Good Rejection from the Missouri Review

Dear Jackson Bliss,

Sincere thanks for sending us " . . . " for consideration. Your work impressed the editorial staff with its unique blending of Spanish and English. Though not selected for publication, the piece makes us hope we'll see more of your writing in the near future.


The Editors

Good Rejection from Missouri Review


Thank you for allowing us to consider " . . . " for publication in The Missouri Review. The writing is stout and polished and has a strong sense of style, but, unfortunately, the story does not currently fit our needs. We appreciate your interest in our magazine and your commitment to quality writing.

We wish you the best of luck publishing your work and hope you continue to send us more selections in the future.

The Editors

Good Rejection from the Missouri Review

Though I was told that my story is too dreamy (the opposite of real) + the narrative voice is somewhat off-putting (which I don't get), nevertheless, this was a good rejection from the Missouri Review + is a nice way to end my relationship with the journal since I'm not planning on sending them anymore shit. See this entry to find out why.

Dear Jackson,

I've been asked by our editor, Speer Morgan, to notify you in regards to your submission " . . . " Though it was read and enjoyed by several editors, in the end, we've decided to pass on it. Specifically, we found the narrative voice somewhat off-putting, and though there is some very nice writing in the piece, the story somehow never quite felt real. Thank you so much for your interest in our magazine, and please submit again.


Owen Neace
Office Assistant
The Missouri Review
Please enter our spring contest: The 4th Annual Audio Competition—four categories, each with a $1,000 prize, and publication on our website.
Postmark deadline: March 15th, 2011

Good Rejections from Missouri Review + Slice Magazine

I've gotten two good rejections in the past week.

Here's the first one from the Missouri Review:

Dear Jackson Bliss,

Thank you for sending your story "****" for consideration. Speer Morgan read this piece with interest but ultimately decided it's not quite right for us.

The editors appreciate your interest in The Missouri Review and hope you'll consider sending us another story in the future. We wish you continued success in your publishing career.


Dedra Earl for Speer Morgan

And here's the second rejection from my Slice Magazine. For the record, I've received 3 good rejections from Slice Magazine in a row now, but I can't get them to bite yet:

Dear Jackson Bliss:

Thanks so much for giving us the opportunity to consider your work for Slice. Due to the high volume of submissions we receive, we regret that we aren’t able to respond to each submission personally. We’ve been thoroughly impressed by the quality of the work that we’ve received. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to include your piece in our next issue of Slice. We’d love to consider more of your work in the future, though, so please do continue submitting to us.

Best wishes,

The Editors

2010-10-19 03:54:07 (GMT +1:00)

They're good rejections, but the reality is that they're still just rejections. Ikimashō!

Why Race Still Matters in Fiction

Now I have nothing but love for The Missouri Review + I both respect + appreciate that the editors have the decency to write personal responses on their rejection letters when they like a story. That's nothing if not classy + amazing, especially for such a top-notch (if not impenetrable) literary journal. I don't even have beef with the editor that was kind enough to write me a personal response. I wholeheartedly appreciate both the gesture + her point of view. But I do have an issue with her analysis. Here's a copy of the rejection:

If you can't make out the editor's note, it says:

Hello, Your story was interesting, but I felt like you focused too much on G. being white--she's awful, certainly, but I don't see why race matters there. That being said-I loved the focus on words, and how you ended it. Please try us again soon with another piece.

Here's the deal:

While I totally appreciate the feedback + the honesty, the reality is that:

1. This short story is about race, class + love in Southern California. It even says so in my cover letter

2. The protagonist, E., a smart Chicana girl who doesn't fit in the white or the Hispanic clique, is trying to survive at a high school where rich white girls pretty much dominate. In the end, she falls in love with an exchange student from [], which drives G. (the rich, white girl) insane

3. There's only one line where the narrator overtly mentions race, when she talks about how rich white girls (especially in HS) hurt people because they can (a statement I still defend, with exceptions). And if race does matter in this story, I think it matters more in the way that being Latina in SoCal can be a huge obstacle to personal advancement. Sure, sure, any self-applied Latino can succeed, but he or she has to work so much harder for it than many white students from wealthy families who don't work half as hard. Latinos, remember, are the highest employed minority in the US. But when your parents don't speak English, or they don't speak it well, or they're working 60 hours a week, or when no one in your family has gone to college, that student has enormous obstacles to success. That's just a reality, not even a complaint really

4. Anyone who's spent time in SoCal--especially in high school--sees the blatant socio-economic rift between Latino + White Americans. It's slowly changing, but it's still a reality. My story doesn't blame white people because they're white, it shows how malicious an antagonist can be when she has money, influence + power (which, based on this country's history, is more often a white person but doesn't necessarily have to be)

5. Instead of shying away from things that make us uncomfortable (e.g. race, class, racism, gossip, jealousy) my story pretty much goes for it + tries to talk about big subjects. I'm sick of stories of paralysis, sick of stories that don't deal with the big issues, that are basically apolitical, antipolemical, self-centered little works of art that have no relationship with the greater world

6. Even if my story really did focus on race as much as the editorial assistant seemed to imply, which I think would have been totally fine, this story is above all else, a love story between a Chicana girl and an exchange student from [ ], both of whom, use words to not only express their love for each other, but also to empower themselves in a country where English is a sacred rite of passage. Beyond that, this is a revenge story, where the less-than-perfect, precocious Latina takes her revenge on the thin, rich, white, school bully who hates the fact that all of her money + power can't buy the protagonist's boyfriend. The protagonist's revenge--love it or hate it--is the way she stops feeling like a victim

7. At the end of the day, Cornell West is right: race matters, at least to people that aren't white. Race matters less to white people because they're the majority race (percentage-wise), so when they talk about how we should just focus on merit, talent, skill, intelligence, voice, stuff like that, that's spoken hegemonically: the luxury to focus on our qualities becomes a way of differentiating us when we are racially + culturally the same. But since different people from non-hegemonic races are not only treated differently by white people, but actually perceive reality differently because of this, you can see how complicated all this gets. When a white person says to his black friend: you're so cool dude, I don't even think of you as black. This is a compliment coming from a white person because he's basically saying I see the universal in you, I relate with you, I connect with you + I don't feel like race is getting in the way. But for many people of color, this is racial erasure. It's like someone taking away a unique set of experiences that have shaped you, experiences fundamentally different than those of your white friend, experiences that are often painful, contrary to those of your friends + sometimes distressing too, but experiences that your friend didn't have that affect you a great deal, whether you liked them or not.

So, I apologize for this spiel, but I bring this up for one basic reason: when the good-intentioned editor says "I don't see why race matters in this story," the problem is that for many white readers, race has never had to matter, either in life or in a story--but this is white privilege. But for me (a hoppa who looks white + is treated white/latino all the time), race matters a great deal. Race has a huge effect on how I see the world + how the world sees me. So, when conservatives argue that there's little or no racism, say in the police department, they're not completely lying, at least from their point of view. They don't see racism because they're white, wealthy + connected, + they're not usually affected by it, so you can see why they actually believe what they say (of course, some don't want to see it either because that would be a personal indictment). Ditto with fiction. When minority writers or writers from minority cultures discuss so-called minority issues in their stories that are remotely racial, social or political, white readers + editors want to know why does it have to be about race, gender, orientation, politics? Why can't it just be about people? My answer: it is about people, but people that aren't always white (or straight, or male, or politically neutral) who are never able to forget who they are, whether they want to or not. Race (like other minority cultural identities) is an everyday reality, not some thematic obsession. This is something that's hard for white readers--even the best of them--to grasp sometimes.

Good Rejection from the Missouri Review

Well, this rejection makes up for the impersonal ones I received from Tarpaulin Sky and the Boston Review. Thanks Missouri Review. Now, if only you could tell me what I'm doing wrong, I'd appreciate that:

Mr. Bliss,

Thank you for giving us the chance to consider your story [ ] for publication in The Missouri Review. Though it does not fit our current needs, we appreciate your interest in our magazine and your commitment to quality writing.

I've been a reader on your work before-- last spring's submission, [ ], thoroughly impressed me-- so I was happy to once again see your work. Again, you use such vivid, well-crafted language to bring your characters and setting to life. Ultimately, this story was not accepted for publication, but it is still a fresh, commendable piece. We look forward to seeing more of your work, and strongly encourage you to enter something in one of our contests, which are described in more detail below.

We wish you the best of luck publishing your work and hope you’ll consider sending us more in the future.


The Editors

Writing = A Viral Delusion

Recent rejections from Missouri Review,which is my fave university-affiliated literary journal in the states, as well as from The Atlantic, Smokelong Quarterly, and from Elise Proulx, a lit agent out of San Fran, has made me pensive. Not snarly as I sometimes get, but pensive. My rejection from Missouri was a fantastic one, so good in fact that I didn't understand why it got rejected, but I can't help but wonder sometimes why any of us write. why we spend so much time creating something so few people get the chance to appreciate. It's funny, sometimes I feel like being a writer is just a viral delusion. We're infected with this idea that we have something important and interesting to tell the world, even if no one else sees it, not workshop morticians or journal editors, not lazy readers or family members, not consumers of glossies or random strangers. Really, so much of what we write never reaches anyone but we refuse to accept the blatant rejection of our art that is so universal and frequent, almost conspiratorial, but not that efficient. If you took away our stories, we would be, in a word, insane. We insist on a reality no one else sees or conforms to, we tell ourselves that we are writers even if we can't live by it, even if no one reads our stories, even if journals won't publish our fiction, we insist--correctly might I add, even necessarily--that everyone has it wrong, and someday, they'll get it right.

Being a writer is like playing make-believe, trying to get everyone else to play along. But even when they do, we think two things: what took you so long, and what's wrong with you?

Rejections Make Me Listen to Gangsta Rap

I went on a marathon walk up st joe's river, near iusb, then i turned around, walked on the east race boardwalk, which i didn't even know existed all the way to the end and then back home, and i did all of this listening to glock-obsessed rap music that put some attitude in my head nodding. This put me in my gangsta mode to deal with this shit. . .

I know this is the name of the game, but frankly, this past week i've been getting so goddamn sick of rejections. i don't even understand how the worst story in the whole world--statistically speaking--could get rejected that many times, morever, a really good story. the numbers aren't in our favor, but still, sometimes, i still have to keep asking myself, why is it so fucking difficult to publish an awesome short story of mine, and why do i keep reading stories in journals that are like hmm, or ho-hum, and sometimes, oh nice, but almost never, holy shit. i mean, i haven't read one short story in one journal that is technically perfect yet, and that's normal, and my stories certainly aren't anywhere near being perfect either. but why can one of those great but imperfect short stories be one of mine? it's annoying the shit out me and putting me in a really bad mood today. . . hence, the ghetto star rap i've been enjoying so much. i understand now, more than ever, why there are more literary journals than there has ever been in america. paradoxically, there aren't more lit journal readers, there are just more journals, and why? cuz writers are sick of rejections. there can't be another explanation. one day, another writer says, you know what? fuck this, i'm gonna start my own shit.

I must have received 5 or 6 really encouraging rejection letters from Missouri review, but i just can't seem to get a yes from those fuckers. okay, i luv the Missouri review, but i really wish they'd finally publish one of my stories. literary publishing is like the greatest cock tease/drive by of all time.

AWP Conference in Atlanta + Cave Canem

Busy week, man.

I spent 3 days in Atlanta for the AWP convention where i also:

Became friends with the editors at one story, one of my fave lit journals

Became friends with the non-fiction editor at 9th letter

Became friends with the crew at where i might become their online journal critic

Hung out with Tony d'Souza who i admire for his Chicago connections, his impressive work ethic, even if he IS a complete and absolute hustler

Talked to the editors of at least 10 different journals that i have pending submissions at

Became friends with some of the mfa students at alabama

Went and heard Robert Olen Butler read

Met utahna faith in a flash fiction panel discussion, the editor that published my story, "City Lunch" in the fantastic international online journal, 3:AM Magazine

Listened to Lily and the other Chiasmus Press writers (including Lance Olsen) give an awesome joint reading (+ free mimosas, a def bribe for such an early morning reading).

Went to michael martone and john barth's reading in the crystal ballroom of the Hilton Hotel--mm stole the show, man. I bought 2 of mm's novels and chatted with him at the book signing. he even sent me 2-3 emails in the past week. He's a good guy that way.

Talked to one of the poetry editors at Tin House--jc was his name, i think

Played air hockey and won (Holla!) against Pei-Lin Lue, the Managing Editor at One Story

Met Atina, one of the fiction editors at red hen press, one of the better indie presses, this one, out of LA

Met fred ramney, one of the publisher's at unbridled press, who gave me his card after i told him about my novel and the interest that publishing luminaries like Lynn Nesbit has shown the manuscript so far.
--And we take agented and unagented fiction, he explained.

Picked up something like 25 free lit journals from the AWP Book Fair

Smoked 3 cigarettes (bad Jackson!) and drank lots of Heineken--all of which tasted fantastic

I submitted stories to:

Michael Martone
quick fiction
the greensboro review
mid-american review
missouri review
9th letter
dave eggers
cream city review
tarpaulin sky
colorado review
smokelong quarterly
blood lotus
miranda literary review
word riot

Also, i went and heard Cornelius and Yusef Komunyakaa read tonight at the Cave Canem conference reading.

Literary Journals

Here are the journals that have sent me rejections recently:

The Seattle Review
The Hudson Review
Kenyon Review

And yet, after collecting enough rejection slips to pad my entire apartment with, I feel good about my writing. Call it delusion.

Recent journals I've submitted to are:

One Story
Indiana Review
Our Stories
Double Room
The Missouri Review
Tin House
Mcsweeney's online
OV Book anthology
Quarterly West
Black Warrior Review
Iowa Review
Story Quarterly

Really, these journals are out of my league. not because of talent, but because i'm lucky if readers look at more than one paragraph, but that's fine because i believe in apprentissage. and i feel like things will work out, and when they do, and when they have, i appreciate it even more.