The 100 Rejections Blog

100 rejections challenge entry by kris faatz

Maybe I should start with the good news. My first novel, To Love A Stranger, is coming out next summer from Blue Moon Publishers in Toronto. If I added up all the rejections I’ve had for that novel, from editors, agents, and contests – and if I could pretend they all came in over the last hundred days – I could single-handedly fill up Kaaterskill Basin’s challenge, with some rejections left over.

I’m very glad the book will see daylight, after years of trying, and I’m very grateful to my indie publisher for taking a chance on a book that many people told me was less-than-marketable because of its literary nature. Right now, though, I find myself in a different place, one I’ve never seen before, and I wish I had a road map.

Over the years that I’ve been writing and submitting, I’ve gotten more used to rejection. Short-story rejections (mostly) slide off, now that I know that every story will go out multiple times before it finds a home. (So far, my record is thirty-three.) Rejections of my novel, though, were excruciating. All writers know how much of ourselves, how much of our souls, we put into our work. When you’ve devoted the best of your time and energy, for years, to one project, it’s hard to tell yourself that rejection isn’t personal.

The first agent who read my book told me, in declining it, that it focused too much on “minute” and “mundane” events. I remember the hideous burning, stomach-dropping feeling I got when I read that. Oh, God, she’s right. This book is four hundred pages of nothing. I’ve been working on it for five years. How could I be so stupid?? I remember telling myself, that day, that I was going to give up. Submitting my novel would only result in big doses of pain that I couldn’t handle. No point in trying.

Things didn’t turn out that way. Now, though, as my publisher encourages me to build my reader base and support this first book in every way I can, I find myself stalling out. I tell myself I should be thrilled, but sometimes, all I can hear are the rejections. The reasons why this book wasn’t “good enough” for someone. The reasons why someone felt it didn’t deserve to “make it.” Those words have stuck with me, and they make it harder, now, to do what needs to be done for my work, as it goes out into the world.

Somewhere, deep down, I know the book does deserve it. There’s a reason why I’ve loved it and stood by it for all these years. To go forward, I need to remember that reason. Rejection does stay with you, though. Whatever the old playground rhyme said, words do hurt.

In the end, I think, all of us owe it to ourselves to believe in our work. We need to remember, and tap into, the feelings that drove us to write that project in the first place. Joy. Despair. Love. Heartbreak. Those feelings lit fires inside us and we had to let those fires flame into words on the page. And then we had to share those words with anyone who might listen.

Always, always, our work is worth the time and energy and love we give it. Always, always, it can shine a light on our corner of the world, if we’re not afraid to share it. We can’t ever forget that.

So go out and light your fire. I want to see it.

Submitted and rejected on the same day. If a journal doesn’t want my work I like to know about it quickly. I’d rather get an acceptance though. Being the first of my rejections for this challenge (believe me, there are plenty more behind me) it still stung a bit but I’m trying to get on board the rejection train and be excited about putting my work out there more!

-Michelle


Three poems, rejected. My previous comment about about choosing markets made me think about what factors go into choosing publications to submit my work to. After gathering a list of publications I think would be right for the piece and vice versa from an aesthetic and content perspective, I generally don’t submit to a market that has an acceptance rate too far below what I think is in my reach for a certain piece. Of course there’s absolutely no way to know. But you can make an educated guess. And I hesitate to submit to a market that doesn’t take simultaneous submissions unless they have a somewhat reasonable response time and respond to all submissions. So I have to amend the previous statement that I didn’t take response rate into account at all for any fiction or nonfiction pieces. Rather, I take response rate into account for pieces I’m submitted to markets that don’t take simsubs. In that case, response time definitely plays a role. Especially if I’ve identified several potential markets for the piece and one or more of them have submission deadlines in the near future.


15%

Four poems. I know I said earlier that I have a thing against cutting and pasting correspondence, but I think an exception can be made when there is absolutely no identifying information.

I just received this gem of a rejection, in its entirety with no greeting or signature:

“I’m sorry to have to say no.”

Well then.

15% and going strong!


Rejection #10: 10% done.

This one was for a poem that I wrote specifically for the submission. It was a new type of poem I’ve never tried before, and I suppose this means I’ll need to practice a bit more. This is day three and I’m at 10% of the goal. So far I’m going it solo, but you know what? 10 rejections in three days makes me confident that I can knock out 100. I have around 50 submissions in queues right now.

And it’s made me wonder whether I write and submit a lot more than other writers with similar circumstances (day jobs and/or primary parent status). I truly don’t know. I’m not a person who wakes up and writes for two hours every morning. I do my writing in between freelance jobs, during my toddler’s naps, and late at night. It would be very difficult to figure out how much time I spend doing it, because it’s in all the crammed in hours of the day when I’m not doing all the other things I do.

It doesn’t matter, I think. I don’t think there is a certain amount of writing a person needs to do per day, or an amount that tips over into too much. I certainly don’t believe there is a magical “writing time” of the day. I know people swear by early morning, but even if I had no morning conflicts, my brain is useless at that hour. The best writing I could probably do at the hour when writing gurus often insist writing should happen is shading my eyes from the sunlight with one hand and swatting keys at random with the other.

Ten percent in just three days! Woo!

I am a rejection machine.


Thoughts on rejections 6-9:

Rejection nine was for a nonfiction publication. I have yet to garner an acceptance for nonfiction, interestingly enough, not counting academic publications from back in the day. I’ve been trying to break into that genre for a while now, and no luck.

Rejections six through eight were for a poetry contest. Contests are always a little tougher, but the hopes are always a little higher too. Not many markets are still paying these days, and with good reason. The print world has taken an all but fatal blow in the past ten years or so, from mega media outlets down to tiny literary magazines. See how the mighty newspapers, Pulitzer Prize winning Goliaths have toppled.

Pulitzer and Hearst, they think they got us, do they got us?

No!

And now no one does. It’s wonderful, sort of, from the viewpoint of the consumer. In an academic sense it opens a can of worms, which I won’t touch as an editor of an online only, non-paying, negative profit literary magazine.

But as a writer?

It sucks not to get paid. I’m still a relative newcomer, to tell the truth, and I don’t mind “paying my dues.” I did it as an actor and a filmmaker and I do it as a writer. I majored in Theatre Studies at Wellesley College with no plan to completely fund the rest of my life as an artist. I started as a book store clerk, spent a few years as a video store clerk, and finally started collecting advanced degrees, only to end up as… a freelancer. Probably something like 5-10% of the work I do as a writer is paid. But man, it would be nice to get paid for all of it.

I envy the pros. I asked an acquaintance just yesterday if she wouldn’t mind writing a few words for this blog or doing an email interview and she politely declined as she could not take any unpaid work, and I just thought… Wow. That’s so far from my reality. I can’t help that feeling of envy.

And it’s a natural consequence of the death of print. Our literary ancestors used short stories as their bread and butter to finance their other pursuits. No more.

So I get it. And I like being out there. I like the publications my work has appeared in, and especially the ones I work on. I enjoy reading submissions as a screener, associate editor, and editor-in-chief, for three different publications. It’s interesting from all three perspectives.

Still. A contest– the possibility of being compensated, and at a rate much higher than would usually be paid even by an elite market– it’s a nice dream.


Thoughts on rejections 2-5:

Rejections two through five were poetry submissions. This challenge has given me the courage and the motivation to step beyond my comfort zone of short fiction. I have had a lot of difficulty breaking into nonfiction and poetry markets, so I embrace this challenge. Maybe by the end I’ll have a “rejection fail” or two (an acceptance!) though that’s not the goal here. I’m still really hoping not to go this solo, but if I do, I think I can still cross that finish line. 100 days is a long time and I have a lot of pieces sitting in queues or awaiting my revisions.

Revisions- a topic for another challenge. And now, a piece to read while waiting for rejections: Monica Byrne (whose short fiction we have previously featured and whose novel The Girl in the Road is an absolute must read) on her anti-resumé.


The challenge:

In which we set the goal of logging 100 honestly won rejections in 100 days.

What do we mean by honestly won?

We mean these are sincere efforts. We’ve spent time crafting and editing our submissions until they are ready, thoughtfully seeking out markets that are appropriate for them, and following submission guidelines. There are no throwaways here. Every submission is an honest and sincere effort to secure a publication for a piece we’ve worked hard to polish.

Read more

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