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:
- When you’re courting rejection en masse, it loses a lot of its sting.
- 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.
- 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.
- When you’re submitting more, you start to feel some pressure to write more.
- 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!