I collect rejection slips. We all get them. But do any of us love ‘em? The way I look at them is that each slip means I’m one slip closer to an acceptance.
I started collecting mine in a file folder (back in the dark ages before internet and electronic submissions). I thought there would be a magic number (somewhere around 30, but for sure by 50) after which all the rest of my submissions would magically turn into acceptances. I wanted to watch my file folder grow fat as I grew closer to my first sale. I thought that the faster I filled my file folder, the faster I would get there.
I was wrong about the number. I filled three fat file folders with rejection slips before my first sale. And I was wrong about the magic. My first sale didn’t stop more rejection slips from coming. What it did stop was my obsessive need to collect them.
Here are some of the classics:
The first rejection: (Backstory: In college I bravely sent off to a slick magazine the very first story I had ever written—you can imagine how awful it was—and I received back a formal business letter from New York, typed on a typewriter—no corrected errors—as credited by the editor’s secretary.) “Thank you for letting us read ‘Descent from Hell’. Although your manuscript has much to recommend it, this type of material is, unfortunately, not right for us. Regretfully, we are returning it to you.”
The funniest rejection: A letter addressed to someone else, whose name was scratched out and my name handwritten above. The handwritten P.S. to this letter added, “we use no reprints.”
The nicest rejection: “I rather like your style of writing and suggest you try us again.”
The most irrelevant rejection: “Not even the names of the characters are believable.” (The names used were Chelsea and Jade, okay maybe not so common.)
The most hurtful rejection: I can’t find this slip in my file, but I recall it well, as it pointed out my inability to write, and suggested I should give up writing. So here’s what the second most hurtful rejection says: “Alas, we cannot understand anything that is goiing (sic) on in the story.”
The most useful rejection: “This story made the top 10…However, I could only accept 7, and yours just missed out. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with a story (like yours), except it simply had too much competition. Please keep trying!”
Now I have a slim but growing file folder of acceptances, and I can look back and laugh at my obsessive collection. But I sure didn’t laugh at the time!