No, Thank You. No Really, Thank You.
May 29, 2015 § 19 Comments
Some days the submission process is a joyful flutter of anticipation–but let’s face it, it’s mostly a grind. And not just for the authors. Before I started regularly weeding through piles of incoming writing, I had a very specific image in my head:
An overworked intern staggers through a door, arms piled high with envelopes. She chucks her armload at the base of an enormous pile of manuscripts, some half-out of their envelopes, others with footprints and pizza stains. Squatting atop the pile is Jabba the Hutt, wearing an old-fashioned editor’s eyeshade and typing on a MacBook Air. He speaks: “Well, Emily, another delivery of hopeless crap? Why do you add them to my Pile of Sadness? Why not just cast them directly into the Pit of Rejection, where they will burn in wretchedness for eternity! BWA HA HA HA HA.”
Sometimes in my nightmare there’s a dart board, on which the choicest bits of literary failure are impaled, a group of hipsters mocking each submission as they keep score.
But now that I’ve seen the other side of the process, nothing is farther from the truth. Most of the time, most magazines read every single submission. Most of the time, most editors open the email with a sense of anticipation, wanting the writing to be not just good but amazing, something they’ll be proud to publish, be thrilled the writer thought to send it. It’s true: Editors want you to be good. They want to open the first thirty emails and say, “Well, that’s it, we’ve filled the next issue! Let’s go get gluten-free pizza.”
And when a submission’s not right for the magazine–whether it’s a near miss or a total misfire–there is very little gleeful cackling. An editor is more likely to sigh and say, “I wish I could talk to them about what’s working in this piece and deserves more space,” or, “I wish it was my place to tell them to rewrite this in past tense, third person,” or even “I wish I had time to make a list of magazines this piece would be perfect for.” But there is so rarely enough time. The editor has fifty more essays to read that day, before grading the papers they really meant to do over the weekend except the dog was sick and the sitter cancelled.
Sometimes an editor makes time. Over at The Review Review, Emily Lackey has written a lovely post about the best rejections she’s gotten. The ones that show, somebody read this, somebody thinks it’s close. The type of rejection that sends an author back to the typewriter instead of out to the bar. Emily writes:
…there are journals out there that understand the difference it can make in a writer’s life to receive a rejection that is a little more thoughtfully worded and that encourages us to try again.
So, for the sake of making this process as bearable as possible, here is a list of journals that I have found to be the most consistently considerate. While it is nowhere near an exhaustive list (one can only be rejected by so many journals in one’s lifetime) these journals in particular have reminded me in their generous rejections of the incredible community I am participating in. And, more importantly, they have reminded me how fortunate I am to have something to share.
Check out Emily’s list of The Top Five Mags With the Kindest Rejection Letters over at The Review Review. And then send out another submission. Who knows? Maybe this is the day you’ll be encouraged. Or even better, accepted.