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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What Would You Do?

"Dear Writer Rejected: I read your pages and you are without a doubt a very strong writer. However, I didn’t fall in love with the novel. You mention in your email that you’ve recently started a memoir and that you have a short story collection. I understand you’d like to find an agent for this novel, and have it out with several right now--but if you’re open to it, I’d love to read the beginning of your memoir, as well as the complete short stories. Let me know where things stand. Best, Chick-Lit-Type Agent Who Doesn't Like Your Novel & Probably Won't Like Your Other Stuff Either"

It's pretty unusual for an agent to suggest they might like to represent only some of your work, no? Do I (a) give her the other manuscripts and not worry about it? (b) put her off a bit and wait to see if one of the other 5 agents loves the novel and wants to take everything on? (c) say thank you, but no thank you, and stand by my novel. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Standard Umbrella Journal Rejection

Just in case you want to see the standard rejection for Umbrella, here it is: "Umbrella Journal's submissions have increased to such a degree that we are unable to respond with a more personal letter. I'm sorry we won't be able to publish your work but please know that it received careful consideration and we thank you for entrusting it to us.  Best regards, KateBB"

Monday, September 28, 2009

You're Under Syntactical Arrest

In this rejection, an anonymous poet had been once rejected by Kate Bernadette Benedict at Umbrella Journal, but invited to send in more work.  The poet wrote to ask about the next reading period for submissions, and received this snippy bit of business: "Well, the guidelines answer that question, of course, but more importantly that's where our editorial needs are spelled out in great detail.  If the first poem is representative of your style, then it might not work out.   Just a fair warning.  --katebb"

Anonymous Poet also included this cut and paste from the journal's mission statement, so we could all see what goes on in certain little journals (yellow highlighting belongs to the exasperated poet):

What is an Umbrella poem also like?

  • It’s probably short, no more than a page or two.
  • It probably isn’t a prose poem (i.e., a poem written in paragraphs), though there have been exceptions.
  • No matter what the overt subject matter, its real subject is the human condition.
  • It has momentum.
  • It has a distinguishing style which radiates freshness and deep imagination.
  • If written in form, the form fits the subject matter; no one would call the poet’s choice of form arbitrary.
  • If written in free verse, it is disciplined, with its own sonics and structure; no one would call it “prosy.”
  • It employs Standard English punctuation, orthography and sentence structure. In general we are unmoved by punctuational oddity.  We expect to see periods, commas and capital letters at the start of sentences.  (Initial caps at the beginning of lines are not particularly loved but certainly optional.)
  • It has an umbrella idea!
What is an Umbrella poem not like?
Previously this section was very detailed; on reflection, your editor concluded that it sounded fussy.  Very complicated formatting is usually not feasible here for technical reasons.  The main bugaboos are pathetic fallacy (the attribution of human traits to nature or things) and a common syntactical oddity in which conjunctions and participles are jettisoned in favor of clipped phrases separated by a comma (more atsyntactical arrest).  We feel this is a radical stand and we are proud of it; poems exhibiting even one line of syntactical arrest (a term coined by your ed. and meant to elicit chuckles of recognition) have no chance of acceptance unless the author agrees to an edit.  Otherwise, we are pretty much open to any technique or turn of phrase that fits the poem and its umbrella idea.  

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ancient Alien Civilization Rejection

Here's a rejection received by Dr. Peter McClean Millar in 1980 (note the typewriter). He eventually self-published The Eve of Armageddon (iUniverse, 2000).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Where Mary Tyler Moore Got Her MFA

No MFA from U Minn for you? Well, it's debatable about whether it would have helped or hindered.  You know that old debate, right?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Inventor's Inspiration

"I have not failed.  I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." --Thomas Edison

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Books On Demand (Just Like TV)

Well, this ought to shake things up in the book biz, or at least teach the reading public a whole new way to read.  You've got to hand it to Google; they ain't just whistling Dixie around there.

Monday, September 21, 2009

No Time For Personal Comment

Your getting published here was just a fantasy.  Better luck at Madison Square Station.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Check, Check, Check & Check

Apparently, this guy's story was:

  • Tedious and failed to hold the reader's interest
  • Filled with an unacceptable number of grammar and spelling errors
  • Overwritten and awkward 
  • Dotted with static descriptions

Thursday, September 17, 2009

That Just About Covers Everything

I've never really seen a rejection that was quite such an impersonal slap in the face.  Helpful, and yet, really not.  I would be confused by it, though I'm sure these are the most common reasons for rejection at most magazines: idea, basic skills, wow-factor.  And yet somehow summing it all up in a form rejection feels cold.  Am I wrong?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One Man's Initials is The Same Man's Book Ends

I particularly like the line about your writing being "not anything I wish to work with at this time."  I'm sure he didn't mean it to sound like that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Send Me Your Rejections

Though I am a veritable rejection machine, one day I will run out of rejections to post and rejection-related material, and everything there is to be said about rejection will have been said.  I hope I will get my novel published before that time, but mine is not to say.  In the meantime, please send me some rejections to post by emailing me at WriterRejected [at] aol [dot] com.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Coulter is Guilty...Just See the Jacket of Her Book

I heard somewhere once that resentment is like taking poison to harm your enemy, not so efficient.  For that reasons, I personally try not to hate or resent people.  And I do a pretty good job.  There are very, very, very few people I let goad me into a place of disdain.  However, Ann Coulter, is one of those people.  I know it's not politically correct, I know Obama would probably disapprove of such a partisan perspective, but I truly despise her idiotic logic and rabid personality.  Yuck.  Anyway, my little rant aside, here' s a depressing gander at a piece about the books on the current and future NYT Best Seller List.  Hint: It's not good news.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Oh My, My, My, My, My

You knew it had to happen.  And it has.  The person to do it is Naomi Wolf. Remember when she spoke her truth about being a student at Yale in New York Magazine? Well, this is another "Go-Girrrl" moment.  Ecco Press is the publisher. I will surely be a reader.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Seven (Straight) Questions You'd Like to Ask

Though I am not crazy about the design of the hard-to-follow website called @writingraw, I do think it might be of interest. This page, in particular, features interviews with industry people.  The interviews are pretty long and deadly and need some editing, but there might be something there to learn about the process in general, or about a specific agent, if you're interested.  Agents interviewed include folks like Laura Langlie, Donald Maas, Peter Rubie, Andrea Somberg.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Staggering Blog Talent Validated

Will there always, always, always be yet another person who does this?  Yes, mice, there will be.  Here's The Rejectionist's Bio: "The Rejectionist is a foul-tempered, snack-needing, whiskey-craving, ill-paid assistant at an Important Literary Agency in New York. The Rejectionist is probably reading your query right now. Hope it's good."  
Some Stats:
  • Started at the end of July 2009, SUMMER, when everyone in publishing is bored out of his/her mind.
  • Links to other anonymous insiders, like this pimp, and this (unpaid) prostitot.
  • Has 63 followers (sycophants)
  • Is vaguely amusing, and only slightly annoying, which is high praise from LROD

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Charles Darwin, Really?

Did you read this little essay by Joni Evans in the New York Times on Sunday? My favorite part is "SO, it's 2009. Now what?" (The answer to which is a big publishing shrug.)  I think perhaps someone should have edited those last three paragraphs out of Ms. Evans' piece, don't you?  Plus the whole Darwin Metaphor Thingy really makes you see why writers write and editors edit.

Monday, September 7, 2009

My Diapers are Full

(Happy Labor Day, Rosemary Ahern.)
I have been very busy during these many weeks leading up to Labor Day; I've been laboring and laboring. When I look back over my journey of rejections these past months, here's what I see:

1) "I loved the novel....[it's] beautifully written and well-drawn"
2) "I...found myself needing to read to the end to see what happened"
3) "I've been wrong so many times on what sells--countless. And I'd bet you can count on my being wrong with [your novel]."
4) "We found your novel to be uncommonly well-written and, for the most part, an interesting read."

I heard someone talking the other day about the concept of God's Time. Not to get all woo-woo on you, or anything, especially since I don't even know about the existence God, though I hate to rule anything out. But anyway I thought it was a nice reminder that I'm not in control of the schedule, and maybe it's going to happen, but in some other time frame, as opposed to my time frame....which is always RIGHT NOW, right now, right now, right now, right now. (Very annoying, even to me.) I guess the early detractors of LROD were right....I am just a whiny baby.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Books Are Easier to Read than to Write

Lev Grossman breaks it all down in the WSJ: Good Books Don't Have to Be Hard. "The pleasure of reading stories that don't bore." Favorite quotations from the article (so many to choose from):
1) "Plot makes perverts of us all."
2) "Lyricism is on the wane, and suspense and humor and pacing are shedding their stigmas and taking their place as the core literary technologies of the 21st century."
3) "The true postmodern novel is here, hiding in plain sight."


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Now That's A Literary Career

I think Lorrie Moore is the bomb. I'm eager to read her new book. You thinks she ever suffered through rejections like we do?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Uncommonly Well-Written for Tin House

Here's the thing about Tin House. No matter how you get to them, no matter how personal your relationship is to the editor who promises her colleague, who is your friend's friend, that she will read the manuscript personally; no matter how often you are invited to send more , the damn thing always gets read by an assistant, who pretends to represent the whole place. In this case, Tony Perez, who decides my fate by adding a tidbit to the standard rejections thusly: "We found [title of novel] to be uncommonly well-written and, for the most part, [an] interesting read." We? Doubtful. But, it is a nice little bone he tossed me, so I should shut up and be happy. Oddly, Perez has rejected this novel before for a different editor there (without reading it, I surmise), so I guess I should also be happy someone had an actual look at it. But here's the thing: Nanci McCloskey should have read the thing herself, as promised, but she did not.

Oh well, that's just how they roll over there at the house of tin. I hear it's a snake pit in there. (BTW, for those keeping track, I only have one more rejection to go before I shut this effort down for awhile.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Nicest Ever

Says this anonymous reject: "This agent had passed on a nonfiction project I was ghostwriting for someone else. When it came time to shop my novel, I thought I'd take advantage of my foot having been ever so slightly in his door. As it turns out, it was the nicest rejection letter I could have hoped for."

Begin forwarded message:
From: "Submissions"

Subject: RE: Agent query from Bob Krim associate

Dear Writer,

It’s so nice to hear from you and to get a chance to read your novel. Ike and I thank you for the opportunity to consider it. There is much to admire in your work. It’s an incredibly intriguing premise to base a novel on an 17th century English folk song. We both loved how you follow the poem's lyrics but also make colorful embellishments of your own. The descriptions of life at the Barnard estate, spring festivals in Lancashire County, and background history developed for each main character are all rich and add important substance to the novel. Unfortunately, however, I’m sorry to say that [TITLE OF BOOK] did not garner the unanimous support we require when taking on a new client. We are forced to be particularly cautious about representation given the intense competition in today’s marketplace, and there were concerns that there was a bit more “tell” than “show” here in the novel. Additionally, while characters based on a folk song are potentially fascinating, we did not connect with them quite as much as we would have liked.

Fiction is such a tough sell these days and we must be incredibly selective about the few projects we take on, but do know that opinions differ greatly in this industry. We could certainly imagine another agent being quite enthusiastic about this. We wish you the very best of luck and hope to see your name on a bookshelf soon.

Kind regards,

Katherine L. Flynn
Editorial Manager
Kneerim & Williams
at Fish and Richardson PC
225 Franklin Street
Boston, MA 02110