Search This Blog

Friday, September 28, 2007

Read it. Think it. Reject it.

Here's one crazy-ass letter that's been circulating the web. A reader sent it in and said to google Laray Carr, those kooky cats, who will own the rights of anything you write, for more information.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Valley of the No's

Even Jacqueline Susann received some doozies. In 1966, one terribly miscalculating rejection of Valley of the Dolls said: "...She is painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene cries for the hand of a pro. She wastes endless pages on utter trivia, writes wide-eyed romantic scenes that would not make back pages of True Confessions, hauls out every terrible show biz cliche in all the books, lets every good scene fall apart and allows her book to ramble aimlessly...most of the first 200 pages are virtually worthless and dreadfully dull and practically every scene is dragged out flat and stomped on by her endless talk..."

Phew. That is something.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Not You (One More Time)

I got this in the mail again today. I guess because I submitted work in two categories: fiction and nonfiction. Double jeopardy!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Not You (Revisited)

This came in today's mail. Yet another contest lost! This one has photographs of the winners, making being a loser all the more tragic.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Reject is a Reject is a Reject

One wisecracking editor wrote this rejection to Gertrude Stein:* "I am only one, only one, only. Only one bein, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your MS three or four ties. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy should sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one." Mean, but funny.

*From Rotten Rejection: A Literary Companion, Edited by Andre Bernard (Puschart Press, 1990)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Armenian for No

William Saroyan felt that business had no business judging art. Before getting published he had collected some THOUSANDS of rejection slips. He refused to accept the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 based on principle.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Love Metaphor Gone Wild

A reader sent this writer's conference notice in, which was xeroxed to the back of a rejection. "Speed Dating with Agents" for $50? Good God!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Lyon's Share of No

A reader wrote in to say that Emily Skeggs from the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency sent the following email rejection: "Dear...Thank you for seeking us out. We're sorry for the late reply. Your novel,...., sounds like an interesting project. Unfortunately, we will not be taking you on. Good luck with the project and best wishes to you."

Then, a few days later, just to be sure, she sent back an SASE with the same rejection: "Dear...Thank you for seeking us out. We're sorry for the late reply, etc..."

Guess she really didn't like the work!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Literary Fantasy #6

Rosemary Ahern and me are herding geese on a farm in Upstate New York.
"You know what Flannery named hers, don't you, Doodles?" Rosemary says.
Rosemary smiles her warmest smile: "Clever girl."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Not the Cat's Meow

Bluecat Screenplay Competition charges a hefty entry fee for their rejections. For your trouble you get a professional analysis of your movie script, which at times reads like a college essay. I would include it here, but it would blow my cover. It says things like: "Snappy dialogue," and "Love the conversations between people," and "Good scene" or "You've got too many line directions."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Me and Mary Flannery

A reader sent this in and commented that I have more in common with Flannery O'Connor than even I (or Rosemary Ahern) suspected. It's an article from her high school newspaper. It says:

Peabodite Reveals Strange Hobby

"Mary Flannery, what's your hobby?"

"Collecting rejections slips."


"Publisher's rejecitons slips!"

And so the secret slipped out! Mary Flannery O'Connor is an author--of three whole books--illustrations and everything! But nothing can be put beyond Mary Flannery--Nothing is impossible. She began writing at the delicate age of six and jsut kept righton writing until "Mistaken Identity," "Elmo," and "Gertrude" were produced. These incidentally are the same three books mentioned above. Each one of them is about a goose. They are of a novelty type-too old for young children and too young for old people. As for Mary Flannery's ambition, she wants to keep right on writing, particularly satires.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fantasy Literary Letter #2

Dear Rosemary Ahern:
Flannery O'Connor said, "It is better to be young in your failures than old in your successes." How is that I am both?
Writer, Rejected

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wrinkle Wrejections

Of the great Madeleine L'Engle, who died last week, The New York Times said this: A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by 26 publishers before editors at Farrar, Straus & Giroux read it and enthusiastically accepted it. It proved to be her masterpiece, winning the John Newbery Medal as the best children’s book of 1963 and selling, so far, eight million copies. It is now in its 69th printing.” May she rest in writerly peace.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Pboz Farewell

I got this sad little swan song from the print editor, Krisin, at Pindeldyoz, the hot online journal, which also launched a print edition. It says: "Hello Dear Writer: Thank you for submitting to Pindeldyboz. Here's the thing, we're no longer considering submissions for the 8th issue, because honestly, we are most likely not having one. We are going on an indefinite hiatus and we would be jerks to hold onto your story when it could be read by other editors with well-funded literary magazines.

So, thank you for your support and for sending us your story. Please read as often as possible for many new and wonderful stories (perhaps you'd like to submit there?) and for news on the future of the print edition.

Say we can still be friends."

Heartbreaking, really.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Anderbo No

I got sick of print publication rejections, and thought I'd try my hand at some electronic journal rejections. These also smart, it turns out, and yet cyberkinetically somehow they feel less weighty.
Here's one from the editor at Anderbo:

Rick Rofihe,

Thank you for your recent submission to Anderbo. We have been surprised by the high volume of quality work we receive on a daily basis. Although we have not selected your work for publication, we do wish you the best of luck with it elsewhere. RR/cb

Sunday, September 9, 2007

NYTimes: "No Thanks, Mr. Nabokov"

A whole essay in the New York Times Book Review Section by David Oshinsky on the self-same topic as my blog (minus the personal collection of rejections, of course)? I must be dreaming.
Oshinksy opens with: "In the summer of 1950, Alfred A. Knopf Inc. turned down the English-language rights to a Dutch manuscript after receiving a particularly harsh reader’s report. The work was “very dull,” the reader insisted, “a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions.” Sales would be small because the main characters were neither familiar to Americans nor especially appealing. “Even if the work had come to light five years ago, when the subject was timely,” the reader wrote, “I don’t see that there would have been a chance for it.”

Knopf wasn’t alone. “The Diary of a Young Girl,” by Anne Frank, would be rejected by 15 others before Doubleday published it in 1952. More than 30 million copies are currently in print, making it one of the best-selling books in history....

....scholars trolling through the Knopf archive have been struck by the number of reader’s reports that badly missed the mark, especially where new talent was concerned. The rejection files, which run from the 1940s through the 1970s, include dismissive verdicts on the likes of Jorge Luis Borges (“utterly untranslatable”), Isaac Bashevis Singer (“It’s Poland and the rich Jews again”), Ana├»s Nin (“There is no commercial advantage in acquiring her, and, in my opinion, no artistic”), Sylvia Plath (“There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice”) and Jack Kerouac (“His frenetic and scrambling prose perfectly express the feverish travels of the Beat Generation. But is that enough? I don’t think so”). In a two-year stretch beginning in 1955, Knopf turned down manuscripts by Jean-Paul Sartre, Mordecai Richler, and the historians A. J. P. Taylor and Barbara Tuchman, not to mention Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” (too racy) and James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room” (“hopelessly bad”). "

Check it out for yourself:

Friday, September 7, 2007

Rejection Skills Assessment

A reader named Cattle Call posted this searing comment in response to Editor, Advising's rant (see Glutton for Punishment for original exchange):

Cattle Call said...
"I don't expect a carefully worded, exquisitely written rejection letter that strokes my ego. I simply expect a rejection as professional as the original query. Period. Writers know that a query is really the literary equivalent of the cattle call audition for actors. If you can't put up with rejection, you shouldn't be auditioning. But what some agents don't seem to realize is that their rejection skills - or lack thereof - speak volumes about the way they conduct their business. If I do my job by sending a professional query, I'm entitled to a professional response. In other words, a clean piece of paper. A date. A simple "thank you, does not meet our needs, good luck elsewhere." A signature (a squiggle is fine, you can do it while you talk to important people on the phone; that's what my boss used to do). And please: Spare me the compliments unless they're followed by an invitation to submit. If I didn't think my work was good, I wouldn't be sending it in the first place. As for the vast swampland on your desk...if you'll clean my house while I write, maybe I'll read through the queries for you. Sound fair?"

I imagine we will be hearing from our old friend Editor, Advising on this one.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Fantasy Literary Letter #1

Dear Rosemary Ahern:

Flannery O'Connor says, "Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay." When you come for my work, you will recognize me as the bald, toothless one.

Eagerly awaiting your response,
Writer, Rejected

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Gaines and Losses

Here's a complex rejection reversal I sent to one Judith Gaines at the Potomac Review to extract a story of mine, which had been accepted elsewhere. Gaines never wrote me back, so I guess I wouldn't have won the fiction contest anyway.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Barer Naked

The agent Julie Barer has a way with rejections. Under the blackout she made some intelligent personal remarks about the specifics of my writing. If not for the love metaphor, this would be a very good rejection. It says: "Not only does your writing indeed show a lot of talent but a wonderful comic sensibility and attention to a meaningful narative....[blah, blah, blah]. But unfortunately, as much as I admired the material I read, I just didn't fall in love with it in the way I wanted to." It's too bad, I think I would have liked being the ho to her admiring pimp.