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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Creative Blurbing

A famous writer once sent me the following backhanded blurb ostensibly to use on the back of my book. As you can see the quotation is so unusable that the famous writer might as well have not bothered at all. A more honest response would have been: No, I don't really want to. Anyway, the publishers thought it was funny, an example of how jealous writers can undermine each other. And no matter how we twisted the thing, we couldn't come up with anything that might seem like a good review.

"Writer, Rejected conveys the stark bitterness of those perched continually on death beds, whose only relief is gazing into the eyes of false lovers. This author knows the desire for a revelation to transcend the burden of history and knows that no vision will ever completely satisfy."


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Buried Treasure, New Yorker Style

I was searching through a stack of papers when lo and behold I found another New Yorker rejection, which prompted me to make a separate blog category for the venerable magazine. This one is from 1995 and has a scrawl from someone called DGG that says: "Well written, but, alas, not quite distinctive enough for us in the end." Don't you love it when the word "alas" appears in a rejection? It happens surprisingly often, as if melodramatic exclamation were an acceptable part of the literary world. Cute, right? p.s. This is my ninth NY-er rejection. Should I send them something new just so my career can die peacefully with ten?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Shady Sheedy?

I once had a complicated writerly relationship with the agent Charlotte Sheedy and approached her to read my manuscripts (short story and novel). She wrote back to me instantly: "Of course we'll read your manucripts. Give us some time though because we have many books on the spring list and we're overwhelmed. Sorry you sent your work to [name of publishing house] with someone else. I have a lot of bestselling books over there."

I love that her response was both so positive ("Of course we'll read your manucripts"), and yet also so confidently discouraging ("Sorry you sent your work to [name of publishing house] with someone else [meaning my previous agent at the time, who came very close to selling something at said publishing house]. I have a lot of bestselling books over there.") As if I ruined my chances of getting published by having an agent who wasn't her! (I think that was meant to be a little bit mean.)

Anyway, in the end, Charlotte kindly passed my manuscripts off to her assistant agent, who rejected me in short order.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fail Better!

I don't know how I feel about this rejection. It says: "Thanks for sending your story to We're sorry to report that it's not right for the site. We wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere." Then there's the quotation by Samuel Beckett from whence the name of the journal came: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." (Could be the motto for this blog.) On one hand, I feel like I am just following directions. On the other, I feel like a double loser. Hmm? Perverse.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Individual Voice and Lee's River tagged Writer, Rejected for a Meme.

What are my five greatest strengths as a writer?

1) Fast: I can turn a deadline on a dime.
2) Dogged: Never give up, as demonstrated by this blog and my many rejections
3) Humbled & Experienced: Many years of learning what and what not to do in art and business, especially not to act like an asshole
4) Dedicated & Discerning: Have learned to listen to myself first, others second
5) Original: My writing is not like other writing I've read, I think. Maybe that in part is why it doesn't get published easily? Or maybe I'm full of shit?

Doing Our Small Part to Reject You

Here's a recent Night Train Literary Magazine rejection sent in by a faithful reader:

"Dear Zumabitch: Thank you for sending us [name of short story]. Unfortunately, it's not what we're looking for. Take heart: there's a wide literary world out there, and we're only one small part.

Best of luck with this and all your writing.


Alicia Gifford
The Editors
Night Train"

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Annoying Winner's Announcement (Still Not You)

What is it about this movie competition announcement of winners that is so strangely annoying? All the men in ugly ties? The name of the contest "Big Break"? Or is it the perky description of the winning scripts? Any thoughts?

Notice that I didn't even have the energy to make sure the whole entire notice got captured; I cut it off at the second irritating photo. It was two pages, by the way. Way too long.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Broad Rejection

A reader sent this snippet of this very broad rejection: "I really like the idea of [your novel] but the flashbacks just bring the story to a halt. I wanted to see a relationship develop between [name of character] and [name of character], but what happens instead are two stories that do not work to enhance the other. I hope these notes, while broad, make sense to you." Still, it's more fun when you know who wrote the rejection, isn't it?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Modern Rejection

Fitting to run this rejection on a Sunday. What you get when you send an essay to the Modern Love Column of the Sunday New York Times is the following rejection: "Dear Writer, Rejected: I'm afraid we can't use your essay in Modern Love, but we appreciate the opportunity to consider it. The volume of unsolicited submissions we receive prevents us from responding personally to each writer, but please know all essays are read and considered, and in fact we discover many of the essays for the column among these submissions. Thank you for your interest and best of luck. --Modern Love editors"

I've gotten this rejection three times. How about you?

Read an interesting response to Modern Love from someone whose ex wrote about her in the column at The Black Table.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Gestational Rejection

A new human being could be conceived, gestated, and born in the time it takes the guys at Words on Walls, a pretty hot literary website, to get back to you (which, by the way, they haven't done yet). Here's what the notice says when you submit: "Thanks for your communication to Words on Walls. Submissions will take us up to twelve weeks to review. For other inquiries, we will be in touch soon. Best, Words on Walls," But they never do get in touch--and now the baby is crying.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wilde Rejection

Of The Picture of Dorian Gray, one rejecting editor wrote: "contains unpleasant elements." Indeed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Happi-LEIGH Rejected

I love Leigh Feldman, even though she rejected me (twice actually). Still she is a class act all the way. Her rejection says: "I got to read your [name of story collection] over the holidays. While it's a wonderful body of work, I came (yet again with your writing) to unavoidable reservations aboutthe project. There is an enormous resistance to short fiction these days and I'm not sure this collection is distinctive enough to stand as exception. The opportunities for smart, solid, and finely written stories are sadly few." Then she offers me a few other agents to try, which is very nice. Don't you think? Wish she had loved it, though.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Frightened Housewife Rejection

Julia Child's wonderful cookbook series received many rejections. One misguided editor wrote: "It is a big, expensive cookbook of elaborate information and might well prove formidable to the American housewife. She might easily clip one of these recipes out of a magazine but be frightened by the book as a whole."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Writer Rejected's Agents

Seems like there's some confusion out there about me. What is chronicled on this blog is my struggle to get an agent and an editor over the years. Some of the rejections are dated and others are not, but they are not occurring in real time. Also, I've had a couple of agents throughout the years, and now I have one who is working with me on the film deals and on my novel. The new agent (whom I've referenced before in these posts) thinks I can get my next story collection published after I get the novel comes out...if it ever does.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lazar-us Denying

Dan Lazar at Writers House had a so-called vague (but negative) reaction to my novel a few years ago. He said, " just didn't grab me 100%...I'm obviously not the right champion for this project, but you're definitely a talent, and I have no doubt another agent will soon snap this project up." I don't know about soon, but he was right that I did get an agent who loved the book and I am reworking it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

An Ideal Non-Future

In a rejection of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, one editor wrote of John Le Carre, "He hasn't got any future."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Touch of Acceptance?

Hey, I hate to disappoint, but a story of mine got accepted yesterday at a very nice journal. It's a story I really love and have long puzzled over why it has never found a home. But today it has one. Also, the film script I wrote from an old short story of mine has generated lots of deadlines lately: treatments, writer's notes, potential revisions. The producers seem hell-bent on raising money to have it produced. So there you have it. Today's anti-rejection....but don't worry; I'll be back tomorrow on topic.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Same Old Story: New Letters, Not You

Here's an announcement of the winners of the New Letters 2007 Literary Awards for Writers. Guess what? I didn't win. (But I could give a gift subscription and get a free CD!)

Monday, October 8, 2007

World Record Rejection

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, "the greatest numer of publishers' rejections for a manuscript is 106 for World Government Crusade by Gilbert Young."

Can anybody beat that?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Frank Rejection

Upon rejecting The Diary of Anne Frank for publication, some genius editor apparently said: "The girl doesn't , it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level." Hello? (Despite everything, it seems to me people are really dumb at heart.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Literary Fantasy Letter #3

As Flannery O'Connor said, "I am a writer because writing is the thing I do best.”

Writer, Rejected

Monday, October 1, 2007

Silence of the Rubaiyat

According to Andre Bernard's Rotten Rejections, Edward Fitzgerald waited a full year for a response after sending out his manuscript of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. When he heard nothing back from the editor, he published it himself and became a hugely successful self-published author. Just a little Monday-morning thought for you.