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he took a story out of the New Yorker, replaced the author’s name with a pseudonym, wrote a cover letter saying he was unpublished, and sent it out.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

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Naming My Passion

I hesitate to call it “discovering” my passion, since I have always loved to write. When my sister and I used to have sleepovers at my aunt’s house, she gave us a marker and pencil set and two notebooks. Blank pages – those lacking lines – are usually used for drawing, and I had a pretty good collection of pictures. But in amongst the images was a story about a caterpillar that I had written in kindergarten. I have been writing stories since I knew how to write.
My mom used to force me to write journals, particularly when we traveled. I have a fantastic pocket-sized book full of ranting about my sister when we were in China. Opening the book today, the scent of the pages brings back my feelings of vexation. At fourteen, I finally started journaling for myself, using the technique of “freewriting,” which I hated when it was introduced to me in a middle school English class. English classes, of course, were always my strength, and I eventually became an English major. There was nothing else I wanted to spend that much time on, and nothing else I was as good at. Going through my closet the other day, I discovered several issues of my high school newspaper, and more articles than I realized I’d written. My sophomore semester on the editing team of the literary magazine was one of the best I can remember – and my introduction to creative writing workshops.
Often through my life, I’ve wished I’d known what I wanted to be when I grew up. I envied my father, who got an undergraduate degree in architecture, a graduate degree in architecture, and then became, yes, an architect. I think about all the things I might have done, had I known. Yet I can look back and see that I have always been a writer.
So, rather than saying I’ve “discovered” my passion, I will call it “naming” my passion. There is, however, a lot to be said for naming one’s passion. It gave me a path to follow, steps to take. I connected with a former English teacher of my sister’s who became my writing mentor. I took creative writing courses, and developed writing groups out of them. I decided to apply for graduate school, for a Creative Writing MFA, and I then applied, to 11 schools – writing the personal statement is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I got not one but two internships, at CASA Magazine and Santa Barbara Magazine . I began reading short stories in The New Yorker , I read novels on writing (John Gardner, Stephen King), I became addicted to the “Visual Bookshelf” app on Facebook. And – I wrote.