Literary magazine rejections, feedback, and wombat fatalities

Whole lot of dos and don’ts regarding how writers should deal with literary magazines, agents, publishing houses.

One of the biggies is not to go off on a Charlie Sheen rant every time you get a rejection slip.

Last thing anyone—especially industry professionals—wants to see from a prospective writer is an ugly meltdown because your short story about poisonous fried chicken didn’t get accepted by Hoity-Toity Quarterly.

Save the tiger blood, cocaine, and foot-stomping for euchre night like normal people.

But, what about when you get a note of encouragement?

Is it considered gauche to share a positive note from a popular lit mag after they read your historical adventure novel manuscript?

Guess we’re gonna find out.

To be fair, I’ve yet to receive a truly crushing rejection, not like an editor wrote of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds: “An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book.”

The rejection emails I get—only received one physical rejection by mail—are all boilerplate along the lines of:

Dear Mr. Gohs, thank-you for submitting … blah, blah, blah … due to the recent increase in wombat-related fatalities … perhaps rubbing a spice drop on the affected area … when in the course of human events … in closing … sabotage … chicken burrito … nipple blisters … zzzzz.

Along the way, I’ve gotten use to being disappointed when I spot emails from magazines, university presses, agents, my mother.

So, you might imagine my surprise when I received the following rather supportive note from the editors.

We’d like to start by saying we were impressed by your writing and voice, and though this manuscript wasn’t what we were looking for, we thought it was good. In short, we’re open to seeing more work in the future and want to thank you for your patience as our small staff read the work.
We wish you the best in placing the work elsewhere and want nothing but the best for all your future writing endeavors. You are invited to party with us anytime.

The note would have been kind and inspiring enough but my having grown accustomed to form letters really left me unprepared for such a fine sentiment.

Yeah, I get it, it’s still a rejection slip. I didn’t win the Pulitzer or Braunschweiger Prize.

But, it’s amazing what a little note of encouragement can do to ease off on the self-doubt throttle.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to obsessing over what to send them next.


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