The Losing Game: Writing Rejection 36-42
Hello friends and rivals, good to see you here again. Good to be seen. I was texting a friend of mine who is sort of my creative twin. We went to high school together and aggressively, uncompromisingly gun down our goals. She's a fashion designer, so the industry is super different, but we bond over the uphill battle of it all. She asked me with the tirade of rejections this year, why I haven't tried self-publishing. It's a fair question. People self-publish all the time. There's a great episode of one of my favourite podcasts, By the Book, that covers a way to write and self publish a book for kindle in 14 days. The two hosts of the show turn out books quickly and seem to have a good time doing so. It's doable. People do it. People I respect as artists and creatives do it. But I can't. I was a performance poet for many years, and I own a great number of chapbooks that are self published by poets I love that I have met at spoken word events and festivals. We (performance poets tm) often make our own chapbooks to have as merch when we tour the slam circuit. I buy these books with genuine interest. I revisit them. They have their own shelf (okay, crate) in my room. There are poems in them that deserve to be read. It's likely that with the often large audiences for performance poetry, some of these are read more often than poetry books published through publishing houses. There are better researched blogs/publications than this that outline the pros and cons of self publishing versus doing things the old fashioned way. I'm sure there are a zillion threads on reddit or whatever the thing is these days that contain enough heated debate to keep you inflamed and inspired for weeks. For whatever the reason, maybe my old-fashioned ways, I told her no, I haven't considered it. I probably won't. Except for the brief stint in 2001 when I wanted to be an astronaut, I've only ever wanted to be a writer, and I guess I want it to go down the way I envisioned it then. Somebody gets excited about your work, applies their expertise to make it better, and then sends it out to book stores. (Is that how it happens? I don't know. Sounds pretty much right.) But I tell her, you know, most of what I'm sending out are small batches of poems or individual short stories at a time, and I guess I could self publish it on a blog or go full instagram poet, but hard no thank you from me on that front. She was surprised. She'd thought I was sending out completed books and I was floored. For my part, I was deeply honoured that she thought I was that prolific, holy hell. I laughed and told her that this blog is as self publish-y as I plan on getting for the moment, but that I'll let her know if anything changes. What I took away from the conversation was that she was concerned for me given the suuuuuper long rejection streak. And I get it. This is the longest run of "no thank you"s I've ever had and I'll be honest: it's getting to me. I've actually been putting off writing and posting this because it's been fucking with my self-esteem. (Apparently I tie too much of my identity into being a writer? What? Who said that?)
But I'm going to post it. I'm going to post it because I want to be transparent about this process. I think feel it needs demystifying more than I feel the need to control the way I'm perceived. So here it is: I'm at nearly as many rejections as I had last year cumulatively. I have 0 acceptances this year and last year I had 9. I knew this was a possibility. I didn't believe it would be the way things went, of course, but I knew it could happen. It sucks. For the first time in my life, I feel discouraged regularly. (And I am not shy on courage. Literally, my therapist refers to me as gutsy all of the time while rapidly scribbling. I think this is a polite way of saying "makes wild, irresponsible choices.") I obsessively refresh my e-mail, my submittable, check my spreadsheet for expected journal response times, ask my friends to look up stats on duotrope, I think about all of the rejections by non-response, think the lit journals that "lose" my submissions, I grind my teeth and distract myself with TV I've already seen and repeat the cycle ten minutes later. This has been a long, long fallow period and it's making me reevaluate my relationship with writing. Why do I want to write, still? What's my goal for it? Do I need to expand what I do, learn new skills, or focus in tighter on the things I already do that I'm good at?
I've hit some good answers for myself. I'm still adjusting the destination, still rummaging through the old mental attic for clues, but after some reflection I feel a bit more peaceable. One of the main take always is that my goal shifted to become so publishing focused. The thing I actually want is to be able to write (almost) every day, and then I realized that I already do that. I've built the infrastructure and I'm not taking the time to enjoy it. So I burned some frankincense, I put on my mellow jams playlist, and I got to work doing the thing I've always liked doing with a little bit less pressure. Whatever else happens, I'm already having more fun. Here's a big ass slew of rejections. And you know what?
[REJECTION 36/100] Dear Writer: Thank you for the opportunity to consider your submission "Five Poems." We've read it with care but have decided not to accept it for publication. Best of luck placing it elsewhere. Sincerely, The Editors of The Cincinnati Review
Dear Erin, Thank you for submitting to The Fiddlehead. Unfortunately we will not be publishing your poems. However, I did enjoy their narrative focus and attention to imagery and sound such as the “__________________________” in “_____”. All the best with your writing. Kind regards, The Fiddlehead
Thanks so much for submitting to The Belladonna! Unfortunately, we are going to pass on this piece. We think it does not heighten enough to be satirical and that the blurbs are a little long. Thank you for submitting, we hope you’ll submit again soon.
the BD editors.
[REJECTION 39/100] *piece came out without my contribution*
[REJECTION 40/100] *piece came out without my contribution part 2*
[REJECTION 41/100] Dear Erin Kirsh, Thank you for sending us "Five Poems". We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, these particular poems are not quite right for the next issue. Please do not hesitate to send more work during future reading periods, and we thank you for your interest in UtSQ. Sincerely, Up the Staircase Quarterly.
[REJECTION 42/100] *Didn't hear back within the allotted response time + 1 month*
Onward. - E.B. Kirsh
offering the pros and cons