Good Rejections Suck Ass

I know I'm supposed to be grateful for receiving a good rejection. And on the most important level, I am. The fact that someone took the time to write me a note is a personally moving experience + lets me know that my writing touched someone enough for her to send me a letter written in her own penmanship, when they could have just as easily have sent me a form rejection, or gone out to lunch, or masturbated in the shower, or eaten a bowlful of black cherries. Maybe, the editor did all of things, and still sent me a hand-written letter. Who the fuck really knows? So the process of reaching out to someone, that I really appreciate. The outcome, on the other hand, just fucking plain sucks ass. I'm so sick of good rejections I could cry. In the beginning, they are encouraging little moments of artistic momentum, sent to you by the universe--or so it seems--to push you to keep writing, submitting + believing, to never give up. And write, submit + believe I have.

But I'm at the primitive (but slightly more successful) stage of my writing career now where the good rejection doesn't charm like it once did. The intention remains beautiful, but the end result is beginning to feel not only predictable but frustrating. Why do journals need a consensus when they publish pieces anyway? Why can't some editors push for the pieces they like + others simply lobby for the stories
they really want to see in print? I mean, certainly there will be much overlap of pieces editors both like, so why do I find my stories constantly dividing editors into yes + sorry-but-no camps? How scary would it be if they all actually agreed that my story was either uniformly kick-ass or uniformly shitty? I mean, doesn't art--and by that, I mean, good art--by its very nature, divide an intelligent audience? Isn't that the point? Anyway, I'm casting away my sorrow now to focus on my second novel + my story that will be coming out of Quarterly West soon. But these questions, I'm not sure if they ever go away.


On to rejections. Yesterday I received this hand-written letter from RHINO. It reads:

Dear Mr Bliss,

Thank you for your submission. We were particularly interested in "Shinjuku" [a 4am]," and it engendered a lively discussion among our editors. Although we were not able to find a place for it in the upcoming RHINO, we were nonetheless impressed with your work, and hope you will consider submitting to us again.

Wishing you continued success in your writing life.


Today, I received this rejection letter from McSweeney's after waiting exactly a year. It said:

Hi Jackson,

thanks for checking in on this one, and sorry it’s taken us so long to respond—we got sidetracked by a few special projects, and have gotten way too behind on our reading. I think we’ve finally decided to let it go, unfortunately--but please feel free to keep ‘em coming, as always. Thanks again,


What to say? I love both these journals, but I don't really have any more flash fiction I can send RHINO, sad to say, so I'm not sure I will be able to send them more material. As for McSweeney's, I'm beginning to feel like an asshole sending the fiction editor my newest short stories first (is it some weird sort of loyalty that makes me do that?) just to wait 8-12 months for my story to get rejected. That's a long time to wait before getting dumped. I mean, 5-6 months, doesn't sting so bad. I mean, 5-6 months is the standard production curve of rejection anyway. But 9-12 months? I find it so hard
not to think (read: dream) that my story has made it into the final rounds of manuscript heaven, a mythical land called McSweeneyville (the place where all fiction writers hope their manuscripts die) . I guess Aimee is right: if you don't hear from McSweeney's in a year, chances are, they're just not that interested. I guess the question now is, when do they start becoming interested? What am I doing wrong here? Are my stories not hip enough for McSweeney's? Are my male characters not broken enough? The girls, not spunky and eccentric enough?

The last piece I sent them was about a porn star who becomes a fan of a totally obscure literary fiction writer. If
that doesn't get them on board, frankly, maybe it's time I stopped trying.

Maybe it's just
not going to happen. Maybe I'm too old for McSweeney's + too young + naïve for the New Yorker. Maybe, just maybe, the real problem, is that I actually care what editors think about my writing + it bothers me that they don't love my writing the way I think they should.

Who the fuck knows?

6 Ways I've Kept Hope Alive This Month as an Emering Writer:

1. I sent BLANK to Graywolf press

2. I submitted stories to RHINO, Zoetrope, N+1, Alaska Quarterly

3. I also sent a new story to Dave Eggers (he told me he likes Africa stories back when I was a MFA student at Notre Dame, so I sent a new Africa story to his assistant, who forwarded to him for me)

4. I randomly emailed Melanie Jackson (Rick Moody + Miguel Syjuco's agent) + asked her whether she was accepting unsolicited query letters right now. Just seemed like the considerate thing to do before filling up her inbox with another pitch. Chances are, she won't let me know how considerate I was

5. Tomorrow, Lissa, Marvin + I are interviewing Miguel Syjuco in his hotel room for our debut issue of Flying Fists

6. I received a message on FB by a fan of mine who called "A Full Cellar" a masterpiece. Ah, how wonderful it is to feel like a writer + touch the contour lines of art for a second + see the social effects of your words!