I’ve been sending out a lot of short stories, plaguing the editors of various literary journals with them. I WAS planning on trying to meet a goal of $1000 earned from writing this year. It has come to my attention, though (mostly through trying and getting rejection letters) that a monetary goal was perhaps too ambitious. I am now going for 5 stories published, 1 paid for. That goal still seems ambitious, but it seems like something I can meet. And it’s mostly about exposure, not dollars. Much better.
I have gotten to the point where a “no” hardly phases me. In the early days, it never seemed that I would be able to take rejection after rejection with indifference. But get enough of them, I suppose… When people ask me about it, I tell them that I’m pretending rejection letters legitimize me as a writer. After all, doesn’t everyone published have a stack of old letters that say no somewhere? Shannon Hale has taped hers into a scroll and unfurls it at school events. Stacey Richter and friends decoupaged theirs onto a chair, a footstool, and some beer cans. Anita Shrive was going to paper her room with them.
The thing is, I’ve gotten a little happy about rejection letters. Why, you ask, would I be excited that my stuff isn’t going to be published? Because I am getting the second tier of rejection letters now. These are not the cold “we regret to inform you that we cannot use your story” letters. These are the warm letters that might begin with “cannot use…” but contain a thank you and end with something like “please continue to submit.” Yesterday I got a rejection that was not a form letter at all, but a nice, personal validation that I was on the right track (although they were refusing my story because they didn’t feel the ending was original enough). They called the writing “beautiful.” If that isn’t a rejection letter to be proud of, I don’t know what is.
I mean, it’s still not an acceptance. But on the great climb to becoming a published girl, this is a milestone saying that I am getting somewhere. I may still be close to the bottom of the mountain, the scenery may all look the same, but I have traveled. I spend so much time alone at a computer banging my fingers against the keys that it’s hard to recognize sometimes. But there it is in the nicer set of rejection letters; my progress.