On Continuing to Love and Support My Favorite Literary Journals That Have Rejected Me and Knowing When It’s Time to Cancel

April 7, 2021 § 10 Comments

By Melody Heide

The short essay took several years, dozens of drafts, and multiple peer critiques but finally, finally, it felt ready—the last image, the last metaphor clicked into place to make the whole thing come together in what felt like, to me, a satisfying read.

I sent it out to my top four literary journals—the ones I subscribe to, the ones I read cover to cover, the ones I felt might be a good home for this little essay. Four literary journals is my own personal magic number right now; it is what I have the time and resources for and this past year I decided to try and only submit to the literary journals I regularly read and support.

Rejections came quickly from three of them; I was sad and disappointed but also, if I’m honest, angry. I’ve financially supported these journals for years! I bought gift subscriptions! I talked them up on social media! I even went to journal sponsored conferences! I felt that dangerous You owe me.

I dwelled in this cocktail of hurt feelings for over a week. I thought, I’ll show you! I’ll stop subscribing, I’ll stop reading, I’ll stop sharing. But when I toyed with this decision a wave of grief came —I truly love these journals.

These journals have enlivened my interior life; they’ve given me poems and stories that I’ve returned to over and over, that I’ve shared with friends and with students. They’ve provided opportunities through conferences and workshops for time and space to work on my own writing, to work with brilliant writers and thinkers. In those places and spaces I’ve made life-long friends.

I do not subscribe and support these journals solely because if I do so they’ll publish my work (though of course I hope they will); first and foremost I subscribe and support because they give to the world beauty, thoughtfulness, and a diversity of voices and perspectives. I’ll continue honing my work—I’d still like to see my writing in their pages—but, at least through a cycle of three rejections, I’ll also continue reading, sharing, supporting, and attending conferences and classes.

Yes, a cycle of three rejections. I have given myself another rule because I believe boundaries are important, I believe it’s essential to protect time and resources, and I believe in believing your own work is good and worthy of publication—after the third rejection from each journal, I re-evaluate. Perhaps the things I’m writing do not fit with the aesthetic of the journal, perhaps it’s time to start looking elsewhere, perhaps it’s time to discover a new journal, a new world, a new place for my writing to hopefully call home.

The relationship between a writer and a literary journal is a strange one. Who owes who what? Literary journals can’t survive without subscriptions and support and it’s hard for writers, who generally aren’t getting paid, to survive, to grow, without validation and encouragement. You owe me feels icky—an internalized, Americanized type of transactional relationship. But writers want and need to publish and literary journals want and need subscribers. Even though the literary journal can’t survive without its subscribers, it still holds most of the power.

And that’s why my rules for submitting, subscribing, and knowing when it’s time to cancel and start discovering other literary journals makes sense for me right now. I don’t want to unsubscribe out of anger or even out of a flex for power; I want to say thank you for what you’ve given me, maybe it’s time for me to discover something new.
___

Melody Heide’s writing has appeared in Blue Lake Review, Switchback Magazine, and the anthology Love & Profanity: A Collection of True, Tortured, Wild, Hilarious, Concise, and Intense Tales of Teenage Life. She lives in Minnesota and teaches writing classes at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.

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§ 10 Responses to On Continuing to Love and Support My Favorite Literary Journals That Have Rejected Me and Knowing When It’s Time to Cancel

  • Kingjet says:

    Ma, I know how it feels when someone gets rejected. Although, rejection is temporary, not permanent— Since thus, you still have to move on and keep focusing. A day will come when your name will be known to the world.

  • Glasgow Girl G1 says:

    Keep going – well done! GG

  • lainy carslaw says:

    This was great! I totally hear what youre saying! Wouldnt it be nice- with your subscription, one publication a year, lol!! Keep going:)

  • ali abdi Ahmed says:

    Hello how are you doing?

    On Wed, 7 Apr 2021, 2:03 pm BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog, wrote:

    > Guest Blogger posted: ” By Melody Heide The short essay took several > years, dozens of drafts, and multiple peer critiques but finally, finally, > it felt ready—the last image, the last metaphor clicked into place to make > the whole thing come together in what felt like, to ” >

  • Even selecting the journals one has time to read is tough. There’s a sense of ‘I chose you over all the others and you reject me?’

  • Jnana Hodson says:

    As writers, we need to be reaching to readers who aren’t writers and engaging them, and that goes for the literary journals, too, unless they’re obviously working within a small orbit of kindred spirits. You know, talking to each other in an encouraging way.
    As for your four subscriptions? Quite frankly, you’re not in their inner circle — your relationship is completely as a reader, and that’s not likely to change.
    And, yes, that hurts.

  • Thanks

    On Wed, Apr 7, 2021, 12:03 PM BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog wrote:

    > Guest Blogger posted: ” By Melody Heide The short essay took several > years, dozens of drafts, and multiple peer critiques but finally, finally, > it felt ready—the last image, the last metaphor clicked into place to make > the whole thing come together in what felt like, to ” >

  • Luanne says:

    Wow, this is a powerful piece. I think it’s an important topic that “nobody” ever talks about, publicly at least. And yet how you have set up your boundaries makes a lot of sense.

  • I appreciate your point of view. You’ve helped me understand some unacknowledged feelings. I really like your healthy approach.

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