Sunday, June 27, 2010

My All-Time Favorite Rejection Letter

Once upon a time, rejection letters from literary magazines came on slips of paper of different sizes and colors.  I have a sheaf of the 'best' ones--where the editor scrawled either his initials, or something like sorry on the standard 'thanks but no thanks' slip--which I took to mean that someone thought enough of my work to encourage me.

I mean, they see a lot of crap, right? I've read for magazines. It's enough to turn you into Simon Cowell.

My best rejection letter is on pretty, parchment-goldy paper.  This was for a set of poems, back when I was writing poetry regularly.  I won't name the magazine.  The editor hand-wrote me a letter for each set of rejected poems, the fourth one saying, "these came pretty close." Be still my heart!  The fifth one, I decided, would be it. If I didn't get in, it wasn't meant to be.

Helen W. Mallon (he wrote),
The problem here lies not in the technique but in the tenor...As an editor I have made it my position to publish only work that indicates in some way that life is worth living, that existence is a positive process.  Those writings of yours I that I have seen do not fulfill--to my sensibilities--those requirements.  Thank you for your continued interest.

I've been called a lot of things, but depressing isn't one of them.  Well, that was the first time.  I love the fussy tone of this letter. Oddly, my "continued interest" in the magazine didn't continue.  The note made me laugh so much it's probably the one rejection I least minded getting.


Rich Sidney said...

On the other hand, I love the poetry. Must be me... :->

HelenQP said...

Thanks! Yeah, most people seemed to agree with you. The funny thing is that I had no idea what the guy found in my stuff that wasn't 'life affirming.'

Catherine Stine said...

Yeah, sounds like the numnut who said that the opening mood of Fireseed was a downer, even though Varik had a good reason to be upset--his father just drowned! I was wondering what Varik should be doing--dancing a chicken dance?!

HelenQP said...

Well, he's allowed a moment of sadness. Then his goofy older brother has to walk in with some joke about a lemonade stand. And the cute younger sister says something withering and beyond her years. So we don't have to dwell too long on, you know, that death thing...