May 10, 2019 § 5 Comments
By Ashley Jones
“There just were not many great pieces. The best piece was one about a Japanese Sex Hotel,” she paused and looked me with wide eyes, “Japanese. Sex. Hotel.”
Rose and I went to Butte County for the weekend to help families with item retrieval after the wildfire. As our trip came to a close, we made conversation as we packed our bags. I tried to respond to her comment without revealing the sharp pain that came along with it.
Last year, I submitted a piece in every category of our university literary journal and Rose, along with the other department editors, accepted none of my work. At first, I did not take the news personally. After all, the entries are anonymous. Still, in that moment, I have to say, Rose poked my ego. To this day, she still has no idea. (So, this story stays between you and me).
She gave me a toothy grin. “You should submit a piece,” she suggested.
“Yeah,” I said with a quiet casual laugh. I folded my clothes and tucked them into a bag. I spoke slowly and unhurriedly. “I think I will.”
The first pieces I submitted, I considered to be some of my best work. These were poems, essays, and stories I spent hours over my keyboard with through the weeks. Hearing that these pieces were not enough for our university literary journal felt challenging. Hearing, from my friend, that they just weren’t great at all felt defeating. I struggled with feelings of shame and embarrassment. Was I failing as an English major? How could I even call myself a writer?
It was during this time where I started to research author rejections and the commonness of it all. I learned Judy Blume, one of our generation’s most beloved authors, for the first two years of her writing life, received only rejection letters from publishers. Hearing this shocked me. At the same time, her struggle inspired me to keep chugging along. I brushed off Rose’s comments like dust off an old book.
I wrote new pieces and refined old ones. This year, when the time to submit came around; I submitted a piece in every category again.
A few months later, I received an email invitation for the “author party” without receiving an acceptance letter. Holding my breath, I emailed the editors back and asked if they chose one of my pieces to publish in their upcoming journal. I received an email back with the subject line “Sorry for the Mix up!”
I imagined the body of the email as another rejection letter compounded with an apology. However, when I opened the message, the editor-in-chief apologized for forgetting to send the acceptance letter which hid in her draft e-mail folder for weeks!
My roommates and I celebrated in the bedroom of our apartment. This is not uncommon. We rejoice when publishers send me rejection letters too.
It’s all a part of the process.
After explaining her experience with rejection letters, Judy Blume put it this way,
“There is not a writer who hasn’t suffered.”
Ashley Jones is an undergraduate student in Los Angeles. Her work appears in The Haiku Journal and The West Wind. She enjoys inspiring documentaries, meeting new people, and teaching the kiddos at her church about the joy in following Jesus.