An old country song lyric came to mind the other day when I read the email from the editor-in-chief of a planned tribute anthology to which I had submitted a short story.
The message read, in part, “After reviewing all of the submissions, I regret to inform you that we have decided to cancel the anthology due to a lack of quality. I could publish a book with three or four great stories and fill the rest with mediocre stories, but I feel it is best to just cancel the project. . . .Thank you for submitting. Yours was definitely one I would have accepted.”
Here’s where that leaves me, I think. I finally have written a work of fiction that is acceptable for publication. But the publication is still-born.
As the song says, I don’t know whether to kill myself or go bowling.
In fact, I’m becoming something of a black widow for the publications to which I’m sending material. The previous week, the editors of a different publication emailed me about a different story I had sent it. There was no indication of acceptance, but the message said, in part, that “we are marking all current submissions as ‘withdrawn’ ” because the journal “will be on hiatus till next year due to unforeseen circumstances. . . .”
Of course, every writer has his or her rejection stories. Here’s one:
“I wrote stories from March to June. There were nineteen altogether; the quickest in an hour and a half, the slowest in three days. No one bought them, no one sent personal letters. I had one hundred and twenty-two rejection slips pinned in a frieze about my room.”
The rejectee is F. Scott Fitzgerald, writing in an essay titled “Who’s Who—and Why” that ran in the September 18, 1920 edition of The Saturday Evening Post. He is referring to the first time he lived in New York—in a rented room at 200 Claremont Avenue near Columbia University, in 1919. When he failed to make a dent in the Big Apple’s literary landscape, he retreated to the top floor of his parents’ house, at 599 Summit Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he wrote his hugely successful first novel, This Side of Paradise.
I know all this, and was led to the full citation of Fitzgerald’s quote above, because I just finished reading Maureen Corrigan’s terrific new book, So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures. Corrigan, a literature professor at Georgetown University and the familiar-voiced book reviewer on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air with Terry Gross,” quotes only the final 14 words of the last sentence. But she sets it up beautifully:
“Generations of fledgling writers have taken heart from Fitzgerald’s oft-quoted recollection. . . .”
So should we all. The best way to get over having our writing rejected is to submit again, and again, and again.
We should not feel sorry for ourselves. Direct your sorrow toward those unfortunate publishers and editors who have had to pull the plug on their publications.