On getting rejected.

It happens. Rejections, that is. In life. In love. And mostly in submitting your fiction. If you put yourself out there enough, you tend to get rejected a lot. I apply for a lot, a lot, a lot, of things. I’ve got translations out for consideration at dozens of magazines, and I applied to more summer grants, jobs, and internships than one should know exists. Sometimes I get lucky. Most of the time I don’t. And other situations are harder to read.

I just got a rejection today on a story that a professor told me was the best piece of work in my MFA thesis. I spent some time revising this story even after the MFA before submitting it to what I consider a very respectable journal. And yet, I’m choosing to see the rejection as a good thing. The editor wrote: I don’t think this story is quite what we’re looking for – a bit awkward in parts and I wasn’t crazy about the obsession over the death of a young sibling.  But . . .I did find much to like about it.  You have a way with prose and I would encourage you to keep writing. If you would care to submit with us again sometime, I would be glad to read more of your work.

So, obviously, the story isn’t going to find a home for right now. That’s OK though. Even though it helped me win a works-in-progress writing grant, I think I’ve reached a point where I’m willing to let that story go. Its telling no longer seems so urgent as it did in the past. I’m going to mine it for good sentences and details and use it as inspiration for a new, hopefully better, story. I need a stronger main character–one who the reader can root for, not just sympathize with–and she needs to be more active and less static. More dynamic. More interesting and at least in some moments, more self-assured. And maybe she needs to learn how to be all those things somewhere other than Ljubljana.

Sounds a lot like someone else I might know.

Watch out, world! This may be the death of Lila, the character who populated many of my past stories. But hopefully it’s going to be the birth of something better… just as soon as the semester is over.

3 thoughts on “On getting rejected.

  1. E. J. Taylor says:

    It’s funny to me how, in the world of fiction at least, we often measure our successes in “failures.” A note like the one you received from the editor is a success in my book. I sometimes find myself disagreeing with the comments editors have graciously provided me on my rejected stories, but I think it is a good sign when editors takes the time to write their comments out–it means they spent time with my words and thought through the story I was presenting. If our writing wasn’t close, or at least showed some signs of being publishable, they wouldn’t take the time. And so we plod on.

    I’m sorry to see Lila go, but I’m very anxious to read what’s next.

  2. kristinareardon says:

    Thanks, Travis. You’re right that it’s not a complete ‘failure.’ But maybe it was the encouragement I needed to move on.

    How is your writing going? Send me a story sometime if you want some friendly feedback! :)

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