I reject this rejection
I reject this rejection

I reject this rejection

Last week I talked about Steph­en King’s exper­i­ence with a teach­er who made him feel ashamed of the stor­ies he wrote, and how we need to find ways to turn the volume down on those voices. I thought of anoth­er example in my own writ­ing life. I wrote To Serve and Pro­tect for the SiWC writ­ing con­test. KC Dyer, the coordin­at­or of the con­test deemed it worthy of being a final­ist. It did­n’t win, but her words to me were: “I loved this story. Loved it.”

I kept sub­mit­ting the story and nobody wanted to take it on. Then Colleen Ander­son put out a call for sub­mis­sions to an antho­logy she was edit­ing… I think it was a Tesser­acts antho, which Edge Pub­lish­ing puts out each year. So I sub­mit­ted To Serve and Pro­tect. The rule of thumb is that the longer it takes to hear back, the more pos­it­ive you should feel because it has­n’t been rejec­ted right away. I waited and waited and tried not to think about it, but got more and more excited. The sub­mis­sion guidelines had said all writers would hear back by… whatever date, say, Feb. 28. Well it got to be that day or the day before, and I finally, finally received that rejec­tion. I was so sad! But in the same let­ter, Colleen invited me to a party at her place, where I met a bunch of oth­er cool writers. Colleen came up to me and told me she wanted to explain. She said she loved my story, but she had to cut just one more from her list for the antho­logy. She ulti­mately decided to cut mine, because it was a Sci­ence Fic­tion col­lec­tion, and the only Sci­Fi ele­ment of my story was that it was Altern­ate World. Everything else about it was reg­u­lar, every­day life.

So, I did­n’t feel bad about her decision, I felt great.

Then I sub­mit­ted the story to anoth­er pub­lic­a­tion, and here’s where things went off the rails a little.

This edit­or from this pub­lic­a­tion, we will name them Jordan, had star­ted a blog where they com­men­ted on their slush pile, that’s the pile of sub­mis­sions that grows on an editor’s desk. I had read a few of these blog posts, and then this one caught my eye.

Jordan did not like To Serve and Pro­tect AT ALL. I knew they were talk­ing about my story because they quoted it, and talked about the sub­ject mat­ter. Jordan clearly took offense to this story, and made their thoughts very clear: quote “There are some things in life that you don’t deal with…” unquote in the way I wrote it.

That soun­ded a lot to me like a rule. It soun­ded to me like Jordan did not give me their per­mis­sion to write that story. [It also soun­ded to me like I affected Jordan, and that, dear read­er, is my job.]

The oth­er thing that bothered me about this was that Jordan had not yet sent me a rejec­tion, so to hear about it this way struck me as Not Cool.

The thing is, yet anoth­er thing Jordan said was “Maybe you can sell the story elsewhere.”

And now I come back to the volume on cer­tain voices thing. Jord­an’s voice *might* have been very loud indeed if I had not already heard KC and Colleen’s voices. But KC’s voice kept ringing in my ears: I loved this story. Loved it. And Colleen’s voice say­ing she really wanted to keep it, but had to cut one more story, and that my story just was­n’t quite Sci Fi enough for her.

I cranked their voices up, and dialled Jord­an’s way back, except the part where they said, “Maybe you can sell the story else­where.” I had the cour­age to keep send­ing it out because of those louder voices, and yes, Jordan, I did indeed sell the story elsewhere.

And Bri­an Rath­bone tweeted about this last week too, about how some people will like your work, and some people won’t, and that’s ok.