The Rejection Battle

The other day one of the women in my writers’ group sent us a link to an incredibly depressing article, in which a writer conducted an experiment: he took a story out of the New Yorker, replaced the author’s name with a pseudonym, wrote a cover letter saying he was unpublished, and sent it out. Numerous noteworthy journals rejected the piece… including the New Yorker itself.

What are we to make of this? How can writers make any headway, when this is what faces us? Knowing that being a new writer relegates us to the slush pile, rejection, and further inability to publish, thus continuing the vicious circle?

I think we’ve always known this is what we’re up against, but to have it put in such concrete terms is more than a little discouraging.
So how fortuitous that in the same week, I received an email from a member of another, former writers’ group, announcing that he has published a story in an online journal, and another is forthcoming in a print journal.

From: David
To: Taylor
Sent: Friday, March 15, 2013 12:53 PM
Subject: Story from Taylor’s group published

Hey fellow writers,

I’m happy to report that a story workshopped in Taylor’s group with you, Identity Theft, is the Story Of The Month in the inaugural edition of the Red Savina Review that came out today:

Also, another story I worked on with some of you in Lou Matthews class, Losing The Title, will be in the Spring Edition of The Los Angeles Review.

Thanks for your support and best wishes to all of you in your writing.



So yes, it is possible, it does happen, and we will get there, one (hundred) rejection letter(s) at a time.


Grad School: Rejection

Having lived in southern California my whole life, and feeling frustrated with seeming to encounter the same types of people (read: actors, screenwriters, directors in Los Angeles; retirees and hippies in Santa Barbara), I decided I wanted to go the East Coast for grad school. I applied to 11 programs: eight in New York and three in Massachusetts.
            The deadlines spread out over December, January, February, and even one at the beginning of March. The waiting began with the submission of my first application on December 15.
            As the prospect of moving to the East Coast became an actual possibility, I started freaking out. The cold, the extreme humidity, being so far away from friends and family, having to deal with being in big cities with so much going on, not knowing my way around… was I really ready for this? I’d be walking to class on the beach or hiking with my dog and I’d think: Am I really giving this up?
Then the rejection letters started coming in. I questioned myself. Why? Why not me? What did I do wrong in my application? How else should I have done the personal statement? And then, the worst – Perhaps I am not really meant to be a writer after all. Perhaps I should just give up now. The same form in the same few sentences in the same slim envelopes: “We have not been able to recommend you for admission” and “admissions were exceptionally competitive this year.” Which, of course, never makes you feel any better. I did appreciate the note of encouragement from Syracuse: “Their consensus not to recommend admission to the program should in no way be interpreted as a discouragement of your writing.” After dealing with the usual emotions associated with rejection, I started to feel an intense relief. I could stay in SoCal, be near friends and family I didn’t want to leave.
A couple of people in my writers’ group in Los Angeles introduced me to Driftless House, a blog dedicated to providing info about application responses from graduate writing programs across the U.S. The idea is that you’re not chewing your fingernails through February and March when the decisions aren’t even made until April. For me, it functioned as added stress. But ultimately, I was gladder to know. Rather than waiting, having the rejection letters come one by one to the mailbox, I was prepared. I still have not received all my letters, but I’ve reached a point where I am happier finally just to know.