Sunday, September 07, 2008

My Favorite Failure: One of my first rejection notes

The editors of Blood Orange Review know a lot about rejection. Not only do we reject about 90% of the submissions we receive, but we receive rejections ourselves. All the time.

In the next few weeks, Heather, Bryan, and Stephanie will share some thoughts on failure and rejection in the writing life. We'll also post an excerpt from a forthcoming essay by Brandon R. Schrand entitled "On Failure", to be published in full later this month in Blood Orange Review.

To get started, Stephanie posts one of her favorite rejection letters from fellow literary journal Bellowing Ark along with some comments:

I save all my rejection slips in neatly labeled manila folders that hang in a file cabinet with tabs marked "Rejections 2000", "Rejections 2001", "Rejections 2002", etc. Some files are larger than others as my confidence over the years ebbs and flows. When rejections come in, I log them into a spreadsheet and then drop them unceremoniously into the file. The process has become so automatic that there's little emotion involved any more.

But there are a few failures I cherish more than others, and this is one of them. I had been submitting my poetry to journals for a few years, but one day in 2000, I received my first personal rejection. It was handwritten by the editor of Bellowing Ark, a still-active literary journal out of Shoreline, Washington.

Though the editor rejected my work, he wrote that my poems showed "a good deal of promise." Those few positive words kept me going. I submitted again to the same journal and received one of my first publications. I've continued the trend of being rejected first by almost every journal that has later published my poetry. The "failure files" are my proof that even when my work isn't getting picked up and published by literary journals, I'm doing the work that needs to be done.


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