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Thursday, October 30, 2008

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.


Anonymous said...

exact same thing happened to my s&m piece. 5 days after subbing i get an "evident merit" form rejection, and then 3 months later i get a "sorry for the delay in response" form rejection for the smae piece. they had some kind of computer error and sent double rejections to hundreds of people. it wasn't you buddy, it was them.

Anonymous said...

The phrase "evident merit" means what it says: that the piece had evident merit but, in the end, wasn't usable. A rejection with that phrase means that the editors deemed it a notch above the other unsolicited submissions and the story, in all likelihood, received additional consideration.

Kurt said...

I'm seeing other online posts about email rejections from Shouts & Murmurs that have the same phrase. My rejection had an encouraging "We enjoyed your piece" before the "but," so they may simply rotate through various phrases to sound less impersonal.

Anonymous said...

I just got the "evident merit" rejection, myself. I also got the same exact rejection on a separate piece, but with "despite its humor" substituted for "despite its evident merit."

I support their effort to encourage writers and make their rejections less impersonal. But of course we're all left wondering, are we *really* of evident merit, or are we just being patronized?