Which one of you has been submitting my short stories to lit mags?

This morning, a prominent literary journal rejected a short story of mine.
This should be a bummer, but it’s not, because I have absolutely NO memory of ever submitting it to them. None. So one of you is probably sending my stuff out, right? (If so, thank you.)
Just kidding — not sleeping for a couple of years has done a number on my memory. That story probably sat in their slush pile for a loooong time.
Anyhow, strangely, the rejection was a pleasant surprise:
“Oh, I sent something out? Go me! Oh, it was literary fiction? I’m fancy!”
And actually there’s an unexpected bonus here: I have a finished short story to submit to a journal today. If I look deep enough into my email’s sent folder, I might even have a pre-written cover letter to go with it.
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Rejection is awesome. Here’s why.

Today I got such a nice rejection letter from a literary journal that it made my day.

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My wall of rejections. (It’s been my blog’s background for years.)

I know. If anyone had told me when I was starting out that a rejection letter would make my day someday, my eyes would have rolled so hard that they would have come loose.

But this rejection letter, from a journal I love and respect, was a thing of beauty. It included the words “very impressed by your writing” and suggested that I send something else in the future.

If it had been an actual letter rather than an email, I might have clutched it to my bosom.

I’m reasonably sure it was a form letter, but that doesn’t bother me. Not even a little.

The “Good” Rejection

I’ve heard from editors that journals have at least two form letters on file to send to rejected writers. One is the “encouragement” letter (dear X, we love your work but it’s not right for our journal) and then there is the other one (Thank you for sending your work to us. We cannot accept it at this time). I am always thrilled to get the first one.

Yet the second kind of letter isn’t so bad either. A teacher in my MFA program used to say that she was immune to rejection because she was always submitting. She’s right: if you submit enough, you do get used to rejection. You also get used to the idea that the rejection is not personal. Your work isn’t terrible; it really isn’t right for the journal, or there isn’t enough space in the journal for your piece this quarter. It’s not about you. It’s about the journal’s needs. If your piece doesn’t fill those needs, well, try again somewhere else. No harm. No foul.

Real Writers Get Rejected

I used to hate rejections. An old writing group of mine held rejection letter burning parties on Valentine’s Day. That sort of catharsis can be really helpful, but I found, after a while, that I no longer wanted to burn my letters (especially if I actually got a paper letter on real letterhead or even one of those little rejection slips). I started taping the letters to the wall in my office, not as a reminder that I had been rejected, but as a reminder that I’d actually sent short stories out.

Whenever I feel like I’m not actually living the writing life, when I envy someone else’s success, or when I doubt that I’m a “real writer,” all I have to do is look at those letters. They remind me  that not only am I producing work, I’ve also had the guts to send that work to journals. ,

And this is important, because although I don’t mind being rejected by journals, I still hate submitting to them. I hate it with a passion.

But that’s another blog post for another time.

I’m off to print out an email and hang it on the wall. Then I’ve got a short story to resubmit.

 

 

Fake blood & fro-yo: this is what happens when I try to self-publish.

denying the sea, ebook

Like House of Cards promo art, but with a mollusk.

So this evening was my husband’s night out with the boys, and as usual, when he left the house looked normal and I was full of project ideas.

When he came home, there was sand and fake blood all over the bathroom, the house was a disaster, and I was holed up in my office with a carton of fro-yo. For art.

It’s a testament to either my husband’s character or to my insanity that he didn’t bat an eye. In fact, he didn’t even ask why the bathroom looked like Quentin Tarantino had just filmed a scene there. He’s that used to this kind of thing.

But you might want to know, so I’ll tell you.
I recently got the bright idea to self-publish two already-published stories with Amazon’s Kindle Direct. The stories are not doing me any good just sitting around in my computer, so why not?

Apparently, however, you need to have a cover for such things. Since I probably won’t make enough money off these stories to cover the cost of a graphic artist, I thought I’d try to come up with a cover myself.

One of the stories is about a killer sea god. (Thus the fake blood and sea shells.) The other story is about a creepy lady who conveniently has an ice cream addiction. (Thus the half a carton of frozen yogurt I consumed.)

The result of my photo shoot? A bathroom that looks like a triple homicide was committed in it, a blown diet and a few okayish photos (but not of the fro-yo, because I ate most of that.) I think the photo in this post is probably the best. It doesn’t show how my fingers are now dyed the color of Mikhail Gorbachev’s birthmark.

I will keep you posted on the progress of the short stories, but at the moment, I’m not sure when they will  be coming out. This is mostly because of the cover art. Despite the fact that the bathtub might now be permanently pink, I still think I need better photos.

Might it be a good idea to hire an artist? It might. But only if that artist is willing to work for fro-yo.

Writerly goals and personal battles for the new year.

On New Year’s Eve, I posted about a minor resolution dilemma. I was torn between posting a list of New Year’s resolutions and checking in monthly on this blog to report progress or using 2012 to work on some major inner conflicts.

Since I’m the sort of person who likes to have her cake and eat it too, I’ve decided to do a little of both. My resolutions are mostly writing-related. I’ll check in on the first of each month with my progress on these.

My conflict resolutions are personal, but I plan to treat them as if they were a project for grad school. I’m going to do more than search my soul for the answers to my questions, because I need a little more assistance than my soul is capable of providing. So I will pair navel-gazing with research and examine as many sides of each issue as I can. By year’s end, I plan to have written a long essay about at least one of the conflicts I worked on, and I will try to publish it. (I’m going to try to submit the essay to a magazine or journal, but if all else fails, I will publish it here.)

The ground rules are set. Here are my resolutions and conflicts: Continue reading