Yesterday morning began with a rather unpleasant rejection from a sci-fi magazine. It was my 87th rejection of 2019; as all my gentle readers will know, I am an old hand at receiving fiction rejections so when I say it was unpleasant for me that means something unusual.
The email was clearly a form email, starting with the fairly standard “we must pass on your story” (sure, okay) then automatically added ‘reader’s comments’ (meaning in this case the slush readers at the magazine). Generally reader’s comments are helpful, so I kept reading.
Spoiler: these were not helpful. They were not even polite.
The readers had missed the purpose of the story completely; they ragged on my protagonist; they told me my story didn’t go anywhere; they disliked my choice of metaphor and therefore disliked the story.
Why? Why say any of that? It wasn’t useful OR professional, although it did tell me that if they were taking the metaphor literally I might be better off submitting to literary mags with this story rather than SF magazines. I checked in with a couple of writer-frands and they too have gotten unnecessarily blunt and harsh responses from the same venue. Editors like to mention how they pass along names of assholes; well, writers do too. This particular magazine is now on my Do Not Submit list, and the DNS of several others. Their loss.
Still. Not a great start to a Monday morning.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s been a rough year for me, acceptance-wise. Out of 36 short story submissions I’d had no wins. A couple near-misses, but selling writing is neither horseshoes nor hand-grenades. I’ve been struggling with a growing despair.
But even after that disheartening rejection, I still put on my best Battle Lipstick, packed my kit, and walked to my coworking space. I logged that rejection in my spreadsheet, vowing to keep going.
I sent the story out again. I wanted not only to send it out immediately after it had been rejected, but send it out TWICE, just to show that the rejection hadn’t beaten me down. The story in question is a short, cute, cheerful flash fic, and no nasty nerd-bros who don’t get that the magic item is a METAPHOR are going to get the best of me. But that being said, I was running out of places where I thought the story might be a good fit–part of the reason I’d taken a chance on Blunty McLackofprofessionalism in the first place.
About 3pm, feeling discouraged after a couple hours of research into markets, I stared at the bathroom mirror at the co-working space (yes, I really did that, gripping the edge of the counter, too, I went full Dark Valley of the Soul) and I asked Upper Management to please, please, send me a win.
Then I took a deep breath, and touched up my Battle Lipstick, and thought: fuck it. Fuck it and fuck you, Nerd Bros. I’m going to submit my cute and metaphorical story to THE NEW FUCKING YORKER because if I’m going to GET TORN UP BY A FUCKING REJECTION I might as well get rejected BY THE FUCKING BEST.
I stomped back to my laptop and googled their submission requirements. Apparently they want contributors to MAIL THEM A PRINTOUT. In 2019. I’d have to get an international package stamp or some shit. This wasn’t part of the plan, so FUCK YOU, NEW YORKER, I shall SUBMIT TO THE WALRUS INSTEAD because IT’S THE CANADIAN EQUIVALENT which therefore makes it BETTER and ALSO they take EMAIL SUBMISSIONS as one should, by Gord.
Pouring myself a fresh coffee, I sat down at my laptop, and began typing a submission email to The Walrus.
IN the MIDST of TYPING the DANG EMAIL to The Walrus AN ACCEPTANCE CAME IN!
My cute flash-fic had sold to a SF magazine I submitted to subsequently forgotten to follow up with in the intervening weeks. (Often magazines take longer than their waiting period suggest to get back to you, and it’s important to follow up.)
It’s not The Walrus, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that they were my first acceptance all year.
And the really important thing is that they pay more than the haters.
Oh, and: while I was walking home–bouncing along, really–I got a third email, this one from an agent who had read my query letter (sent that day!) wanting to read my manuscript.
I say something a lot, which is that “there’s a market for every story; you just have to keep submitting”. (Some days I believe it more than others, same for ‘you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take’.) Cat posters can’t take the place of actual achievements and progress. That being said, perseverance counts for something and I can’t shake the feeling that maybe that’s the lesson that Upper Management is trying to teach me: I may never sell Blackout Odyssey or more than two copies of Creampuffs, but I am still putting on my Battle Lipstick and still sitting down at my laptop and sending the emails while thinking in furious all-caps.
I want to believe that everything will work out; may it will and maybe it won’t, but yesterday when I was running on fumes I asked and got an answer, and that’s enough to fill me up for the next few miles. I’ll pass along more details about my story as contracts get signed and dates get finalized. In the meantime I’ll continue along with Camp NaNo and Fletcher & Cooper: same routine, same commute. But maybe with a bit of spring in my step.
Thanks for the rejection, haters. See you in print regardless.