When you wait a long time to hear back from a lit journal, you hope it means that there's positive news. Any time it's taken me longer to hear back from a journal than it would take me to grow a whole human baby, the work has been accepted. I attribute the longer-than-usual waiting time to figuring out how all of the accepted pieces are going to interplay with each other to create the entire magazine issue. (This is all speculation, I've never worked in publishing.) Armed with this relatively baseless belief, I started getting excited once this submission hit that gestation mark.
Despite my personal trend of long response time equaling acceptance, I hear horror stories.
For example, one of my friends once submitted to a notable Canadian lit journal and more than two years later they let her know they were rejecting her work. The rejection letter was perfectly nice and perfectly oblivious to the fact that this response had come literal years after she'd sent them her poems. By the time the letter had shown up in her inbox, she'd entirely forgotten she'd submitted to them at all. When she called me to recount the experience, she sounded as disjointed and baffled as a cartoon bunny hit over the head with a club. (But much prettier! You sounded prettier than that!) It was astonishing to us that an establishment would even bother sending a rejection at that point, but it happens. I know I've found important crap between my dresser and my wall and only discovered it during my annual (okay, biannual) clean of my bedroom walls. Literally every time I go to move furniture, it's a little like that scene when Dumbledore was done with all of the Dursley's mail-dodging bullshit,
so I can't throw any stones in the documents getting lost department. So I obviously know that my excitement brought on by a long wait time is hardly a promise. It's not even two kids spitting into their hands and shaking on a thing. I know that a trend does not a rule make. Anyone still believing correlation is causation should immediately look at these handy charts.
Just some beautiful nonsense!
In addition to being a correlation skeptic (and a kombucha skeptic,) I am in many ways from the Han Solo school of thought: brusque, intimacy creeps me out, and I don't like to be told my chances.
I'm like this because everything I want is a long shot. If you, like me, are the kind of person who violently needs to have what they want (read: spoiled,) then even if you, like me, are a correlation skeptic and know better, you kind of have to walk around floating on a big, buoyant "MAYBE." If little superstitious beliefs like "oh, it's taken awhile to hear back, that means an acceptance!" helps you float on, then believe in it like it's gravity, fuck the odds and the spurious correlation.
When you find out that said superstition is just another cheese consumption/people strangling themselves in their bed sheets situation, don't lose hope. That goofy belief took you part of the way. Develop another superstition to keep you swinging to the next branch. Mix your metaphors. Have a party. Employ backlighting. Use all of the crap that serves you, even if it's silly, and even if you know you're wrong*. It helps with the waiting, the motivating, and the keeping on.
*Obviously within reason, I don't want to be blamed for any weird homicides.
Anyway, after a whole baby's worth of time, and in honour of superstition, here's rejection thirteen:
[WRITING REJECTION 13/100]
Thank you for your submission to filling Station. Unfortunately, we will not be publishing your work at this time. We wish you all the very best.
I'm thinking of going for something like a playoff beard for my next superstition now that this one has been debunked. I'm currently one chin hair in. Wish me luck!
- E.B. Kirsh