A Signed Rejection Note...

Wahoo, I'm moving closer to getting published! Actual ink from an actual person's hand holding an actual pen touched the paper of my latest rejection note for a short story I sent in!! Anybody who has tried to get published knows the significance of this, it is the acknowledgment that a live human being at the literary magazine actually read my little ol' story. All previous rejection notes either had no sign of human existence on them or were non-existent (Making me wonder endlessly, did my story get lost in the mail and they just didn't receive it? For surely if they had received it they'd be calling me and offering me buckets of money for it, right? Right.) I have dutifully torn up all previous rejection notes, telling myself, between tears, that perhaps my story just didn't fit the theme of that volume or perhaps all of the editors at the magazine were blind and partially mentally handicapped. But this rejection note, with the scribbled Thank, The Editor(s) - the 's' is in parenthesis because I can't tell if that line is an 's' or the end of the 'r' - is pinned proudly to my bulletin board. You can be assured that the Thank, The Editor(s) will be dissected thoroughly by me and that by the end of the week I'll know with 99% certainty whether or not there is an 's' after the 'r', which of course would mean that more than one person had read my story (dare I dream?) or maybe just that the editors like to speak as a collective unit rather than individually (a less attractive theory). Ah, how the publishing world lowers your standards. Now if I could just get a coffee stain or a pen scribble in the corner, you know, when you're pen is out of ink and you have to scribble it on a piece of paper to get the ink flowing. Maybe an actual name? Wow, then I'd be so close to actually getting published I'd be able to taste it. I think it'll taste like caramel apple.

Penis Free, Please

Also on writing news, I'm trying to get together a writing group/book club with a girl I know through a creative writing friend. I'm really really excited, this is our second attempt in doing this. The first time I attempted it I put an ad in a local newspaper, which attracted some very odd and scary men. One man was an older, grouchy type who once he opened his mouth it wouldn't shut until you had to literally interrupt his anecdote about his previous writing group in which they were all drinking in the basement of a bar getting into mischief and such. He was very determined to get us to come to his basement and drink for our next writing group, to which my girlfriend and I firmly declined. Oh, and did I mention that he ripped of us new assholes with his critiques, with helpful, positive comments such as this is shit and I hate poetry so I'm not even going to read this? Another guy's first story was about a has-been boxer with a rough first person voice with the cliche hick family in which he slept with his cousin and his mentally retarded brother had an abnormally large penis, so large that he would give himself fellatio.. must I continue? Yes, our first attempt was not a success. This time we're going women only (I know, so pussy-ish of us) and only with people we know, or people whom people we know know. No strangers this time. Honestly though, we really don't feel like inviting strange men into our homes (this time we're rotating hosting it rather than meeting in a library, etc.) Yes, we are wusses, but at least we tried it the other way and it was a disaster. Live and learn, and Never do again. Hopefully we can get enough women interested to get this started. I'm nervous we won't find enough women, it's so hard to meet people with your same interests outside of college. And it's also hard to get women with families and other commitments to commit to meeting regularly. We're going to start with every other week and hopefully if it goes well upgrade to every week. I'm super stoked (yes, I did use the word stoked and I love it) and can't wait for this to get off the ground. If you live in the Cincinnati are and aren't a crazy, leave a comment and maybe we can figure out how to meet.

Don't forget, no penises allowed.


Brett Battles said...

Not in Cincinnati. Not a woman. But I encourage and applaud your efforts to get a group together. Writing groups, we everyone is working to make everyone else better not prove that they are better than everyone else, are invaluable. I would have never sold my novel without the group there to encourage me and show me where I went wrong. Good for you. And even if there are only two or three of you to start, don't let that discourage you. Two people helping each other is light years beyond doing it on your own.

On the rejection letter front, you are definitely on your way! I still have all mine. Probably over 200 for several different novels. Now I've got a 3 book deal with Bantam Dell. Just keep going, you'll make it! (My favorite rejection was my query sent back with a small ink stamp in the upper right corner "NOT FOR US." I'm going to title a book that someday!)

Never stop.

mai wen said...

Thanks so much for your encouragement! That's one of the most invaluable aspects of a writing community, the encouragement and support writers give each other. It's also very inspiring and hope filling to hear of your struggles getting published, and then success! Congrats big time, I'm always excited for writers who make it through. I'll keep you updated on the progression of my future rejection notes and my writing group. :)

Brett Battles said...

Please, do. Seriously.

The support in the writing community is something that surprised me, too. I've had tons of help from established and newbie writers. It's a great thing!

Bill Cameron said...

Used to be in Cincinnati, but have never been a woman. Am a Miami alum though, so there. (I am a Western College person from many eons ago.)

I am in a very effective writing group right now, men and women both, and we are currently in the process of growing. We definitely get the weirdos. In fact, I half think we got that basement-drinking guy you had a few months back.

What works for us is we always meet somewhere public. Lately it's been a centrally located pub, but we've also met at coffee shops and diners. (I always liked the Highland Coffee House in Cinci -- is that still there?) If nothing else, it means you don't have to worry about prospective weirdos coming to your home.

Another thing we do is have pretty strict written guidelines that we provide to prospective members in advance. Things like, "criticism must be constructive," (duh, you'd think); "each piece must be read at least twice before comment;" and "prospective members must submit a writing sample in advance."

That last helps us find people who are actually writing, as opposed to those who want a support group or to meet chicks. We're not real critical of the submissions (we're about getting better, after all), but we do want people who really want to grow as writers. I have to say that the group has been instrumental in me reaching that magical moment you've gotten so close to -- published!

Good luck to you!

Derek J Rogers said...

I've been in several writing groups. Only once did we have to get rid of psychotic guy (who happened to be a guidance counselor--very scary). The best type of members are those who try to improve your writing; i.e., if something doesn't work for them, or if something could be better, the person offering the critique has a craft based concern and a suggested fix. You never have to take the fixes, but you can. More often than not, the suggested fixes make you reinvent the scene or chapter or dialouge in your own way. Then you think, "Why didn't I think of that before?" The bottom line: a good writers' group, in my mind, should periodically be a brainstorming sessions about how each project can move from good to excellent. That's just my opinion, and I'm sticking to it.


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