Rejection Schlmection

The advice is to query dozens of agents.  I query one, dozens of times.  It makes sense too because he is the ex-boyfriend of a daughter of a cousin of a friend of a co-worker of a friend of my mother-in-law.  When I first sent him some work, years ago, he was just starting out at a well-know Manhattan agency.  His rejection was swift and polite.  As the years have rolled by, his rejections have maintained their gracious tone, but with longer and longer lag time.  I can only assume that's because it's getting harder and harder for him to keep rejecting me, though the truth is that he is now very successful with an author list that includes many award winners and best sellers which leaves him little time to send personal and gracious rejection letters to perky slush pile authors.

Six months ago, I sent him some illustrated essays.  I am much too experienced with these types of things to know not to let my mind race to fanciful conclusions.  Yet, I do.  I imagine phone calls and lunches and contracts and parties and always lots of laughing about how many rejections I received from him until he finally came around.

Smallest rejection letter: 3.5in. x 2.5in. (Prairie Schooner)

Most empathetic form rejection:  "We're aware that writing is hard work, and that writers merit some acknowledgment.  A form letter doesn't speak to that need.  Please know, however, that we've read your work, and appreciate your interest in the magazine."  (The Sun)

Most common line:  "Unfortunately, your work does not meet our needs at this time."

Most terse:  "Thank you for submitting your manuscript.  We regret that we are unable to make use of it at this time."  (The Paris Review)

Best rejection letter to date:  "Dear J.K.,  Thanks for submitting 'The Celebration.'  Like Dimitri's penis, your story is well-shaped, symmetrical, pleasing.  Nonetheless, it lacks an urgency in the narrative and actions.  Best to you in future submissions."  (Esquire)  

That one got shown around the neighborhood.

Some make my lips curl.  Others deliver the faint nausea of embarrassment, like after contacting an old flame who doesn't seem to remember me.  All arrive in thin, self-addressed stamped envelopes that I pull from the mailbox and wave at the nearest sentient being, "Another rejection letter!"  All go into a fat folder that sits in a file box under my desk.

And today, I receive another from my agent who doesn't yet know that he is going to be my agent.  The envelopes he sends are not thin because he always sends my work back to me even though I tell him he doesn't have to. (What could that possibly mean?!) His letter is typed and signed in blue ink, his slim signature slightly smeared.  I know better than to study his charitable remarks for some deeper meaning. But I do, with the same naive optimism that drives me to volunteer for the PTA.
It's only a matter of time.


  1. You write, I'll read - anything! P.S. Sorry, the most, about the Esquire rejection. What can I say? By the way, my delight is always in the hoops one has to jump through to post a comment to a blog, that is, type in a "word verification". Loved today's - "copsive", then "plentag" when I edited my comments. Maybe I'll write a story using only word verification "words" Now there's an idea.... Hugs to the kiddos, large and small.

  2. Thanks for reading and following, Honeybee. And let's not forget words that should be used as verification words but aren't: sontag, faulkner, chekhov.

  3. Amen, sister! (Today's is blessest. I love that one!)

  4. I would buy a book of illustrated rejection letters.
    How would your agent who doesn't yet know he is going to be your agent feel about that?

  5. Illustrated? Well, that could get interesting.