Publishing is such a funny business. And by funny I mean "bizarre" and "arbitrary." And let's not forget how unforgiving it can be too. Oh and rewarding. Um..what?
Getting rejected is tough. It doesn't really get easier the more it happens, either, at least not for me. It still stings. The best ones, in my opinion, are the rejections from publications that I know didn't even read my manuscript. I get an automatic email within days of submission, or I get my manuscript back, in my neat little SASE, with nary a crease in the corner--a crease that would indicate that someone, somewhere had at least turned to page two. They're usually the big journals, the ones that publish literary stars on a regular basis. The ones that won't even open an envelope or an attachment if the name sending it doesn't ring a bell. I don't ring bells.
I least like the personal rejections, the ones that took the time (about three seconds) to send me a personal note--"while we thought you had some nice touches, we felt the story took too long to get started..."--effectively letting me know that they actually did read my manuscript....aaaand they still rejected it.
I know not everyone agrees with me; some people like to know that someone took a moment to really consider their work...before tossing it into the dustbin. Some people hate the idea that the results of hours of toiling in front of a laptop screen, of months eating/sleeping/breathing a protagonist, of countless sleepless nights could be tossed aside with such cavalier casualness.
Whatever your preference, it still sucks. No getting around it. And when it happens, it's difficult, if not impossible to remember that even if your manuscript was carefully read and contemplated and debated over before finally being put, however regretfully, into the 'reject' pile, it's still an arbitrary decision. Consider this: the New Yorker--a publication that's showcased an author or two over the last few decades, and that had previously given a young upstart writer by the name of JD Salinger some space--decided to pass on a new manuscript he was working on about an alienated, angsty young man named Holden Caulfield. Ooopsie.
See? Don't make no damn sense. So it's no wonder that sometimes the logic gets buried in the emotion of it, in the WTF-ness of it. That's what happened this afternoon when I got the email that began "Thank you for sending us "Marble." We appreciated the chance to read it." I didn't really have to read the rest. I've read emails like that before. I know how that story ends. Boo. Rejection. It gets under your skin if you let it. And I let it. It bothered me. How dare they! They wouldn't know a good story if it jumped up and punched them in the face! Harumph. Fine. I guess I'll go find some other journals to query. Fine. Fine.
Then something funny happened. A few hours later, I arrive home after a weekend with my family. I can see from the curb that there's a package in my mailbox. Weird. Did I order something and forget about it? Did the mail carrier accidently give me my neighbor's mail again? Do I have a secret admirer? Nope. None of the above.
Instead, contained within the manila envelope is a copy of the most recent edition of Echo Ink Review, containing a short story of mine that had been accepted for publication nearly a year ago. I knew about it, of course. This wasn't news, but it wasn't rejection, either. This was the opposite of rejection. This, my friends, was a check in the "accept" column. A win, if you will.
I can't help but think that it showed up on my doorstep when it did for a reason. I know it might sound stupid, or corny, but I kind of took it as a sign. Yeah, I got rejected today, but I totally forgot that I've also gotten accepted. I just didn't get "Marble" to the right reader, that's all. But I will, eventually, I'm sure. And I'll get accepted again. Maybe not at the next attempt, but maybe the one after that, or the one after that. It'll happen, sooner or later. It'll happen.