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Friday, October 31, 2008

Get An Eyeshot of This

Here's a dude who loves the rejections he writes to others so much that he posts them voluminously for the world (and his literary magazine readers) to see.  (Click on the volume number to get to the other six pages of rejections in case you are so inclined.)  

One word about Lee Klein from me: Wow.

I learned of this phenomenon from the man himself, who wrote me an email with a link to his rejections and an invitation (perhaps challenge) to submit to his site,  

Wrote he, "Maybe send something for Eyeshot, award-winning writer..." 

My response:  "Um, no thanks."  But he is welcome for the publicity, and I do wish him peace and light.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Writer's Life

Here's an interesting article on rejection by TJ Sullivan.  Above is a photo of his first novel, rejected and returned.  Haven't we all been there?

Evident Merit, My Ass

Dear Writer, Rejected:

I am hoping that you have some familiarity with rejections from the "shouts and murmurs" column at The New Yorker.

I submitted a piece to them via e-mail on August 6. Barely 5 days later, I received this response:

We're sorry to say that this piece, "Living Your Dreams Backwards," wasn't right for us, despite its evident merit. Thank you for allowing us to consider your work.

Best regards,
The Shouts Dept.

I wondered in the back of my mind whether "evident merit" was just a stock phrase they threw around to keep people from getting upset but didn't think much of it until almost two months later, when I received this e-mail on October 3:

We're sorry to say that this piece wasn't right for us, but thanks very much for letting us consider your work, and we sincerely apologize for the delay in responding.

Best regards,
The Shouts Dept.

I've only e-mailed them once in my life, so the second, unprovoked response was puzzling. And a bit of a kick over something I was already down about, honestly.

Is the "evident merit" phrase something that they use in an "encouraging" rejection letter, or is it just their version of "those pants don't make your ass look big"? In the two months that elapsed, did it lose its merit, or are they only capable of providing either apologies or encouragement but not both? 


Anonymous Writer (PMJG)

Dear AW: 

I'd have to say from my years of rejection experience from said magazine that both the letter and the email seem very much like standard New Yorker form letters to me.  Sorry to break the bad news. If you want to send your S & M piece here, I'll post it for discussion.  The New Yorker probably wouldn't know funny if funny bit it in the big-looking-ass pants.  

Keep the faith, Bro-- W,R.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cartoon You and Your Rejections

Seems like we're not the only ones obsessed with literary failure and rejection. Guess it's good to have a laugh over it once in a while.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

"What Writers Fail to Realize" (Please.)

In case you didn't know the real scoop about WRITING, people, here's what an anonymous commenter (called D. Kollar) has to tell you today on a post from December about the business you're in:

"I met with Mr. [Jeff] Kleinman a week ago at a writer's conference in Indiana to pitch my novel. He told me the idea was good but the book was not ready to be published. Although, this was a rejection, I valued his advice and after he told me what to do, I agreed and found the information helpful.

I think writers fail to realize this is a business, plain and simple. Agents may like many of the books they look at, but they only have time to represent the ones they love. I don't like form letters, but they are a necessary evil if an agent receives hundreds of query letters a month. Because really, when would they have the time to represent the authors they do have and make the money necessary to live if they spent time writing individual letters and going into depth about why they won't accept your manuscript.

It really comes down to this: if the idea and the writing don't absolutely wow the agent, they will not accept it. So you fix the problem, continue to learn, send a query letter to another agent, or you give up. But nobody has ever said that getting a book published is easy. Otherwise, everyone would have a story to sell. This career is only for those who don't give up.

D. Kollar"

Thanks for news flash about nothing we didn't already know, buddy.

Typical Southern Hospitality

Contrary to the laughing at you The Virginia Quarterly (VQR) does behind your back, here's a sampling of their official rejection form:

Dear Writer:

Thanks for your recent submission to VQR: "Title of Story." While the piece had obvious merit it just doesn't fit our needs at present. We wish we could offer a more personal response to your submission, but the number of manuscripts we receive makes this impossible. Please know, however, that we've read your work and appreciate your interest in our journal. Please do keep us in mind in the future.

Best regards,
The Editors

Seems like a pack of lies now that we know what really goes on.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Archival Rejection Letters

Just wanted to share a bit of rejection history with you.  

The Saturday Evening Post eventually went out of business, and I'm sure MOMA was later sorry to have turned down Andy Warhol's drawing.  As for Ms. Ford, she became a well respected illustrator for Disney during World War II when many women became acceptable for positions previously closed-off to them because the men went off to war.  (Just goes to show that a rejection is not necessarily the end of the story.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jacob Appel Awarded a GAK!

Not just because he's won yet another friggin' contest, but because I LOVE this man in both homo and hetero ways (I am third gendered, after all), I hereby award Jacob M. Appel (dude of many degrees) with the second annual Golden Apple of Kindness (GAK!) Award.  You will see I added his award to the right side of my blog under the first and most distinguished awardee, Rosemary Ahern.  (I may or may not refrain from writing a series of romantic literary posts about him as I did about her....we'll see.)

Anyway, congratulations Jacob.  Despite the fact that you win every contest I lose, you are a good guy!  A decent human being!  And an inspiration!  Congratulations!

p.s. As soon as my novel is published, I'll reveal my true identity, and we'll have lunch.  Anyone who can get to NYC is invited to come along.  We'll make it a media event to get the publicity we all deserve.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Eyeshot Eyeroll (Or, How to Overwrite A Rejection)

An anonymous writer has words to say about the journal Eyeshot.  Says he:  "For those that don't know, part of the fun of submitting to eyeshot is the rejection. (Actually, that's the only part of the fun I know so far!!)"

Here's the rejection from editor Lee Klein: "Man submits story. Editor reads it. Man wrote sentences. Short ones. Editor likes long ones. Or short ones. If they are about. Eating out menstruating she-lions. Through specially designed dreamcatchers. But sentences are about same-old stupid fighting. Man and woman fighting. Editor does not know why Man would think Editor or anyone would post this? Editor wonders if Man thinks this sort of thing. Is syntaxically interesting? More interesting formally than interesting content? Or good prose? With syntax that disappears to generously reveal images for a reader? Editor sighs. Man sighs. Editor says good luck. Man wants to say, Eat a dick. Man says nothing. Man does not cry. Man reconsiders. Man reads Tolstoy and understands. Editor makes broccoli and yams. Then writes till the 76ers and Yanks games come on! Woohoo!"

You can't see me right now, but I'm rolling my eyes at how bad this rejection is.  The writing makes me want to throw myself under a bus.

$3 Bill is Nonrefundable in Massachusetts

Apparently the folks over at Massachusetts Review are requiring a $3 fee for electronic submissions, which though sad, is probably the wave of the future.  Because Pay Pal can be such a mess, you might want to think twice about submitting...because if the story doesn't get processed, you may not get your money back.  See details of one such harrowing story here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sorry, We Only Publish Fakes

Here's a story you can find in full over at A Salted Blog.  Seems the writer sent out a flash fiction piece to an unnamed literary journal, and got a rejection back immediately.  Says the writer, "The editor said he didn't like it, he thought it was unrefined and sloppy writing that needed revision. Right. Cheers. Anyway, I thought he was a bit rude, but assumed he is a young dude trying to make a name as a fearsome editor of scrupulously worded fiction. I told a writer friend, who went to a greeking generator and mixed up some chunks of random text with expletives, and sent it to the editor along with a preposterous bio."  Long story short, the editor published the bunk piece of writing.  Alas, they do love the f-word.

Monday, October 20, 2008

New Delta Review Responds

Re: the above rejection from New Delta Review, we have an explanation!  NDR Editor-in-Chief, Benjamin Lowenkron, and Chief-Mischiefmaker, "Assmunch," came around LROD with the following entertaining comments:

new said...

Believe it or not, this is the current Editor-in-Chief of NDR, Benjamin Lowenkron. Our journal has a high rate of turn-over on the staff because we are 100% run by graduate students. So, every now and then, an assmunch who thinks he is hilarious happens to stumble onto the staff. I am not sure when or who sent out that rejection (though I have a few ideas), but it is not our practice to insult and antagonize our contributors. Our nornal rejection slip simple informs the writer that their piece did not find a home at NDR.

That being said, I do think the letter is hilarious, and that people take rejections way too seriously (there are an infinite number of reasons a piece gets rejected, and I have plenty of rejections of my own work sitting around my office). Though I would not send this sort of rejection out, I have to admit the thought has crossed my mind on a few occasions - for example, the time we received a letter smeared in cat feces from someone who we rejected (with the normal rejection), informing us that his/her story got picked up by a "better journal." No joke. Anyway, we here at New Delta Review welcome all submissions, and as always, stop idiot be.

-Benjamin S. Lowenkron, Editor, New Delta Review

the assmunch said...

Not only was it meant as a joke, it was never meant to get out. As the "assmunch" in question (got to love a boss with such careful attention to word choice), I feel somewhat drawn to clear it all up.

We were out of rejection slips a few days back, and (yes, due to the massive turnover) had to search everywhere for the original document which contained the form letter. Once I found it, I amended it slightly as a joke, and saved two versions of the slip (the original, and the joke). Then, one page was printed containing three of the joke slips, and was passed around the office (though not to the EiC).

Apparently, it got mixed up in the pages of actual form letters I printed off that day. For that, I am sorry. I'd like to assure the three people that mistakenly got the joke rejection that it was completely random (as well as accidental), and not indicative of a particularly poor quality of work. Not to say that the stories in question didn't warrant such a harsh reading... I just can't say for sure that they did. Trust me, they accidentally found their way into the pile, and went out in the mail with no one knowing that it had happened.

Not acceptable, certainly, but funny nonetheless.

Literary Agent Web Death

Here's a thought (not a very well-written one), but a thought just the same: "The web has been a great influence of 'disintermediation' in business, by eliminating intermediaries such as booksellers, travel agents and music stores. So, why not literary agents? Unlike the printed book itself, no one would miss them – and without them we might just find that we get to read more of what we want to, rather than what we're told to. "

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Down and Dirty in the Delta!

This Delta Review form rejection says: "Thank you for submitting.  Unfortunately, the work you sent us is quite terrible.  Please forgive the form rejection, but it would take too much of my time to tell you exactly how terrible it was.  thanks again for the form letter."  

I am told it is real.  What more need anyone say?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Point/Counterpoint: "Jane, You Ignorant Slut"

Amidst the call for more rejections on this blog, the above from Counterpoint Press came just in time.  Interestingly, it is not addressed to the writer (me) nor signed by the editor (supposedly Jack Shoemaker), though the return address said Charlotte Williams, Counterpoint Press Berkeley, CA. Some of you know that Counterpoint, Soft Skull Press and Sierra Club Books merged in order to save their independent enterprises.  All well and good, but I still got rejected.  

Have they eschewed the pre-printed rejection for stationery in need of a note?  This one says:  "I am sorry not to have been taken with this, but these are subjective matters and I do wish you good luck in finding a suitable home for this work."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Am Not John McCain! I Am Not Sarah Palin!

Here's some criticism of LROD from an annoyed reader:

"This site is more and more like a McCain/Palin rally every day. Instead of hearing about Bill Ayers, we hear about Narrative Magazine. And like the person who shouts out something inflammatory at the rally, we get the yahoo above insulting the looks of someone whose photo you post (an invitation to the yahoos, I might add, since we all know how the Darin Strauss photo episode went down). Well, it's ugly and counterproductive. (Oh, and as for Ploughshares...I find it odd that they care "only about the writing" since each issue has a different editor. Hm. I wonder how that works.) I take it that Writer, Rejected isn't a Republican, but I wouldn't be suprised if a photo surfaced of him/her shooting editors from a helicopter. (I await Writer, Rejected's 4-star quip: "I guess you told me" or some such clever comeback. Or, more likely, this will prompt Writer, Rejected to write a post about this comment, because, A) it's the perfect opportunity to play the victim card, and B) it lends itself to good art.)"

I actually think the comment may be fairly accurate, except for the violence from helicopter part, and the b.s. about Bill Ayers, which no one cares about anyway. Oh, and yes, I think I will use it as a post and play the victim card: why the hell not, right?  So, what Dude doesn't get is that I'm on a hundred paid work deadlines these days (thank God), just finished a movie script revision for the producers who optioned my story, and am trying to get my radically revised novel to an interested editor by November (got an extension due to her schedule not mine). No time to be clever, I guess....but I am dedicated to the blog, while I try to get it all done. (Just think of the juicy rejections my current work will create!) 

Excuses aside, let's give LROD a letter grade (as if we were in school for our MFA). Question of the Month: What grade would you give this blog? A, B, C, or D.  Do you think my blog work is slipping?  Should I hang up?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Summary of the Week?

Here's a write-in comment about another of Narrative Magazine's story of the week, from one of the mice.  I've added links:

what is up with this "looters" story? it reads like a summary of the story every middle-aged woman turns in for her first workshop. full of cliches and awkward summarizing (husband has affair and it's forgotten about, then suddenly he's in iraq?) and even bad edits; on the opening page the narrator refers to a character as "Michelle" before she is introduced as such.


Maybe it's because the writer is pretty (see photo above) and has an impressive bio.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rejection Quiz: How Good Are you?

Fun Trivia has a quiz you can take on literary rejection here.  Guess the topic is becoming glitzy, my friends. It's kind of fun, though.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Is This Man Behind Your Literary Journal?

We've been bashing Narrative Magazines a bit ourselves lately, but this post from HTMLGiant really goes to town.  The title of the post?  "Narrative Magazine is Edited by George W. Bush."  (If you read any other posts on this dude's site, you will have to confront some intensely offensive vitriol, so please be warned.)

Here's the article's conclusion, a highlight:

"I really feel disgusted. I won’t even get into the content-wise shitting on Narrative that I was going to get into, about how they only seem to publish a very specific kind of writing by a certain sect of people, but since I don’t feel like joining the site and signing in, that will have to be gleaned by just looking at the front page."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bloggery Bloggery

Here is something more pleasant to view for your Sunday Morning enjoyment.  Sorry about Friday's gross image.  Even I felt like not coming around to this blog with that picture up front. 

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thanks for Nothing

Did you remember to thank a rejecting literary agent today? Literary agent Jessica Faust  over at Bookends LLC blog has this and more to say on the topic:

"Don’t forget to celebrate every success—a finished chapter, a finished book, a nice rejection letter."

Definitely celebrate your rejections, people! (Or does she mean celebrate the hardworking, under appreciated creep who rejected you?) While you're at it, check out the 30 sycophants who comment on her post, which is titled "Bittersweet Email."  The comments alone will make you want to send a thank you note to yourself because you're not one of them.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

We'll Take It!

Though I'm no Gawker fan, editor Nick Denton is leaving the site to start a new web site called the Unspiked Files, according to The New York Observer.  The new UF will published articles that have been killed (presumably because they are good not bad).

This is only good for us, the rejected rabble of the writing world.  Send them your rejected pages, your abandon articles, the leftover scraps of your soul!  (Or, I don't know, maybe don't.)

Get with the Scary Times, People!

I get an email every other day from the bozos over at Narrative Magazine announcing this and that: contests, featured writers, opportunities to hobnob with literary flames, or whatever they happen to be hawking.  
I was particularly struck by today's email featuring the Story of the Week, which invites writers to send in work and perhaps get chosen for a spotlight. The promo reads: "We love finding and promoting well-written stories by talented here to submit!"  This week's feature is "The Story of an Hour" by KATE CHOPIN!  Excuse me?  That's right...Kate Chopin! (Did she rise from her 100-year-old grave to submit?  Did they discover her...all over again? )  

Not that we shouldn't read classics, but....people, hello?!  

We are facing the worst economic crisis of our lives, perhaps of all times. Books are going to dive so far into the toilet that we all better learn how to breathe underwater when flushed down, or else give up now. Couldn't Narrative Magazine have picked some brave new voice from today? How about a little relevancy to bring literature back into good standing? We need leaders on every level now.  How about it?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Rejection Without Submission?

An anonymous LRODer sent this rejection in to share, noting that on first glance (click to make larger) it seemed like any standard form letter, but our friend goes on to say: "I have no idea who Leslie Daniels is, and never submitted to her or 'daniels books LLC.' When I look her up, she appears to be a literary agent. So how did some of my work end up in her hands? (Plus, the note doesn't include my cover letter or any reference to what I submitted -- so I have no way of even knowing what she's rejecting). Eventually I discover that she's the editor of Green Mountains Review. What? Were they too cheap to print their own rejection slips? It's frustrating enough getting rejection slips without having to play detective to figure out what journal is rejecting you."

Monday, October 6, 2008

Oh Shut Up!

An anonymous LROD reader sent in this line, the only notice of rejection on a humor book proposal sent to a literary agency:

This is not amusing at all!  Sorry.

Was it offensive material?  Or, maybe the bookkeeper has an off-beat sense of humor?

Friday, October 3, 2008

It's My Blog, Darn Tootin'!

Seems like we've got bigger fish to fry these days than just getting our manuscripts published. For instance, the entire U.S. economy is about to tank and bring the world with it, as has been predicted for years.  Not to mention that Lady Alaska was prepped to the hilt for the debate last night, but didn't even come close.  A sad, sad joke...on all of us (on women in particular). 

The only good news in sight is that John McCain is showing his erratic, irrational, angrily unreliable self, which is allowing Obama to pull ahead calmly and graciously in the polls.  How nice it would be to have an intelligent, thoughtful, well-spoken, diplomatic leader in the White House! And wouldn't it be novel if things actually played out according to the candidate's true personalities and ideologies, rather than whatever black magic can be produced to fool the American public? (McCain tells rape jokes!) And, truly, wouldn't it be sweet to have an era in American history during which we could actually tell what the hell is going on? That would indeed be refreshing.  

The other good news is that my novel revision is coming along swimmingly.  The retreat I went on really got it jump started. I know that there have been some complaints that my blogging hasn't been as scintillating as usual, and I do apologize. But as the pretty lady says, it's a "Joe Six-Pack kind of America."  So toughen up and grow your own blogs.  Isn't that what this great land is made of? You betcha' it is.  

Thursday, October 2, 2008

An Accounting Error for the Ages

I got a lot write-ins about this story, which came through slushpile, through Galley Cat, originally reported by Poets & Writers.  It seems that the bookkeeper at the Academy Chicago Publishers is the one responsible for all those rejections!  Guess she got sick of counting and of seeing the mail piling so high, so thought she'd put everyone out of misery by just going ahead and getting it over with.  The only reason founding editors Jordan and Anita Miller realized the accountant's mistake was that their "big pile of submissions" wasn't getting any bigger.  The bookkeeper apparently didn't write personalized letters or even fill in the blanks with salutation and name of manuscript.  The editors' response?  "We were horrified."

For The May Queen by Kate Evans

One of our very own LROD mice, Kate Evans, has published her book For the May Queen and has an interesting victory story to tell: 

When did you start writing the book? 
About 5 years ago.

How long did it take to finish the first draft? 3 months.

How many revisions did you write? Probably six or seven. One of the revisions was major; I added a whole new chapter. The others were like smoothing out the sheets while you make the bed.

Who read your drafts? I first began writing it in a writing group run by the poet Ellen Bass. I came with new chapters for several weeks and read them aloud to the group. Their laughter and comments spurred me on. When I had to leave the group, I read chapters aloud to my partner, Annie, as I wrote them. Three writer friends read the entire final draft, as did my sisters and my mom, who is also a writer.
    Later I had an agent who read it. He's the one who wanted me to add another chapter. He said the book needed a denouement. After being exasperated for a day or two, I realized he was right. The addition made the book much better. And I had fun writing that chapter, which is the second-to-last chapter. It helped me learn new things about the main character and her fate.

Did you use an agent?/How long did it take to find a publisher? My agent took me on based on my collection of stories and a few chapters of the novel. No one showed interest in the stories, but two editors from major publishers loved the novel and wanted it. They were shot down, however, by their "groups," which are composed of other editors and PR people, apparently.
    One of the PR people said he couldn't sell the book because it walked the line between an adult novel and a young adult novel. Right around that time, Curtis Sittenfeld's novel Prep hit the bestseller lists. Prep is a cross-over hit between, yes, adult and young adult. In fact, in bookstores and libraries, I've seen Prep shelved in both areas (same with Catcher in the Rye). My agent and I were frustrated. He worked hard on my behalf, and we got a lot of great feedback on my writing, but no one took the book.
    The agent and I parted ways. His agency dissolved and he left Manhattan. He now is in the business of kitchenware retail.
    I sent out the manuscript to a number of small presses on my own and received, I don't know, maybe ten rejections. However, one press took it, and I was thrilled. I worked with them for a few months and then, suddenly, they folded and returned the manuscript to me.
    During this time, I wrote another novel and a memoir--and I started a third novel. For the May Queen was languishing on my hard drive, and I just figured that would be the case forever. I tried not to care, but it broke my heart because I loved the characters and knew that everyone who read it did too.
    Then one day, I saw a book on Amazon published by Vanilla Heart. I'd never heard of them, so I looked them up and then sent them my manuscript. I didn't expect much. But in just a few weeks I heard back from them that they wanted to book. Honestly, I was skeptical. They were a new outfit, and after all I'd been through, I didn't expect much.
    However, Vanilla Heart has been great. Kimberlee Williams, the owner, has kept me up to date on the process the whole way. She's been a perfectionist with the galleys and the overall look of the book. It's a gorgeous, quality product. And Vanilla Heart does all kinds of great things to promote and distribute their books.
    After accepting For the May Queen, Kimberlee asked me if I had another manuscript. Because I'd never stopped writing, I had that second novel, Complementary Colors, to send her. I emailed it to her, then the next day she contacted me and said she'd been up all night reading it and loved it. She put a preview of the first five pages of Complementary Colors at the end of For the May Queen. That second novel will come out next year.

Who was the first person you told about the book deal? My partner, Annie. Second was my mom.

Has your philosophy on getting published changed? I know now that this is a supremely subjective business based on the luck of finding the right agent, editor or publisher who connects to your work.

What words of advice would you give to a writer on the journey toward publication? Keep writing. Don't let the business aspect overwhelm your love for your art.  Also, don't discount independent presses. I've probably gotten more attention from Vanilla Heart than I would have from most major publishers.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Jacob Appel Tells Kelly (not Elliot) Spitzer A Thing or Two About LROD

Kelly Spitzer (pictured left) tries to stir things up for LROD again, this time with LROD's patron saint Jacob Appel over in the  "Writers in Profile" section of her blog, which you should check out.  (BTW, LROD's other patron saint is Rosemary Ahern, leading me to the obvious conclusion that someone else we know and love probably deserves a GAK award).  In his way, Mr. A is totally unflappable.

Here's what he tells Spitzer:

"I was both flattered and highly surprised when I was first contacted by Literary Rejections on Display. The truth is that there are a number of other writers who have won as many, if not far more, contests than I have. I suppose the anonymous curator of Literary Rejections on Display is particularly attuned to spotting my by-line….sort of how, if you learn an obscure foreign language, you suddenly discover that many other people also speak it. (I studied Dutch for many years and it shocked me that “everybody” seemed to speak Dutch, while the reality was that I was hyper-sensitive to noticing those few who did.) I do think that Literary Rejections on Display is a delightful, entertaining and witty website. I am looking forward to the day when Writer, Rejected sheds his or her anonymity so that I can invite this genius to lunch. However, I confess I haven’t spent much time reading the comments on the site. I’ve come to understand that some are less flattering than others….but I try not to take that to heart. I recognize that there are people out there who don’t care for my writing. I assure them that I’m still learning and improving–and I do hope that someday I’ll write something that suits their standards and tastes. I am also hopeful that there will someday be a parallel blog named Literary Acceptances on Display, and that I’ll be mentioned there as well."