I got my first official rejection letter today. I say official, because I’m counting the nine instances of silence as rejection as well, even if that was just dialogue between me and cubicles of crickets.
And even though I begged out loud often and again for something, anything—I’d been sending out so many emails and hadn’t heard anything back, at this point I just wanted confirmation that I even existed—the rejection letter wasn’t quite what I was after.
I submitted to the site that rejected me mainly because while they couldn’t pay writers, they guaranteed you feedback with a yes or no answer within two weeks of submission. And after six months of silence, feedback was worth its weight in gold.
I had to laugh at their response—it was a no because the comedy site doesn’t accept personal essays, and they thought my piece “I Briefly Skimmed the Contents of 24 Self-Help Books in 24 Hours on the ‘Look Inside’ Feature on Amazon, Here’s What Happened” verges into the personal essay territory.
Which means that someone out there actually thinks that I holed myself up in my parents’ basement (note: my parents don’t even have a basement as this isn’t Kansas, it’s California, we just have sturdy door frames) and tried to sort all my shit out during one calendar day, so that I could use the other 364 to live a fuller and more meaningful existence. During which time I may or may not have been swigging from a carton of quinoa, counting how many times the word ‘secret’ appeared in The Secret’s table of contents, and declaring that Googling Eckhart Tolle and gazing into his eyes is essentially nirvana. (Well, that last bit really did happen, have you seen those baby blues??)
And even though it really was a lovely rejection letter indeed—two of the three sentences had exclamation marks on the end, and they asked me to please submit again—it still stings. And I still cried. (But that’s not saying much, a few weeks ago I bawled my eyes out when the quote on my tea bag told me to practice more self compassion. It was just *sob* so *sob* right! *sob*)
I didn’t cry at the actual rejection letter, I just talked to my cat in a solemn voice and reassured her that I had just asked the abyss for emails, I hadn’t specified positive emails from people who love my work and want to publish it.
After which I instinctively Googled ‘Meg Cabot rejection letters,’ and that’s when I cried. I found a piece she’d written called ‘My First Sale’ about her two years of rejection letters from agents almost daily (except for Sundays or major holidays, when there was no mail delivery). Meg kept them all in a U.S. postal mail bag tucked away under her bed so that when she got published she could
a) sneer at everyone who’d rejected her
b) show the bag to school kids and tell them never to give up on their dreams
Fast forward to the modern day princess/paranormal guru, and she says the bag is way too heavy to carry, so she can’t actually take it to schools (although she does go to schools and tell kids to never give up on their dreams), and she’s never sneered at any of the people who rejected her, because sneering isn’t very princessy.
But I don’t write about princesses, so I don’t have to worry about that. I’ll write about ninjas, or killer sharks or something that doesn’t have issues with sneering, and I’ll sneer away. And if I rationalize hard enough, I just may be able to justify a cheeky forklift purchase to haul all my letters from school to school.
I printed out the rejection email, and pinned it to my wall. I’m sure I’ll run out of wall space soon, and will opt for stacking them in a corner. Until they outgrow their corner and migrate to the garage. And I’ve no doubt one day they’ll rival Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout’s garbage mound.
But for now my sole letter sits pinned, temporarily lonely, making eye contact as I type. Reminding me to be grateful that someone wrote back, and that no, my email’s not just broken when it comes to editors.