The Losing Game: Writing Rejections 88-96/100
Hello again friends and rivals, Mark Twain once said that tragedy plus time equals comedy, but you know what writers aren't known for? Their math skills. It's a catchy sentiment, but the equation itself, well...
Yeeeeeaaaah. I don't need to tell you that 2020 has been a wild convergence of centuries of insidious forces and now the lucky among us have farmers tans on our faces. There's the pandemic, the USA may be careening full-tilt into a racist, ableist, transphobic, homophobic, antisemitic, Islamophobic, misogynist dictatorship, Hong Kong has been in turmoil for months, China's Uighur Muslims are being sent to concentration camps, the climate catastrophe is catching up with us and also, since wasps weren't terrifying enough, we now have their steroid-ridden cobra kai cousins, murder hornets. In the midst of all of this (and more), I've been reticent to do too much preamble for these posts. If you've been following along, you'll notice I've been sharing the rejections themselves and not much else, not the feelings, not the hopes, not the way we can tie our sense of self so closely to our artistic output that it ruins both (a byproduct of capitalism? Wanting to thwart death and be immortalized in our work? A deep-seated burning to stick it to our middle school bullies by finding success? The hope that all of our bad feelings can be transmuted into something beautiful and thus be worth it? All things I'll pitch my therapist on zoom next week). In many ways, making art can feel a bit vain and small against the backdrop of urgent global uprisings. But I've been ruminating lately on the importance of the release valve. For so many of us, especially for those of us who aren't resourced, that's making art. Writing, drawing, singing, etcetera. And what is the enemy of this sorely needed creation? Fear that we suck. Fear that somebody's going to laugh at us, scoff at us, patronize us. Fear and our many jobs and obligations. But mostly fear. When I was eleven, my family was at a barbecue hosted by one of my mother's clients. In the hydrangea-lined yard, the client, a man who wore sandals and classic suburban dad shorts, asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said, "a writer." The wind shifted. Burger smoke blew into my face. The client used his shirt to wipe smudges from his glasses. "That's not a job," he said coolly. My eyes and throat burned. "That's what you think," I said, and I (rudely, according to my long-suffering mother) turned on my heel and ditched the dweeb. I was at the age where the messaging up to that point had been you can be whatever you want when you grow up. I was privileged enough that my faith in the illusion hadn't yet been shaken. Though I was indignant enough to stand up for myself, Mom's client's word stuck with me. I began to calibrate my goals, come up with career contingency plans. My hopes progressively shrunk, became something small enough to hand off to people at social gatherings. When adults asked me what I wanted to be, I only answered "writer" if I trusted them. Believing that writing is something that could be a legitimate career, even if it isn't my only work, has taken me years to work back up to. My baseline belief is that I won't "make it." The world has taught many of us that precise lesson. We operate under this assumption. With so much of our mental real estate occupied by the state of the world, with trying to find some kind of daily equilibrium requiring so much mental mastery, we have little emotional energy left for things as quaint as our passions, our dreams, our release valves. Expending any focus onto those things can feel like an effortful investment, and when we don't see a good ROI, fwoof. Any hit no matter how small, can feel critical. We're walking bruises. Everything is a potential KO.
(We are Huckleberry Hound, the dragon is literally any obstacle). At the best of times, rejection is a huge suckfest. In fact, rejection blows on a neurological level. In man’s early days, rejection meant that your tribe would no longer fend for you, and you’d be left to the elements/sabretoothed tigers. Rejection sets off a reaction in your brain not dissimilar to physical pain. You're literally working against your biology whenever you power through the dejection you feel in the aftermath of a "no." Again, this is at the best of times. Needless to say, this is not the best of times. This brings me back to what's at the core of The Losing Game: offering writers a risk-free, schaudenfreude-rich form of encouragement by airing my dirty creative laundry. When we omit rejection from our narratives, we allow shame to sprout in the absence. I think I owe you, my writer community, more than that. We all deserve more than what our shitty shame-fueled self-talk wants us to believe we deserve. We can get rejected 1000 times and still kick ass. Here are the rejections. May they motivate and soothe you.
[WRITING REJECTION 88/100] Dear Erin Kirsh,
Thank you for considering Flash Fiction Online for your story, "A Good Host."
Unfortunately, we have decided not to accept it. We wish you the best of luck finding a home for your story elsewhere.
Flash Fiction Online
[WRITING REJECTION 89/100] Erin,
Thank you for submitting "The Wind of a Train" to Fusion Fragment as a reprint. Unfortunately, we have decided not to accept it for publication. Best of luck in finding a home for it!
Editor, Fusion Fragment
[WRITING REJECTION 90/100] Dear Erin,
Thank you again for sending your work to Understorey Magazine. These were strong submissions but, unfortunately, we will have to pass this time. We wish you luck in placing these poems elsewhere.
All the best,
[WRITING REJECTION 91/100] Dear Erin Kirsh,
We're sorry this isn't more positive news.
A "no" can mean a lot of things: the number of submissions, taste, or even just timing. A secret of this business is that "no" often has more to do with the above than the inherent quality of a piece.
If you have sent work to Joyland you're probably also a reader of our magazine. We thank you for that and respect the time and effort you put into your work and sending it to us.
We encourage you to keep writing, keep sending work out, and to never stop because of rejections.
[WRITING REJECTION 92/100] Dear Erin Kirsh,
Thank you poet friend for choosing Frontier—that you chose our magazine to receive your work means a lot to us.
Unfortunately, the submission was not selected to move forward to publication.
All of the Frontier team wishes you the very best with your efforts to find a home for these poems. Please know that you're an important voice in our community and we would all be lesser without you.
[WRITING REJECTION 93/100] Dear Erin,
Thank you for sending us these four poems. We appreciate the chance to read your writing. We’ve given your work careful consideration and are unable to offer you publication. We only have space to publish five percent of the submissions we receive annually. For what it’s worth, we wanted to let you know that "Mistakes were made" and "Extra" made it to our final round of reading, but that we lack the space to include them in this issue.
I'm wondering if you've considered a concrete treatment for "Mistakes were made": I think it would suit the content really well - even just one line which bends, warps, or twists I think could magnify the poem quite a bit!
We hope to read you again in the future.
Best wishes with your writing.
[WRITING REJECTION 94/100] Dear Erin Kirsh,
Thanks again for being a part of our 2020 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest.
This contest was extremely competitive, with 5,072 contestants, and I regret you did not win a prize. Our next contest will open on August 15 with a deadline of April 1, 2021. We have doubled the first prize to $2,000 and the second to $500. As always, entry remains free. We encourage you to submit a new poem at https://winningwriters.com/our-contests/wergle-flomp-humor-poetry-contest-free
[WRITING REJECTION 95/100] Dear Erin,
We appreciate the opportunity to read your work, but unfortunately this submission wasn't quite right for Bourbon Penn. We apologize for the brevity of this note, but we are receiving a large number of submissions and are trying not to fall too far behind with our responses.
Thank you for trying us with this piece.
[WRITING REJECTION 96/100] Thank you for submitting to Ploughshares. Although we will not be
publishing your story at this time and are sorry to disappoint you, please be
assured that your manuscript was read carefully by editors and trained
screeners. Our reasons for not accepting particular submissions are varied
and often have more to do with the shape of our recent acquisitions and
upcoming issues than with the quality of writing we receive. Thank you again for the opportunity to consider your work, and we regret any delay in our response to you. We hope you'll continue to read and submit to
The Ploughshares Editors
Friends, I am a hair away from 100 rejections. 100 people didn't want me! And that's amazing. Your friend in this particular struggle, - E.B. Kirsh