When Faced With Rejection, What Do You Sing?

When Faced With Rejection, What Do You Sing?

The title sounds so dramatic, I know. For starters, I am referring to the Rejection of work submitted to literary journals, reviews, mags, contests, yadda, yadda, although I would like to also talk about “my” MCR rejection at some point (anyone who knows what that means, I’ll most likely come find you and hug you).

Back to this rejection of writing business.

A few months back I sent out a short fiction story with hopes (duh) that it would find a comfortable home in a newer online journal. Today, on a Saturday, I see an email with the boring and patronizing boiler plate response:

Dear Dawn,

Thank you for sharing….After a careful review of your submission, the staff has decided that it is not the right fit for the journal. We appreciate the opportunity to read your work and wish you all the best in placing it elsewhere.

  1. “After A careful review…” Uhm, so how does one (or a staff) review a piece of writing, and what the fuck does “careful” mean? I’m thinking, wondering, questioning:   isn’t the first reader generally a student earning their MFA and how does the student–who I am certainly NOT discrediting their discerning talents or tastes–decide what makes the writing pass on to the next level on the submission ladder?
  2. I would prefer to get a note that said:  Sorry, your first line failed to draw me in.OR  Bam! Good luck elsewhere because your writing doesn’t fill our requirements in terms of _(subject matter)__ and (reader appeal)____ OR  In my opinion, your writing, your story, your poetry is not on the same level as our past and present contributors OR Most of the time we only publish people we know or people who have published previously in places we know or someone who knows you knows us so don’t be discouraged that we don’t want you–your writing chops are not the issue; you need to go out and meet more folks, industry folks, folks that have their names on mastheads.
  3. I am not bitter. Caustic and blunt, indeed, but I understand and respect (because respect is a value–think about that for a bit) that my writing doesn’t get everyone off. There must be chemistry between the reader and the writer (the writing) in order for a magical thing like publication to occur. And even if other, outside readers feel the electricity crackle and spark when they engage with my work, it matters not!!!! The only thing that matters in this scenario is the journal or review READER and their sensibilities, mood, aesthetics, interests, preferences– and WHAT gets them off.

So homeslices, as Tupac sang, “Keep Ya Head Up.

More Lxve, D.

Here is my Rejection Theme Song:   “

Books to Devote your Time & Mind to~~


Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. Perhaps I appreciate so much because we are from the same generation (ish, she is a tad younger); or because the writing is sharp and the sense of self-reflection is genuine and not arrogant or laced with self-righteousness; or because it just fucking rocks and was a lovely way to spend two days.

End of the sentimental journey by Sarah Vap. Transparency Note:  I love Sarah. I know Sarah. Sarah is other-worldly. Everyone should read Sarah. Everyone should love Sarah. Flipping through the gorgeous End of the Sentimental Journey (Noemi Press, 2013), stop, page 23:


Ideally, then–using this third or fourth-wave full spectrum of human experience, and using an ultra-contemporary vocabulary of intimacy–a conversation about any given poem could go something like this:

Reader 1:  That poem is like Tea-Bagging, and I actually prefer something a little more difficult, like a Cincinnati Bowtie.

Reader 2:  I had a slightly different response. That poem, to me, is much too difficult and much too dirty. It’s like receiving a Pasadena Steamer or worse, an Angry Dragon.

Reader 3:  Oh My God! My response was just the opposite! To me, this poem is like spooning and musk-scented candles and I have married it.”

Just a snippet of the joy and snark and super-awesomeness.

CITIZEN AN AMERICAN LYRIC by Claudia Rankine. If you don’t know it, go now…run to your local bookstore or type in http://www.powells.com

Drowning Tucson by Aaron Michael Morales (Coffee House Press, 2010).  I have NO words to explain or describe or articulate the grip this novel (still) has on my connective tissues (which is one of the most disgusting and gnarly terms, thus I love to use it at any opportunity, appropriate or not). If you are an ostrich, don’t bother reading; if you are uncomfortable by race, poverty, violence, don’t bother reading; if you cringe when people cuss, don’t bother reading (and why the fuck are you reading this blog?)…onward!

Check these newish titles out:

King Me by Roger Reeves. Marvelous, melt-in-mouth, masterful:  Like these lines from “Some Young Kings,”

“The Mike Tyson in my sings like a narwhal/minus the nasally twang of sleeping in a cold ocean,/the unsightly barnacles latched to the mattress” (1-3).

Bigfoot and the Baby by Ann Gelder. Rockin’ Ann that I met years ago at a Tin House Writing Conference. With that title, need I say more?

Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender. Short stories that cause pause, pause, pause…really? huh? really? This author doesn’t get enough credit, in my humble opinion.

When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz. I’m in love. ‘Nuff said.


  • that journals and reviews publish MOSTLY the same writers over and over = boring
  • that writing about “real” shit like racism and classism isn’t more widely published
  • that publishers are mostly white folk who have a limited view of the world (I may be making this up but from my perusing publishers and chatting with industry folks, I say it to be true!)
  • that writers who “make it” become uninterested in mentoring (unless it’s that one brilliant Basquiat-don’t-miss-this student) AND insulate and exclude = bummer = the literary world are the peeps that read the literary world writers so common sense = support each other = don’t be a fucking asswipe = you are only as cool as you are generous and authentic and kind.