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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.

My Own Personal Judith Regan Rejection

Did I really piss some people off recently by saying that publishing killed the short story? What I meant was O.J. killed Nicole and Judith Regan isn't going to let short fiction die! In fact, she is bringing back some juicy short work to publishing. And you can read Regan's 70-page complaint (i.e., $100 million-dollar lawsuit) over at Mixed Media by Jeff Bercovici, which boldly posts the paperwork for anyone with eyes to see.

Besides alleging improper dismissal and defamation by HarperCollins, owned by News Corp., a Rupert Murdoch company, 54-year-old Regan also claims she was the target of a News Corp campaign to keep her from revealing information about Bernard Kerik, a former NYC police commissioner and one-time candidate for Homeland Security Secretary, who just happens to be Regan's former lover. (I believe this is where the spies and chandelier come in.) Seems like Kerik, a memoirist and author of Regan's, used a lot of government money to do things like have sex with Regan in a rescue-worker shelter apartment near ground zero and use his staff to stalk her after they'd broken up. The plot and intrigue here are so overwrought that the folks at Muckety have drawn out a map, which is well worth a quick click-trip over there to take a look.

As for me, this story didn't really warm my heart or excite my loins. I just didn't fall in love with the main character, and couldn't quite wrap my arms around the whole political intrigue or evil media corporation subplot, which are probably true, but just not tasty enough for this hungry lover. I'm sure another reader will fall for Ms. Regan's charming yarn, which has much merit and is a well-written page-turner by all accounts. But, as for me, alas, I'm just going to have to pass.

I Am Third-Gendered

Got a fine little interview situation over at Eliot: A Literary Blog. Nice to be included among the rich and famous writers of the world on the topic of my life, rejection. Interestingly, Farnworth insists that I am male, though he isn't sure. He even misreads my bio to say: "I am a published, award-winning author of fiction and creative nonfiction--but whatever. In the eyes of many, he is still a literary reject," when it really says "In the eyes of many, I am still a literary reject. " Hmm. What's that all about, I wonder? My gender is important. Yes, that is the case in the culture. But I tell you here and now, I am a third-gendered person. I don't care much about the pronouns. Please think of me as whatever you like.

Winning Face--Not Yours II

BTW, here is the first page of Jacob Appel's award-winning fiction for your consideration. What do you think? Is it better than your losing, rejected story? I think it's better than mine, if you like truck-driver fiction. Then again, who am I to judge? What do you guys think?

Winning Face--Not Yours

Remember a while ago when I posted a bunch of fiction contest winners (not me), and that dude Jacob Appel's name kept turning up in first place? Someone even went so far as to track his ass down via google? Well, I opened my New Millennium Writing 2007-2008 today, and there he was.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

27 Rejections

Cartoonist Mike Lynch has a lovely little ode to rejection over at his site, Mike Lynch Cartoons. It seems that the above cartoon of his got rejected 27 times before landing in the Harvard Business Review. The caption reads: "How the hell am I going to spin this?" I have to say that cracked me up. He also notes other works that have received 27 rejections, including The Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley, And to Think I Saw it On Mullberry Street by Dr. Seuss. It's worth taking a swing over there to see a wonderful catalogue of other much-rejected favorites.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Whole Lot of HarperCollins Crazy

Judith Regan, the editor recently fired from her own imprint ReganBooks, which was once slated to publish O.J. Simpson's insane hypothetical confession, If I Did It, is suing HarperCollins (HC). In a legal complaint, Regan alleges that Jane Friedman, HC's Prez and CEO, mounted a “malicious assault on her character," according to the New York Times. Regan was fired because of an anti-Semetic remark she denies having made—and not because she was about to publish the work of an almost-confessed murderer (hello?), which no doubt HC execs LOVED, until they realized the public found it astoundingly distasteful.

One of the instances cited in Regan's complaint contributing to an alleged "hostile workplace" was a failure on HC's part to investigate an extremely heavy lighting fixture that fell from the ceiling onto Regan's desk (Regan says it was the spies monkeying around with her). She also says the company encouraged a culture of "gossip, back-stabbing, negative leaks and hostility.”

Spies and chandeliers? Hypothetical confessions of murder and back-stabbing? (The gossip and hostility we already knew about.) No wonder we can't get published.

Literary Friends of Bill

12 Steps of Literary Rejects Anonymous (LRA)
We admitted we were powerless over literary rejection, and that our lives had become unmanageable (and our manuscripts unpublishable).
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than Publishing (our own Muse) could restore us to hope, healing, and sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a gentle and loving Muse.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of all our writing to see if any of the rejections we'd received so far were at all accurate or in any way useful.
5. Admitted to the Muse, to ourselves, and to another literary blogger, the exact nature of our self-pitying flaws and bad attitude.
6. Were entirely ready to have the Muse remove all these defects, so that we could create a clean revision and start anew.
7. Humbly asked the Muse to remove our literary shortcomings (and to please stop the onslaught of rejections, if at all possible).
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed in the process of writing, or getting rejected, and became willing to make amends to them all, including friends, family, agents, editors, and other writers.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them, ourselves, or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we wrote something horrible promptly admitted it. When we got rejected, we shared the experience. We have no more dirty little rejection secrets.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with the Muse, as we understood the Muse, praying only for knowledge of plot, character and metaphor according to the Muse's will for us, and the power to carry that will out on the page.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other writers, and to practice these principles in all our literary pursuits.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Another Dim Prospect

A reader sent this One Story form rejection in to LROD. It seems to me like super bad odds: they are only ever going to choose one story, and it's not going to be yours:

Dear Writer:
We appreciate the opportunity to read your work,
but unfortunately this submission was not a right fit for One Story.
Thank you for trying us.
The Editors of One Story

Monday, November 12, 2007

Call for Rejections (Rip Off?)

This monthly screenplay contest is for masochists only. Pay $35 any month you'd like to get a rejection. My script got sent around for one of these contests once and all it led to was a whole lot of nothing. Anybody have a good experience with any of these screenplay contests?

We want to know:

Script Savvy's Monthly Screenplay Contest is now accepting entries! The contest is sponsored by film producers looking for new projects and writing talent. Sponsors include Cyan Pictures, Industry Entertainment, Niad Management, and many more.Winners are chosen every month. Most recent winner Mine by Anita Jean Justice is currently being read and considered for production by Niad Management, Emergence Entertainment, Cyan Pictures, Exit 99, Danger Film Company, and Foremost Films.$35 entry fee. Feedback or Full Analysis are available with entry, guaranteed within 30 days. All genres allowed, feature length only.Please visit the website for more details: Script Savvy is currently the 2nd highest rated screenplay contest online (source: with a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Scathing Review

Amy Sterling Casil, over at the blog incipit vita nova, really doesn't like my little Literary Rejections on Display project, or my attitude apparently. Check out her post from November 1oth, entitled The Angry Slush, in which she accuses me of faking my bio and being cheap, among other things. Disclosure: I am using the above photo from her blog as a tribute to her anger, which is very healthy and alive and quite admirable. Also it's such a good picture I couldn't resist, and anyway she's already very, very angry at me. I left a comment replying to her post, which she may or may not publish. But I hope she does because Jim Van Pelt and I really did work out our differences, even if she doesn't think so.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Doesn't Give a Shit

That vixen Demian Farnworth has a nice little conversation going with T.C. Boyle about rejection over at Eliot, A Literary Blog. Interestingly enough, Mr. Boyle has never really "worried much about being rejected at one place or another." Oh, he's the one who couldn't give two shits; I knew there had to be some writer, somewhere. Anyway, when do you suppose was the last time someone actually told this dude no? He probably doesn't remember how much it stings. Nonetheless, Farnworth's article links to others of his blog rejection discussions, which are more sustaining. It's worth a peek.

Small Spiral Notebook No More

Felicia Sullivan, editrix and founder of Small Spiral Notebook (SNN), sent out a very sad notice to those who have participated literarily over the years. The end of something is like a generalized rejection, the closing of a door, one less place to publish:

"And...I do have one rather sad announcement. After six years of publication, articles in major newspapers and magazines (NYT, New Yorker, Poets & Writers, Utne, Time Out NY, just to name a few) and solicitations from top agents and publishers, which have helped our writers score agents and book deals, I'm sad to announce that SSN will cease publication on 12.31.07.

This was a very difficult decision for me to make, however, it was one that I felt was best for the journal. We will continue to publish reviews, interviews & features until the end of the year, and the site will remain online indefinitely. We will publish a final print issue in 2009. Subscriptions will be fulfilled. I want to thank you all for your unwavering, wonderful support and for reading! I’d also like to extend a special thanks to my wonderful staff. SSN wouldn’t be where it is today without my incredible and devoted team of editors, reviewers, feature writers and readers. My humble thanks.

For continued book coverage, check out my live podcast show Writers Revealed: We’ll also feature book reviews & interviews on the WR website. Book giveaways every week!!! To keep up with your fearless editor and her forthcoming memoir (The Sky Isn’t Visible from Here):"

We will miss our beloved SSN. Keep an eye on Felicia, though; her blog is entertaining and her book promises to be a knock out.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Funeral for the Story

Larry Dark is over at Critical Mass, the Blog of the National Book Critics Board of Directors (snooze), pretending that the short story isn't dead in a pontificating post. He should come have a look over here if wants to know whether or not the short story is alive and well. I'd say not. Well, book critics, what do you expect?

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

A reader left the following unthinkable comment in response to a Rosemary Ahern post recently. As most of you know Rosemary Ahern is the nicest, kindest rejecter on the east coast, an editor at The Other Press (formerly at Washington Square Press). She is the winner of the GAK! award, a coveted golden apple for exemplary rejecting. And she is my future editorial companion and savior. And yet here is the comment:

Anonymous said...
"i used to work for her. she's horrid and deserves no more of your time. no more ink for her!"
November 5, 2007 2:36 PM

I am begging anyone who has information to the contrary to please write in and dispel this terrible rumor, so that I may maintain my belief in God and Publishing and Rosemary, all items on the list being equal.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Three Strikes I'm Out

Douglas Stewart, an agent at Sterling Lord, had a lot to say about my work. On the plus side, he appears to have read every word I sent him, which is cool. On the minus side, he sums up my career at that moment by saying (1) my nonfiction is my best writing, but has no hook, (2) my novel sucks and didn't "warm" him, and (3) who cares about my short stories (not him), if my novel is a cold fish. I blacked a lot of what he said out because dude got pretty personal. I mean, he might as well have tossed in that my hair is shaggy and my feet too big.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Let's Compare Lists, Shall We?

Many writers have posted that they have an equally long and disturbing list of rejecting agents. So, what say we have a little show and tell? At the very least, maybe as an outshoot of this exercise, we could share rejection stories about each agent, which is probably an agent's worst nightmare. (Though we'll take a vow to discuss each agent in the same gentle and loving way he or she treated us.) But for now let's stick to the lists.

So here it is: An official call for your own personal tortured record of rejecting agents. Annotations are allowed. The longest list (and most amusing or original) will be posted here. You can send to "writerrejected at aol dot com" or you can post your list as a comment.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Agent v. Editor

According to a recent Galley Cat posting, entitled "After the Resentment Comes Out, the Finger Pointing Begins," we writers are not the only ones who despise Editor/Agents. They appear to loathe each other too! It is worth taking a spin over to check it out and follow the thread back to its origin. Fascinating! I guess we knew if we waited around long enough, they'd eventually start scratching each other.

New York, New Yorker

To learn more than you ever want to know about why you will never be published in The New Yorker, go to (Courtesy of a reader.) I can't even get published by writing a funny enough cartoon caption. Now that's depressing.

Agents: Sum Total Rejections

Here's what my career looked like for a few years: crazy list of agents on my bulletin board. Note that I have assigned the following categories: Rejects, Reserve list, Readers, Queried and my favorite List of Wanters. Hmm? In the end, every person on this list rejected me. How about that!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Literary Fantasy Letter #4

Dear Rosemary Ahern:

Flannery O'Connor once said, "To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness." Guilty as charged. And yet my novel is almost done (again). Do you want to read the first 50? You can send me a secret-squirrel email at writerrejected at aol dot com. (I won't tell a soul.)

Yours truly,

Writer, Rejected

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Fantasy Of No

A reader sent this one in from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Yet again another editor simply wasn't grabbed!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Pre-rejection Warm-Up

I've noticed that they all start out so nice. In this case, the agent Wendy Strothman says: "Many thanks for your note. You have certaintly lined up an impressive list of awards and recognition. I would be glad to review your work..." She even sent her regards. But, alas, I'm quite sure her assistant wrote back and rejected me, though at this very moment I can't find the rejection. I'll keep looking. It's bound to be somewhere.