Tag Archives: 2017

Let’s Get Rejected! The Final Reckoning…


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!

#RESIST – One Year Later


This weekend I had the pleasure of joining more than a million (totals still being tabulated) friends across the country holding rallies and marches in every state, from major metropolis on down to small town. We turned out to mark the one year anniversary of the inauguration and Women’s March from last year, and to get energized for the next year of our Resistance.

It was so nice to see everyone again! It also gave me pause to reflect on what I’ve been up to this past year, and I’d like to share some of those reflections with you.

I can’t emphasize enough how pivotal the 2017 Women’s March was for me. After the election I, like many of us, was in a state of grief at the dark direction my beloved country was taking. The one thing I felt just as strongly was that this time I had to DO SOMETHING. I’d spent the Bush years (more or less) trying the strategy of positively tending my own gardens, and trusting that change would radiate out from that. I don’t discount the philosophy or its merits, but I have to report that it didn’t work. In the Obama years, I rested way too much on the idea that now that we had leadership, it was their job to lead, and I would support. That didn’t work either.

I started to really appreciate for the first time the meaning of the Obama line- “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” We need to lead, and our elected leaders need to listen and follow. So I was ready, and I’d even made a kind of start that Fall and early Winter- donating to and publicizing nonprofits helping to defend the burgeoning list of the new Administration’s targets, speaking out against egregious policies and people, participating in a rally the weekend after the election, urging the electoral college, as antiquated and defunct a system as it is, to at least consider doing the job the Founders had designed it for. But I remained, for the most part, dispirited and anxious.

And then, on a rather pleasant January day after the inauguration, I joined a group of people gathering  at the Vermont statehouse in Montpelier. It turned out to be about 14,000 people, the biggest gathering the capitol had ever seen. It turned out that, nationwide, there were 3-5 million of us on the streets that day- the biggest single-day protest in American history. I heard and saw beautiful multitudes pledging resistance, and standing up for the worth and dignity of all people. And my energy totally changed.

For the first time since November, hope became my lead emotion. Hope, though, is like a seed. For it to really grow, it needs to be watered by action. It was an open question for all of us how committed we would remain, what our follow-up would be. For me personally, the only way to answer that question was to DO. So I have tried my best to keep doing. Since January 21, 2017, I have:

  • Attended my local community’s Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) group, and participated in their events.
  • Gotten into contact with Vermont Black Lives Matter and started to support their events and activities.
  • Helped my amazing wife Abbey as she founded BRIDGES, a political action group in our home town (about whom I’ll write a whole separate post sometime).
  • Helped friends online publicize the San Francisco and Boston airport protests that sprung up in reaction to the first travel ban in January.
  • Joined with Migrant Justice in putting pressure on state officials and local ICE offices in response to arrests of Vermont immigration activists,  and holding Ben & Jerry’s to their promises to migrant farm workers.
  • Joined in kicking off a resistance group at my workplace, and participated in community events around controversial author Charles Murray coming to speak there in March.
  • Wore red in solidarity and participated in a protest on the “Day Without a Woman” in March.
  • Participated in the Science March and the Climate March in April.
  • Helped friends publicize rallies and protests against the Transgender military ban in July.
  • In the wake of Charlottesville, joined memorials in Vermont, and helped Boston and Bay Area friends coordinate protests against White Nationalist rallies in their areas.
  • For the first time ever in my life, gotten active in calling and writing my representatives- local, state and national.
  • Used social media to urge others to do the same, and pushed friends and neighbors to advocate for issues- defending the ACA, Net Neutrality, supporting Universal Primary Care and Racial Justice measures in Vermont, etc.
  • Beginning in the Spring, got active with various groups working on state and national swing elections nationwide, culminating in flipping the Washington State Senate in November, bringing the Virginia House of Delegates from 2/3 Republican to almost 50-50, and winning the Alabama senate seat in December.
  • Went to my local town’s Democratic committee meeting and ended up on the committee, and serving as a delegate to the county Democratic Committee, where I’m currently working on messaging in support of Progressive ideas and policies.
  • Started publishing a blog with regular updates on developments in the Russian Election interference investigations so that the truth gets out there.

The point of writing this is not to toot my own horn-although seeing it in print does explain/affirm why I often feel tired! It’s to witness, and commit to myself and all of you, that I’m going to keep it up. I have found again and again this past year that the only immunity I have to despair is in action.

Action leads to Optimism. Onward to our second year of Resistance!