Category Archives: writing news

Let’s Get Rejected- Again! (Q2 Update)

627392image33

All right, friends and fiends! Now that Q2 has officially closed, it’s time for an update on the progress of my second annual quest to get 100 literary rejections in a year. For those who appreciate a quick statistical rundown (and who doesn’t?):

  • I’m at 61 submissions so far this year (on-pace for my goal of 120)
  • 77 rejections (33 from this year’s submissions, 44 from things submitted in 2017)
  • 3 acceptances
  • 9 personalized encouraging or “near miss” rejections

And to get into a little more detail…

Rejections

One thing I’ve come to appreciate is the timing cycle. Because even the speediest journals can take weeks to get back to you, and waits of months or even more than a year are not uncommon, if you want to get rejected today, you need to have submitted a while ago. So, while I didn’t hit my 100 rejections goal last year, so many of last year’s rejections are still coming in that I should easily surpass it this year.

Acceptances

  • I had a guest blog appearance on the Submittable Blog in May sharing lessons I learned making independent films in San Francisco.
  • My short story “No Hiding Place” appeared in Jerry Jazz Musician in June.
  • I have a poem forthcoming later this summer, details TBA when it’s out there.

Near Misses

So far this year I’ve gotten some version or another of encouraging rejection from Bellevue Literary Review, C&R Press, Eclectica Magazine, Glimmer Train, Memoir Magazine, Muse/ A Journal, Sequestrum, Sky Island Journal, and Typishly. Thanks to all of them! No, really, sincerely! Because while publication is the most encouraging response of all, comments like the following really keep this writer going:

  • “It was very enticing story. I continued to engage and wanted to know more about the story. I can relate to the intense struggle presented with decisions about moving forward. Excellent piece.”
  • “Though we cannot offer you publication, we wanted you to know that your book came close and made it to our second to last reading round and we found much to like about the work.”
  • “I enjoyed reading these, particularly “They haunt the empty spaces,” and hope you’ll continue to think of us.”
  • “You are spewing so much truth and wisdom, there is almost too much here for a 3000 word essay. I believe this is worth workshopping and maybe even developing into a much longer piece. I hope you consider resubmitting if you make substantial developments to the piece.”
  • “While “Young Karl Marx” isn’t quite right for us, many on our staff were impressed with your writing. Please take this personal note as encouragement to submit to us again in the future.”

Finally, for those interested in the theory and practice of rejection, I’d recommend Kim Liao’s great essay on seeking to get 100 rejections on Literary Hub, and Laura Maylene Walter’s piece in Kenyon Review on why and how she decided to double this and go for 200. Both are an inspiration, and it’s great to be getting rejected in such fine company!

Let’s Get Rejected- Again!

You may have followed along last year as I sought to get 100 literary rejections. There’s a nice write-up on the theory and practice of aiming for 100 rejections here. And if you want a recap on my experience you can read more here. The quick stats are:

  • I made 143 submissions in 2017
  • Got 78 rejections
  • 6 acceptances
  • Another 6 very encouraging “near misses”

And this year, I’m doing it again! I may actually be overdoing it…

One of the reasons I didn’t make 100 rejections last year is that there’s always a time-lag in responses, and in 2016 I’d only made 45 submissions, so the full flower of the 143 attempts at being rejected I made last year might not be felt until this year. And indeed, between current year rejections and rejections still flowing in from last year’s submissions, so far in 2018 I’ve gotten 39 rejections. I’m well on my way!

Also, since you can’t always be rejected, I’ve had two poems accepted for publication this summer (details TBD as it gets closer), and gotten one of the most encouraging rejections I’ve ever received from Memoir Magazine. I reckon I’ll keep it up. More updates to follow!

 

Let’s Get Rejected! The Final Reckoning…

rejection

Now that the New Year is upon us, we can at last do a final accounting on my goal of receiving 100 literary rejections in 2017. I’ll lead with the headline: I didn’t make the goal!

To be fair, I think a major factor was my pipeline from 2016 (more on that later). But facts are facts, and figures are figures. Let the record show that I received 78 rejections in 2017, of which 70 were from submissions I made in 2017, and another 8 were from 2016 submissions that came in during 2017.

78 out of 100 isn’t bad, right? That’s a C+, which in many places will get you a college degree. Also, and this was the entire point of the challenge (I think), I learned several things along the way:

  1. When you’re courting rejection en masse, it loses a lot of its sting.
  2. I can submit a lot more than I previously thought- I met my carefully calculated target of 143 submissions. Previous to that, my highest year ever was in the mid-50s, and I thought that was a hustle.
  3. Pursuing that volume brings you into contact with a lot of publishing venues (and people) you might have ignored if you were going for a more comfortable target.
  4. When you’re submitting more, you start to feel some pressure to write more.
  5. When you’re submitting more, you get published more.

This last one is pretty vital. In the course of pursuing those 100 rejections, I got the following acceptances:

  • My poem “Hitting Bottom Sestina” was published in Blognostics in May.
  • My poem “Thoughts on Viewing the Facade of a Vietnamese Restaurant, Post & Larkin” came out in Strange Poetry in July.
  • My Poem “Emily Listens Critically to Diana Ross” was featured in the print and online edition of poems2go in September.
  • My poem “Politics II (after W.B. Yeats)” was in issue 3 of Zig Zag Lit Mag in September.
  • My poem “Twelve Steps to the New Israel of the Beats” got honorable mention in the 2017 William Faulkner Literary Competition, and I was even invited to go the awards ceremony in New Albany, Mississippi in September.
  • My poem “The Ideal Man” came out in the December issue of Feel Good Weird.

I also had poems, personal essays, a short story, and a poetry chapbook place as semi-finalists or receive the coveted “encouraging rejection” from all the sins, Dreams & Nightmares, Muse / A Journal, the Poetry Matters Project, Slippery Elm, and Stirling Robyn’s Publishing. I say this completely seriously- in this age of pervasive form rejections, I find a good “you’re on the right track” to be worth its weight in gold.

So, what’s next? First off, having now learned that I can, I’m going to keep submitting in high volume. I’m currently targeting 150 submissions this year. Which sounds like a lot, but, truthfully, is right around three a week. Completely achievable!

I also think it will get me to the 100 rejection target. Part of the problem in 2017 is that a lot of those 143 submissions won’t generate responses until this year, and I had a much lower volume of prior year submissions coming in from 2016- only 45. Fueled by much larger 2017 pipeline, I’m already at a pretty good pace this year- 8 rejections so far. Huzzah!

Lastly, I mentioned writing more in my “lessons” above. While doing all those submissions, I began to find it a little limiting to keep sending out the same 4 or 5 short stories and essays. Ditto with my most-submitted poems. On top of that, as more things get published, the body of work available to send out gets smaller. So I’m also setting a target of 260 writing hours this year (aka 5 hours a week every week). I need some more product for the pipeline!

And there we are for my 2017 writing statistics. I’ll keep you updated in 2018, and am wishing us all happy writing and pursuit of publishing!

Let’s Get Rejected! (November Update)

ValentineReject_005-500w

All right, Kiddies & Commandos, we’re back with the latest update on my quest to get 100 literary submission rejections this year!

I got the idea from several friends who did the challenge last year. So far it’s been a quite effective way to reverse the emotional charge of the submission process by making rejection the target, AND ensuring that I hustle enough in my submission volume to get some positive momentum. So, where are we with a month to go?

In terms of accidental acceptances and alarming close calls, I’ve done pretty well at avoiding those since our October update. I did get a rejection from Slippery Elm, the literary journal of the University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio, saying that while the piece I sent wasn’t right for them, they enjoyed my writing and would like to see more. So, a bit of close shave, but still a rejection. Whew!

My current stats:

  • I figured going in that I’d need to do 143 submissions to get 100 rejections in the year. I’m currently at 124.
  • That leaves 19 submissions to make in December. A brisk pace, but very doable.
  • As of today, I’m at 65 rejections.
  • That means I’ll need to get 35 more, or more than a rejection a day on average, in December in order to make it. Eeep!

We’ll check in with final numbers, and some concluding thoughts on the whole exercise, after December 31st…

 

 

Let’s Get Rejected! (October Update)

crash

We’re back with the latest update on my quest to get 100 literary submission rejections this year! I got the idea from several friends who did the challenge last year. So far I’ve found it’s an amazingly effective way to reverse the emotional charge of the submission process by making rejection the target, AND ensuring that you hustle enough in your submission volume to get some positive momentum. So, what’s happened in the month since our Q3 update?

First, the bad news:

In a serious failure of rejection, my poem “Twelve Steps to the New Israel of the Beats” got honorable mention in the 2017 William Faulkner Literary Competition. I was even invited to go the awards ceremony in New Albany, Mississippi, which unfortunately turned out to be unworkable schedule-wise. In any case, it’s definitely an honor, even if it hurt my rejection stats.

I also had an alarming close-call with the UK-based journal all the sins, who informed me that a poem I’d submitted made it past their first round, but ultimately wasn’t selected.

Now, on the plus side:

Feverish spreadsheet calculations informed me going in that, in order to get 100 rejections in the year, I’d need to do 143 submissions. So far I’m at 100, leaving me with 43 to go in the next two months and five days. That’s brisk, but achievable. And my rejection total so far is 58, leaving 42 to go. That would be a rejection every 1.57 days for the remainder of the year. I don’t know if I can make it, but I’ll do my best!

We’ll check in again toward the end of November…

 

 

Let’s Get Rejected! (Q3 update)

D51mD6

You may recall from my January post on this that one of the goals I’ve set for the year is to get 100 literary rejections. This was inspired by several friends who did it last year, and is a fiendishly clever mechanism for standing the usual submission dynamic on its head: Acceptances? Who needs ’em! I’m chasing rejections, and I’ll submit in whatever volume is necessary to get them!

In addition to being distracted by the fight against the forces of darkness for most of the year to date, I haven’t posted a lot on this due to some computer issues that prevented me from having all the stats I needed in one place for easy tracking. But that’s not your problem, and anyway, it’s all sorted out now. So, now that I have all the data together, how am I doing?

In terms of volume, I calculated going in that I’ll need to make 143 submissions in the year in order to get the desired 100 rejections. As of this weekend, I’m at 89 submissions. So that leaves 54 for about 3 1/2 months left, which is a quite doable 15 per month. On target!

That being said, there have been the following troubling failures:

Well, you can’t lose them all. I also had a few frightening near misses:

  • I got to the finalist round of the Poetry Matters Project’s Spring Robinson/Mahogany Red Lit Prize. But was not chosen. Whew!
  • Stirling Robyns Publishing didn’t chose my chapbook Visions: Fear & Hope / Humorous & Uncanny, but did have some very nice things to say about it, as well as suggestions about other places to try.
  • Although Muse / A Journal passed on my essay “Smells Like Middle-aged Reverie”, they sent a personal note to say they enjoyed it and to encourage me to submit again. I had similar experiences last year with this essay- people love to almost publish it!

The good news is, despite these acceptances and almost-acceptances, I’ve had plenty of rejections! 44, to be precise. I’m not going to sugar-coat it, that leaves me with a  pretty aggressive target of 16 rejections a month average for the next 3 1/2 months to hit 100. Still, I’m not one to quit.

I’ll update you again in late October about how my experiment in success with failure is going!

 

 

 

8 from 8: Things I’ve learned in eight years of submissions

eight

In mid-2008 I decided to get organized around what had until then been sporadic literary submissions. A color-coded Excel spreadsheet was born (of course). Over the years it grew to multiple tabs, and the 2008 tab tells me my first submission tracked there was June 26th, 2008. Since today is June 28, 2016, cursory mathematics indicates that I have been at this for eight years!

I aim for a submission a week. I’ve hit something like 70% of that target, racking up 297 total submissions. My stats (so far) are:

stats

Besides getting published, and having lots of fun with Excel along the way, I’ve learned some things. Here, for your perusal, are eight lessons I’ve learned in eight years of doing literary submission:

  1. There’s a lot of research involved. Not all journals are created equal- Some publish only a fraction of a percent of what they receive, and may not be worth your time, especially if you’re just starting out. Some have a reputation for being dynamic, others conservative and stodgy. Some have particular preferences for style & genre, or focus on a particular gender, geography, ethnicity, or subject. I needed to learn to pay attention to all of this in order to increase my odds.
  2. The process has its own rewards. There are many ways to go about this research. Duotrope can help. So can New Pages. Pay attention to where your writer friends are submitting. (If you don’t have writer friends, get some! Writing is a solo activity, which makes community even more invaluable.) When you see a bio of a newer writer you like, look at where they’re publishing. Flip through journals to see what you like. Subscribe to some, or read their online selections. After I’d done this kind of research a while, I started to see connections between my writing, others’, and the publishing world. Ideas about where to submit, and even what to write, bloomed.
  3. A rejection with content is worth its weight in gold. I’ve written about this before, but rejection is not the enemy. Form rejection, with absolutely no clue a human being actually read it, is. The vast majority of rejections I’ve received have been via form letters/e-mails. The rejections that mention something they liked or didn’t like, and maybe even have a suggestion or two, are totally welcome to me now. Both for their rarity, and the fact that they give me something I can use to improve.         
  4. You may never hear back from some places. If you look at my stats above, you’ll see that around 25% of my submissions are still pending. Some have been pending for years. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, for example, the 25 submissions I still have pending from 2008-2010 probably aren’t going to get published. Some journals will tell you up front that they do not promise a response. Some don’t, and you won’t hear anything except the eerie whistling wind echoing through the dusty, abandoned caverns of the Internet…                                                                               
  5. Being asked to send something else doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get published. This one was a surprise to me. But, in fact, when I submitted something new to places that had passed on something earlier but said they liked it and wanted to see more, they more often than not didn’t publish my new submission. After editing at Mud Season Review, I have some sympathy for this. Whatever the intangible “it” was about the almost accepted piece, the next thing they send often doesn’t have it. Maybe the lesson for publishers is to take the first thing?                
  6. Having something accepted doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get published.
    This was even more surprising to me. But, things happen. Editors leave. Editorial schedules and directions change. Journals run out of funding for the planned issue. Or journals run out of funding, period. Which brings us to..
  7. If you keep at it, you’ll outlast some of them. More than once, I’ve had the experience of getting an e-mail (or even, in prior years, a letter) that turned out not to be an acceptance or a rejection. Instead, it was a journal announcing, regretfully, that they were hanging it up for one reason or another. It turns out it’s a tough gig for everyone, publishers and writers!                                                            
  8. It’s totally worth it. Somewhere in the midst of the vale of research, rejection, missing communications, vanished journals, etc., a real live publication happens. Then another. Eventually, you have an actual body of Published. Work. It’s not only gratifying to see yourself in print, it leads to connections with readers and writers that can be inspiring and rewarding. You have to submit to get there. It’s worth it!                   

So there are eight things I’ve learned in eight years. How about you? I’d love to hear from you about what you’ve learned from the submission process!