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he took a story out of the New Yorker, replaced the author’s name with a pseudonym, wrote a cover letter saying he was unpublished, and sent it out.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.
Rejected
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:

http://www.redsavinareview.org/story-of-the-month/

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.

Sincerely,

David

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

Submitting to Literary Journals

What is an aspiring creative writer to do when faced with rejection? Write more, of course. And in this case, send more.
            I finally felt like I had a story worthy of publication. So I began the process of submitting to literary journals. I got the 2010 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market awhile ago and began going through the Literary Journals section, marking those that looked like places I might like to submit to. I began to inspire my writers’ groups to submit as well, and they inspired me in turn. My Santa Barbara group all wrote cover letters and critiqued each other’s letters. I asked the group by what date we wanted to start submitting, and one member said she’d already submitted to 12 magazines! At my suggestion, my Los Angeles group had a Publishing Party, where a few of us gathered to stuff envelopes together. One member “sent” to 10 journals that night.
            My Advanced Fiction Workshop at UCLA Extension had a class devoted to publishing, and one person suggested a submissions tracker website, duotrope.com. I’ve found using the site a great way to organize. One of my favorite features is, when you list a submission, it tells you how many days it usually takes for the journal to respond.
            In class my professor suggested submitting to 30 journals at a time, and then forgetting about it. I think I’ll become more proficient as I go, but this first time I spent a day and managed to submit to 14 journals. Since the rejections have started coming in, I’ve continued to submit. So far, 22 journals and 8 rejections.
            When applying to college in high school, you apply to “reach” schools, schools you have a fair chance of getting into, and “safety” schools. It’s easy to get discouraged by the rejections from literary journals, but for the first round I sent to “reach” journals (those that pay, or have a lot of recognition). I guess it’s time to start submitting to journals that pay only in contributors’ copies. My professor also said it’s normal for even established writers to get as many as 60, or more, rejections before an acceptance.
            So as I write, write, write, I also send, send, send.