It is around the midway point of the year that one may begin to wonder what one is doing wrong. With no acceptances and 24 rejections, one starts to look for signs they have missed. First, the work itself. It feels like the writing one is creating is superior to one's older work. It's at least more thoughtful, but perhaps one has crafted some essential thing right out of their work, some beloved rawness. Can one ever know what it is about their own pieces that works? Uncertain. Does one's ancient hotmail account deter people? Certainly one has cringed at some yahoo addresses for no good reason apart from the word "yahoo" which seems like the kind of celebratory exclamation one could only made had in the late eighties and early nineties before this devastating age of extinction and the constant feeling of ending. Hotmail too has a certain naivete indicative of a time prior to this, a time when the hegemony of google was uncertain enough that optimistic competitors like bing would still rear up. Perhaps it's something else altogether, like one's generally kind but frank blog about emerging writerhood. Or, one wonders if there is in fact an omnipotent being doling out lessons wherein one should require less recognition, because the work is its own reward and coveting certain outcomes like success erodes moral character. (Yuck.)
Okay, I'll come clean. When I say one, I am talking about me.
I know. You never saw it coming. Your surprise is palpable. It's a real Shyamalan situation. (Fact: That dude's handsomeness is underrated, go google him. Note that I did not tell you to bing him, which sounds like a PG-13 way of saying you should do him.)
Here's the thing: I am creating work that I feel decent about. I've had the privilege of editing the books of authors I admire. Hell, I even wrote a non-fiction piece, my second ever outside of a school situation, and I have to tell you, I kind of get the appeal. So, as my mother might put it, what gives?
I, and maybe you? spend a lot of time trying to figure out if I'm learning the right lesson from a situation. I stew and ruminate and pull away some pre-packaged wisdom like "work is its own reward" and "patience is virtue", then turn it over and think, but what if this isn't what I'm supposed to learn? What if I'm missing the message? I think this kind of thinking is entrenched in people who grew up with spiritual/religious beliefs. It must come from that, because it's incongruous with my more recent belief that the world is chance and chaos. This latter belief would suggest that, things being chaotic and random, there is no supposed to or should, no message or lesson the world/universe is trying to teach us. It suggests that we and our circumstances make all of the patterns of our own lives, that we and our personal histories have created the gaps in our character/learning/personality. So if that's true, any lesson we learn that makes us better in some way is a good lesson. It's better to take away a small, good lesson rather than no lesson because we're too scared to learn anything that isn't the optimal lesson that will fix all our problems in X arena forever. Especially if the optimal lesson is a cultural myth.
So though my impulse is to be scrounging through my submissions this year and figuring out what I need to learn for my outcomes to be different, I know I won't find an objective answer. I've got my bases covered in terms of following submission guidelines, ensuring the pieces are edited and as well written as I know how make them without overdoing it, and that's all I have control over. Looking for issues beyond that won't give me any answers, it can't, because I'm not in the editors' and readers' brains and I consider following up a rejection with questions to be kind of poor poetiquette.
So what am I going to take from this? Iunno. I wrote a rant, let's call it sufficient.
[WRITING REJECTION 22/100]
Dear Erin Kirsh,
Thank you for submitting to the 2018 Fiction Contest for Emerging Writers. We received many excellent entries this year and are delighted to announce that the winning story is Claire Boyles's "Lost Gun, $1000 Reward, No Questions." Her story will be published in the Fall 2019 issue of Boulevard. Congratulations also to our runner-up, "Shirley" by Hannah Williams.
(Congratulations to Claire and Hannah)
[WRITING REJECTION 23/100]
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read your work. The Cosmonauts Avenue team reads every submission with care and curiosity. While we are unable to accept your work for publication at this time, we deeply appreciate that you thought of us.
Best of luck with your writing,
The Poetry Editors
[WRITING REJECTION 24/100]
Thank you so much for choosing to share your work with GUTS! We really like your piece, however, we're choosing not to pursue publication at this time. We wish you the best of luck in finding another home for it, and sincerely appreciate all the work and care that's gone into it.
GUTS editorial collective
A huge thank you to all of the litmag/journals who take the time to respond. Despite the sad animated gifs, I'm super grateful. Here's hoping for lessons or benevolent chaos.
- E.B. Kirsh