I have a long history of rejections. It started in high school, really, when I took my first creative writing class and we were assigned to not just write stories but also submit them, because that was part of the process. The teacher would give us her copy of the latest Writer’s Market, back when it was only a printed and bound book, and we’d go through and try to find magazines that sounded like they’d accept our stories. I had phenomenal luck: every submission I sent out would come back with a note that the magazine had just gone out of business. Technically it wasn’t a rejection but it wasn’t really an acceptance either, and it happened so many times I started to think I was causing it. I even thought about setting up my own business getting publishers to pay me not to submit to them, but that’s another story.
This continued through college. There weren’t so many bankruptcies but I did start to build up a nice little collection of rejections. And my friends who were also aspiring writers all said the same thing: you’ll be able to wallpaper your room with rejections before you get an acceptance. It was just the nature of things that rejections would outnumber acceptances. It’s true, but I think we also kept repeating it to assure ourselves that we had to keep trying.
I had a few successes along the way. I won the $500 first prize in a poetry contest and was supposed to be published in an anthology, but the publisher went bankrupt before they could publish it, probably because they shelled out $500 bucks to some schmuck who wrote a poem.
After college the trend continued. A local magazine had a writing contest for several years and every single year there was a first prize, a second prize, a third prize, and then there was me, a runner-up. I started to have weird dreams about always being a nominee, never a winner.
I still submit my work because I still think that’s part of the process. I’m in a writing group and whenever I’m asked if I’ve had anything published I always say, “No, but I do have a nice stack of rejection letters.”
At least that’s what I did say. A few months ago Tara Caribou of Raw Earth Ink requested story submissions for a new anthology. She’s an amazing poet and writer whose work I really enjoy so I was intimidated but thought, well, it’s worth a try. I expected the usual: a few months of waiting before the inevitable rejection.
Except that’s not what happened. A funny thing about technology is that a writer can now submit something and get an answer within a few hours. So instead of a rejection a few months later what showed up in the mail was a copy of Static Dreams, volume 2.
On Tuesday there was a gryphon on the roof.
To read more you can buy the book.
So I’d like to thank my wife, who did the initial editing, Tara Caribou for being both a great writer and editor–Static Dreams volumes 1 and 2 have some really good stories–and my next door neighbor for providing the voice, if not the actual character, of the gryphon.
In a not so surprising twist on the same day the book arrived in the mail I got an email from another publisher turning down a story I’d submitted. And I can accept that.