a shot. What the heck; I had her email address; I had my query with bold subject line announcing a recent literary honor. I was actually pleasantly surprised that she bothered to write back: "Thanks but I'm not taking on any new clients at present. best of luck finding the right agent" I think that's polite agent-speak for You are way out of your league, little writer.

Maria Massie Gets Gold Star

Here is an example of a decent, well-considered rejection. Maria Massie writes: "Thank you for letting me consider [title of novel]. You are clearly a very talented writer, there is so much to be admired here. That said, I just didn't connect with the story as I'd hoped. In this tough literary market, you need an agent who will give your book the full enthusiasm it so richly deserves and I just don't think I'd be the best representative for your work. I'm sorry to disappoint you, and to pass on a book by a writer of your talents. I'm very glad to hear that you have found interest elsewhere and wish you every success with this project." Granted, she was pretty much off the hook, anyway, because I'd ended up choosing my current agent, while she was still busy rejecting me (mutual feelings of no-connection, I guess), so maybe this doesn't quite count. But her rejection deserves praise; it is personal without going overboard, and there's no blame, except on the market. We just didn't connect. As it is in love; it is in literature. No chemistry. That's cool. I give Marie Massie a gold star for tact and for not feeling compelled to comment on her or my sexual orientation, fertility preferences, and/or abilities to fall in love.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Crapometer Rejection Deletion

So, I was cruising some literary blogs this evening, and I stopped in to see what was up at Crapometer, a blog about which I am ambivalent for obvious reasons. I wrote a long critique of some poor writer's query that ended up really being a long defense against what was turning into a bloodbath over there, but then, I don't know, I felt kind of nauseated joining in at all, and so I deleted my crap from the post and just wrote: "Zam--you guys are tough." Figuring my blog address would justify my point of view, which is that obviously I'm a little sensitive about the mean critique as a way of doing business.

I guess I really should have not posted at all because very soon thereafter, Elektra at Crapometer posted on my blog a cutting little: "Come back some time when you really want to critique, rather than spam," or something like that, and then deleted the message, so that it would be for my eyes only (I guess). She also deleted my comment on her blog, which granted she has every right to do. But what's up with that? If it's not the kind of comment she wants, she deletes and makes accusations? What a weird blogging world. Anyway, live and let live. And I sure learned a lesson, being new to all this.

But I wish them well over there, and if writers want to post their queries in order to get beaten black and blue, then more power to them. I only allow beatings by professionals, and only when necessary. BTW, I took crapometer off my blogroll.

Becky Saletan Reflux

You again! You know what's weird? As a person, I also tend to feel a little distant and I never really do quite come to care about people the way I should. As my work reflects, apparently. It's amazing how you pinpoint the real me every time, and yet it's clear that you are never going to publish me. Note to new agent: Cross the Beckster off the list. I think she'll be relieved.

An Open Letter to Google

To: Google Ad Masters
From: Writer, Rejected
RE: Erroneous & Misleading Banner Ad at the Bottom of my Blog

I tried to find a way to reach you more directly by searching around the AdSense Help Center for a few hours yesterday, but none was apparent. One fine reader of this blog suggested that I contact you at googleabuse, but I fear "abuse" is an overstatement of the problem, and that you may think I am crying wolf. Another spitfire reader told me that "advertising is the devil," and while I quite agree, I thought that it was clever of you (perhaps Satanic) to advertise Better Rejection Letters on my blog.

I am indeed trying to start a revolution here. And some day as a result of my efforts I hope that editors will simply hand back report cards to aspiring authors, doling out grades on various topics (i.e., query letter, concept, project execution, writing style, and marketability). This would dispense with all the mystery comments about their passion, their comfort, their courage, their fertility, their ability to find someone to love. This would bring compassion and elegance back to the literary rejection and allow writers some dignity--as much as we had, say, in college, or high school.

But let's not jump the gun, here. Right now, I'd merely like for you to correct the ad banner, so that in the meantime should some poor editor want to figure out how to write a better rejection letter on his own, he may simply click the banner at the bottom of the page and go to an appropriate vendor, who will provide appropriate help. Instead, currently (I am told) the poor clueless editor would be brought to a free search engine page, sending the exact wrong message: "Your guess is as good as mine, buddy. I don't know how to write a good rejection letter." Or worse, "Figure it out yourself." You see, Google Masters, they have been figuring it out themselves, and it's not working very well.

So, can you help straighten this mess out? Can you fix my banner ad, so that it is not false advertising? I will await your reply. (Don't make me call on googleabuse.) Thank you. Please write back.

p.s. I read some small print yesterday indicating that not only is a blog host not supposed to click on her own banner ad (which I carefully did not do), but she is also not supposed to point her readers to the ad either (which inadvertently, I have done). Therefore, you may keep your $1.07, since it has been gained under false pretenses. I do not expect to profit from my rejections, any more it seems than I will ever profit from my writing. I am a writer, for goodness sake; I know poverty. I hope you will donate the proceeds to some organization serving needy poets. In the meantime, though, I hope you will not find it necessary to send me to google jail. I would hate to have to become some technogeek's bitch.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sour Grapes of Wrath

Wow! An anonymous reader posted the following searing comment on my blog today: "Two words for you, my friend--sour grapes. Aren't you just a little embarressed to put these up on your blog, removing your info (how convenient) but not the agent/editors?With your poor me attitude, if I were an agent, I wouldn't touch yo with a ten foot barge pole. Grow up--you make other writers look bad. Getting published is hard. Whining, I guess, is easy." I haven't been told off like this in a long time. Probably ever. I say: Get a sense of humor, friend. Unless you work in publishing, and then I say, Please get a sense of humor.

Why Wasn't She Our Mom?

Check out Manic Mom's blog. There's a very fun rant with satisfying karmic twist concerning an insane rejection letter Manic Mom (MM) received from an agent a few years ago. The June 2oth, 2007 blog entry lets you read the rejection letter and then tells you what happened to the agent who rejected MM's novel with the lamest of lame reasons: "I'm sorry; as a woman who plans never to have children, this just doesn't resonate with me." Hello? (Or as Mommy says: "WTF?")

Love her!

False Google Advertising?

What should I do about the false-advertising banner at the bottom of this blog? A kind reader (Braces) posted that a quick link takes you to GenialFinder, a search engine. Apparently, the GenialFinder page, which you will see quoted below by Braces (since I have agreed never to click on the ad myself), is not exactly literary in style and not exactly rejection-related in content:

"Welcome to genialfinder. If you visit our site it means that you don't have time and money to waste! Nowadays, it is worth it to walk around and look at shops to find a gift, appliances, or electronics, and go crazy to find something at the right price? There are always so many people in shops, and it is so difficult, almost impossible, to find kind personnel that can help you find the right choice. They just do not care. So why should you be paying them a commission for a service that is not being provided? Having to drive to different shops to find different options to better suit your requirements? Why should you want to waste your time? We search tens of thousands of web sites only dedicated to shopping to provide you with simple and impartial suggestions and information, so that you will find the best deal, at the best price, at the right time! No delays, no lines, no stress! Try our search engine results as well as our search box and you will quickly find what you are looking for! Don't waste your money or your time, try our search engine, it is FREE!"

Is this legal on Google's part? Shouldn't the content have a legitimate connection to the words in the teaser ad? Or is this just the way the blogging world works? Does Google get to do whatever it feels like? Can someone enlighten me?

Heide Lange to Publish Query Letters?

This agent writes: "I recall how intriguing your initial query letter was and I looked forward to reading about [protagonist's name]. However, I ultimately couldn't immerse myself in your novel." Ultimately Lange liked my query letter better than my novel. Take a note all you writers out there buying into the age-old agent complaint about bad query letters, especially if you are spending money on books about how to write good query letters, especially if those books are being marketed by agents. Note: They get you coming and going.

Joelle Delbourgo Once Removed

This agent's assistant writes to report that the agent in question found the work in question "to be clever and well written." Yeah and that's the last damn thing we need at the bookstore, isn't it? Another clever, well-written book. But, hey, if this agent (in the third-person), or her assistant (masquerading as authority) can't get enthusiastic about intelligence and good writing, then who can?

P.S. Thanks to the anonymous writer who sent this one in. I'm outraged on his/her behalf.

Yalobusha Down Home

This rejection is so folksy, it makes it feel good to be rejected. It says: "Dear Artist" and uses an exclamation point concerning future submsissions. Also, check out that home-spun font. I think I felt so good about it that I used the back to write down a phone message. You can see the ink bleeding through to the front.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Google Irony?

I think it's really funny that the google banner ad at the bottom of my blog sometimes says: "How to write a Rejection Letter. View Professional Business Tips." Check it out below by scrolling down and refreshing the page until it comes up. Will someone click on the ad and let me know where it takes you? (You're not supposed to click your own ads, or I'd do it myself.)

Julia Serebrinsky Needs a Hook

This editor writes: "It's a good collection, but I am not sure there is a hook to make it stand out in the challenging marketplace. I do hope someone else takes a plunge though." Clearly, it's not enough that the stories are linked by groups of characters, so I think I'm going to go back and make them all blind. (And then they sit around and wonder why a talented writer like Laura Alberts resorted to submitting a manuscript "written" by a teenage cross-dressing street hustler.)

Reagan Arthur Doesn't Fall in Love

This editor writes: "I somehow felt that everyone around [the main character] was more of a caricature than a character. In the end, I just didn't fall in love..." Come to think of it: all of my ex-lovers were caricatures. No wonder!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Rejected by The Rejecter Blog

I tried to post a comment at the Rejecter, a blogspot by a literary agent's assistant, but I got rejected. Apparently, she didn't approve my comment, which was pretty benign, and decided to kill it rather than post. It's an interesting blog to read because you can get an idea of what we're dealing with here. Not good.

Sarah McGrath Brags about Erika Krouse

Nothing worse than getting a rejection letter that brags about another writer, not you. In this note, Sarah McGrath writes: "Thank you of [sic] thinking of me for Writer, Rejected's story collection [title], which I read with great interest. I particularly like Writer, Rejected's smart, cynical sense of humor and sharp one-liners, which actually remind me of the style of a short story writer I am publishing this spring, Erika Krouse." (!)

Sara Bershtel's Alter Ego Speaks?

In this very second rejection of my first-ever novel (now long abandonded), Sara Bershtel thought the the events were compressed so tightly together that it distracted from "more sensitive, delicately detailed momens." Or else that's what her assistant/alter ego thought. Check out the signature by clicking the letter for a closer look.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Really Wrong Editors

Okay, let's cheer up and review. Sometimes an editor can be right about a project. That is true. But wrong. Here's a list featuring some quotes from rejection letters of my favorite books:
  • To Stephen King about Carrie, one fine publisher said: "We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell."
  • To Nabokov about Lolita, a publisher hoped that the manuscript could "be buried under a stone for a thousand years."
  • To George Orwell, about Animal Farm, an editor replied: "Impossible to sell animal stories in the US."
  • To Joseph Heller about Catch-22, some dimwit felt compelled to confess that he didn't have "the foggiest idea" what the author was trying to say, and that according to his assessment the book was "really not funny on any intellectual level."

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Joan Bingham, Two Years Slow

Joan Bingham took two whole years to let my agent know that my collection was remarkable but not extraordinary. She adds: "We also have a great deal of short story collections coming up in the next few seasons and are not looking for many more at this time." I guess it's good to know that someone is publishing up all those collections!

Many Happy Returns

Have you ever noticed how some editors make it sound like you and your agent are married? In this one, Jordan Pavlin writes: "Many thanks again for thinking of me, and best of luck to you both." What's up with that?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Only One in Size 9

I got my first agent at a book party when she admired my hemp clogs and asked if I'd buy her a pair. I tried, but the store in Brooklyn had only a single size-9 shoe, instead of a pair, and the hemp factory in Vermont had gone out of business and wouldn't answer the damn phone (story of my literary life). So, I wrote the agent a beautiful little fax about the lonely marsh-green hemp clog in her size. She called me up immediately to see if I wrote beautiful novels, too. "Yes, novels!" I said. (I was working on a lyrical one from college, which she sent out twice for me, but it wasn't done and it wasn't going anywhere). She signed me as a client and encouraged me to write what was in my heart. But years later, she seemed pretty depressed when I showed up with a beautiful collection of linked stories. "Stories are unsellable," she said. Needless to say, I was depressed enough about the state of affairs in publishing without the added weight of her disappointment. We shed some tears together and parted ways. She never even saw the new manuscript.

Elle Hell

No...Thank you! (Anyway, Elle? What was I thinking?)

Mary Ann Naples Just Can't

This agent wrote: "You are a lovely writer, and I see there is much here to work with. However, for whatever reason, I didn't connect emotionally with [tile of novel]. I can't give you a reason why this was so...I know you have in mind some changes that might make a difference, but until you really do the revision, I just can't say what kind of difference this might make." Doesn't she make you kind of nervous? I just want to hold her hand and say: It's okay, lady; don't worry. I'll figure it out myself. You go lie down and take a nap.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gugg, Gugg, Gugg

I could wallpaper the world with my collection of these babies. Don't even get me started.

Noah Lukeman, Self-Promoter

Dude has got a weird sensibility. He sends back an automatic email response rejecting your writing, while promoting his own. "In order to help you search for an agent," his rejection says, "we have posted on the internet a free chapter of advice from Mr. Lukeman's e-book HOW TO WRITE A GREAT QUERY LETTER." Actually, my query letter is fine; it's self-important pontification that's giving me trouble.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tin House is Not a Home

With this little scribble, Lee Montgomery started a fire in my heart. It says: "The writing was clear, and the story quite strong. Please send more work." I pursued publication in her pages for years, but was sloughed off on junior editors, who invariably said my stories weren't "distinct enough" for Tin House.

Loser or Winner?

Once I applied to the same literary grant for 12 years before I won it. At $25K, it was, like, $2K a year. Worth it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What are the Odds? 30 to 1

I got an acceptance letter today for a short story of mine, which was a finalist this year for the Iowa Review Fiction Award and last year for the New Letters Fiction Award. It's not appearing in the most spectacular of literary journals, but I'm still happy to get it placed somewhere. I think my odds are running at about 30 rejections for every acceptance. No wonder I'm exhausted.

Monday, June 18, 2007

E.L. Doctorow--I Await Your Response

When I wrote an email to tell you that my story in your honor was runner-up for a fiction award and published in a fancy journal, you wrote back, "Thank you for your kind message. You can send a copy of the Review to me c/o English Department, New York University,19 University Place, NY 10003.Best wishes, E.L.Doctorow." It's been years, Edgar, but I can't help myself. Sometimes I still hope that you might drop me a little note when you've read the thing.

Mary Gordon Blew Me Off

A few years ago I signed up to take a one-day class taught by Mary Gordon. I sent her my 20-pages, as required, and marked my calendar, but somehow still managed to screw up my schedule and miss the class. Usually, I am organized and vigilant; usually I know what I’m doing. But the date somehow came and went without me, as did the workshop. That night, I went to hear Gordon read and sat in the cool back rows of a church, slowly filling up with her friends and fans--until at last she appeared, a small cheerful woman of indeterminate age. After her spunky reading, I got the chance to confess abashedly that I was the day's missing student. She looked up from the book she was signing with sparkly eyes and quietly repeated my name twice. My eyes filled up with tears. She said some incredibly wonderful things about the opening of my novel in a very quiet voice. She scribbled down my email address for her and hers for me, and promised she'd send her notes on my writing. But then she never wrote. And she didn't respond to my emails.

I really messed up a great opportunity, though ontologically speaking, I guess Mary Gordon is just the tip of the iceberg.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Poke in the Eye

So small! Almost no trees were killed for this rejection, almost no writers.

Sadism at the New Yorker

Why was I in this sadistic rejection-loving relationship with Field Maloney, junior editor at the New Yorker, for so many years? In retrospect, it seems clear that he was saying,"No chance in hell," but I kept hearing, "Maybe a chance. Maybe hell."

Friday, June 15, 2007

Teeny Tiny Ploughshares

This literary magazine rejects you on such a very small piece of paper that it barely hurts.

Alice Munro, Rejected

In 1998, Dinitia Smith wrote a feature on Canadian short-story writer Alice Munro for the New York Times. In the article is this quote by Alice Munro's husband: "Quite early she used to send stories to The New Yorker," Mr. Munro remembered recently. "They came back so fast," he said, that she had the feeling that some one's job was just to send them back. No kidding. I once had a full-on rejection love affair with a New Yorker Editor named Field Maloney. I swear, the little creep lived to turn me down.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fugue Slap Down in This Morning's Mail

Contests are a special brand of rejection hell because they announce you're a loser with a list of winners (not you) in an envelope you've supplied yourself with a stamp. This contest was for literary essays up to 10,000 words (unusually long) and was conducted at the speed of light; I mean, they practically just got my submission yesterday. (Did Jo Ann Beard and the editors really have ample time to read and offer "careful consideration?" Or did only four people submit essays?) Anyway, this rejection offers a nice little unforeseen slap: "Ms. Beard and the Fugue editors have decided not to award honorary mention to other contest submissions." Clearly every one's essays except for Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel's was crap.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Becky Saletan Steps Aside

Funny, Becky. I myself (like my prose, according to your assessment) am also a "bit self-conscious at times" and "not always true to life." It's actually good you've "stepped aside" to make room for more interesting rejections.

Rosellen Brown Cuts to the Chase...Or Does She?

I didn't know Rose Ellen Brown. I just wrote her a fan note, asking if she'd blurb my first book. In her rejection letter, she tries to burst my bubble gently, but can't seem to help from hinting at a sinister blurbing underworld.

She writes: "Bad enough that I'm going to up-end your optimistic approach to the impossible in your life, but first I have to apologize for the fact that your letter to me--the envelope says March!-- has bounced around quite inefficiently from my home in Houston to Chicago where we've spent the year and finally to New Hampshire, my ex-home, to which return each summer. Even with all those destinations it shouldn't have taken as long as it did--I suspect some inefficient tenants at the Houston end who have bungled more than one personal caper over the course of the year. Apologies.

But to cut to the chase. I appreciate your being a fan, and I certainly do respect and envy your buoyant approach to the unlikely, but unfortunately, having said that, I have to add that one more request for a few words for a book jacket is going to drive me to suicide--and I'm not exaggerating much, believe me. Some day -- could be any day now -- when my star has fallen and nobody cares to have my name appended to their work, I might be nostalgic for the seasons in which I was in demand as a recommender. But for the moment I have the feeling that if I wanted to I could spend all my time doing blurbs and none writing anything of my own and people might wonder whatever became of me, present on so many covers but never again on my own, how odd.

Which is to say that I'm really sorry, but I just can't do another. Please don't think me churlish but the best I can do is wish you much luck with your collection, and hope you can find some faster readers, or perhaps a few who don't bother to read the work in question at all (there are such), though they very well might be missing out on a good book. I might be too, with apologies to its author."

In the time it took to write all that, couldn't she just have read one story and given me a blurb?

Dorothy Allison Autograph

When my first book was published, I naively wrote away to a bunch of famous writers, whom I admired, asking them to blurb my book. I was pretty dumb and didn't know you had to be some one's friend, writing student, or lover to get a few words for the back of your book.
Here is a rejection from Dorothy Allison in 1996. It says: "Dear Writer, Rejected: Everyone is right--I don't read manuscripts for quotes anymore. Had to stop it cold the month I got more than a hundred. But I wish you well, and I'm glad you found your voice. Hope [name of publishing company] treats you good, and we get a chance to talk sometime." For years after I received this note, I saw Allison's name on what seemed like the back of EVERYONE'S book. But whatever. A girl has to have boundaries. I thought it was nice that she bothered to write back and send me her autograph.
On the other hand, so much for the solidarity of the sisterhood and lending a hand to the little-guy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

C. Michael Curtis--You are Not My Father!

Oddly, this small-spirited rejectionette had me weeping at Lady Shrink 's office. Usually I let the rejections roll off, but this one messed me up. It says: "Your story is engaging, but alas, not very convincing. And it is, as discussed, on the long side. We'll have to pass, I'm sorry to say, but thanks for the look, and for introducing yourself Tuesday night..."

Why so tender? Lady Shrink said that I was maybe transferring some feelings of worthlessness from my rejecting father. Still. "Unconvincing?"

Anyway, the story in question was eventually a runner-up for a prestigious fiction award and got published in a very good literary review, one of the ones named after a Midwestern state that bespeaks literary integrity. So take that, distinguished editor of letters, C. Michael: you are not my father!

Rosemary Ahern Wins A GAK!

You are a nice lady, Rosemary Ahern! You are a decent human being!

I do not say this because you liken my work to Flannery O'Connor's fiction, but because at any moment your letter could have gone snarky to justify your decision to pass. You could have easily turned on the writer's humble abilities to make yourself feel better about the sorry state of publishing, but you did not. Your letter said this: "As discussed, my reasons for passing have mostly to do with a fear of creating a kind of modest track record that tends to accompany a first short story collection. When it comes time to publish the brilliant first novel, those figures are lurking in booksellers' computers to frustrate the best efforts of all of us. The same old story, I'm afraid. That said, I'm deeply impressed with Writer, Rejected's range as a writer....[BLAH, BLAH, BLAH]...(I thought about Flannery O'Connor more than once while reading these stories....)"

(This leads me to worry that you may some day actually meet a true modern-day Flannery O'Connor and pass her right by, which I hope now you will not ever do, no matter what detrimental effect you think the industry might have on the good woman's career. Please, for God's sake, just publish her!)

But my point here is really just that a rejection can be a fun and flattering affair. My point is that kind-hearted rejections are all too rare. I therefore award you, Rosemary Ahern, the Golden Apple of Kindness from Writer, Rejected. (Otherwise known as GAK! ) For what it's worth. Which admittedly (since, like you, many have also chosen not to publish me) isn't much.

Carole DeSanti is Looking for Someone to Love

This is Carole DeSanti’s rejection of an early draft of my second book, an interlinked collection of short stories. The letter says: "Writer, Rejected is an obviously talented writer. She has an ear for dialogue and snazzy, precise skill for description. Her prose is generally quite a pleasure on the page and her clarity is wonderful. To me, though, this collection feels a bit too gimmicky...[BLAH, BLAH, BLAH]...And, she might consider--giving the reader someone to love...." There is a red-pen notation in the margin near this final comment about love; it says “Please," and was scribbled by my then-agent, whom I like to call Secret Agent Man.

Secret Agent Man came very, very close to selling this (apparently disappointing) collection to a Wonderful Editor at a major house. But then the Wonderful Editor’s bosses said they thought my characters were too weird. (Too Weird? Do they read books?) Secret Agent Man and I never recovered from this crushing, last-minute rejection, but we parted the best of friends.

Anyway, if anyone in the blogosphere can find Carole DeSanti a character to love, please, please do so immediately.

No-Signature Rejection

The handwritten rejection says: "Smooth, polished prose, an intriguing story, but in the end I wanted more from the characters and perhaps from the narrative itself. (The ending is sweet, but slightly too sentimental to work here, I think.) But there are some wonderful moments here--please try us again--Also, please note that Linda Asher is no longer with the magazine--"

Dude--if you’re going to expect more from my characters and call my work "too sentimental," but still invite me back to your desk for one more little tea party of rejection, at least sign your name.

As demonstrated by the fact that I went back to Linda Asher for more punishment (this time without lesbians), but got you instead, I clearly do not hold grudges. It makes me feel that maybe you don’t really want me to try "us" again.

Nonetheless, I do appreciate that you took the time to inform me of Linda Asher’s sad fate: “no longer with the magazine.” (That’s what she said about Dan Menaker.) Is that a euphemism, or something?

Also, why no salutation? Why no date? Why no sign off? Have you really no respect for the Writer, Rejected? Or are you just too busy enjoying your seat?

Linda Asher--Mean Lady at the New Yorker

A one-two set up by former New Yorker fiction editor.
  • On the Left: The initial stinging rejection with seductive invitation. The first handwritten note says: "This is alive, good writing, and ideas too--but the general notion seems overly complicated and a stretch for presenting this world; the payoff isn't great enough for the labor. But I hope you'll try another piece here? L Asher"
(As if there were any question. In fact, I sent her two pieces.)

  • On the Right: The second rejection arrived remarkably quickly. The handwritten note says: "Sorry--These are well enough written, but their material seems rather showily outsider, more posture than we like. But thanks."
Showily Outsider? Posturing? Maybe she didn't like that the main character was a lesbian prostitute?