On Writing · Publishing

Rejections Suck but Don’t Stop Writing


I’d like to take you through my week in rejections.

Last Friday, I received a rejection letter via e-mail. I’ve taken the name of the competition out of the letter as well as the person who’s name was at the bottom of the message.

Dear Entrant:

Thank you for entering THE CONTEST. Although your essay wasn’t chosen as a winner, we appreciate the time you took in entering and encourage you to keep writing. There were 524 essays received this year and the judges had their work cut out for them!

In the Human Interest category, one local winner with two honorable mentions was chosen. One global winner and three honorable mentions were chosen. In the Humor category, one local winner and one honorable mention was chosen. One global winner and four honorable mentions were chosen. Quite a few essays received separate comments from the judges and, if yours did, I will be sending you those comments in a separate e-mail within the next couple of weeks.

Please visit our website at WEBSITE to view all the winning entries and we hope you will enter again in 2014. Until then, “Hook ’em with the lead, hold ’em with laughter, and exit with a quip they won’t forget!” 

I wasn’t totally heartbroken that my piece didn’t get accepted. I was happy with it, but I didn’t feel like it was superb. I was hopeful but not telling myself that I had it in the bag. When I say I wasn’t totally heartbroken, I mean that it still hurt to receive the letter. Especially because they couldn’t even take the time to put my NAME in the form letter response. DEAR ENTRANT. Thanks.

Also, when receiving a rejection letter, I don’t think it’s appropriate to tell the rejected where to go to see the list of unrejected. We, the rejected, know where to go to find the winners. We don’t want any shortcuts in getting there at the exact time of rejection. Maybe after we cool off, we’ll take a look…probably not. If it happens, it happens later. Much later.

I received the following rejection letter via email today. Again, I have removed the name of the competition.

Dear Vanessa,

Thank you for submitting your prose and photography to the CONTEST. As you may well imagine, we receive many submissions; however, we cannot accept all that we receive and are given the difficult task of choosing very few per issue. While we read and considered your work with interest, we regret that we cannot accept it at this time.


We wish you the best of success in placing your work elsewhere, and in your future writing and artistic endeavours.



The Editorial Staff


At least these folks stuck my name at the top of the form letter.


What doesn’t help is telling the rejected how many people submitted. This doesn’t make me feel any better. In fact, it makes me feel worse because of that giant number of submissions – OTHER writers were chosen.

Did they really ‘read and consider my work with interest’? Maybe. Maybe not.

My heart had been wiped due to the rejection I’m about to share, otherwise, this e-jection would have crumbled it.

I received one other actual typed-on-paper letter of MASSIVE rejection this week. I spent hours on the application. It was for a grant. A BIG MONEY grant. A grant that would have paid me to work on my writing. My hubby pulled the envelope from the mailbox. I was at the dinner table with the kids getting ready to eat when he handed it to me. I handed it back. I couldn’t open it. My appetite sank to my toes and stayed there. I told him to open it. That probably wasn’t the nicest thing I’ve ever asked him to do. I told him not to say anything no matter what the decision. He read it. Closed it. Shook his head no. A spark of ‘maybe he’s joking’ flashed in my mind, but the look on his face meant business.

I bowed my head. And. I. Cried.

Yes, I actually cried. I couldn’t help it. Poor kids, one second mommy’s fine, eating dinner, being happy, the next, she’s crying her head off. Miller put her hand on my arm and asked if was sad. My hubby told her yes.

Sad. Disappointed. Tired. Of. The. Rejection. But mostly sad and disappointed.

I’m not gonna re-type the rejection letter. It was more of the same. More form. More thanks but no thanks and we’re not telling you why.

I’m actually okay with the ‘not telling you why’ part of being rejected. That’s a lot of work for an editor. But for this one – this big one – I feel like what I want to know more than anything is if the person who read it (because it was likely one person) enjoyed it on some level, even if it wasn’t chosen…because I’ve been on juries. There were many stories I read that I liked for certain reasons, but others that I like more…

The thing is I’ve been in both shoes – the shoes of the editor/jury and the shoes of the writer. I’m in the writer shoes more often. Like, a lot more often. I’d like to take them off some days and whip them at the wall. The wall covered in rejection letters.

In fact, the night of the GRAND REJECTION LETTER receiving, I went to the movies by myself. I watched a sad and hopeful love story film. I cried during the movie but not necessarily about what I was watching. I cried all the way home. And I sat in my car in my driveway and cried some more.

I cried to the bottom…to the root of my sadness and here’s what I found as my truth:

I don’t want to die.

I don’t want to die a writer whose words don’t get read by millions of people.

I don’t want to be famous per se, but I want to write everyday and I want to be published and I want people to be affected by my words.

I don’t want to die and then my words get published and then millions of people read them.

I also felt small and alien. I was unable to find a reason for ‘being’. I mean, I was asking myself, what’s it all for? What is this thing called writing that I can’t stop doing or else I feel dead even though I’m alive? What is alive? What is humanity? What is a human?

I got all that from one rejection letter, you ask, baffled.

YES. Yes, I did.

Then, I made myself get out of the car and the brilliant light bursting off the fat, white full moon spread its lustre over me and I didn’t feel so..alien.

Margaret Atwood wrote about negotiating with the dead…and that much of what we struggle through as artists (and humans) is the fact that we’re mortal. At least, that’s what I got out of the book. At first when I read it, I thought, nah…but my nah has more frequently been a yah, these days.

I trudged up the stairs on the porch and into the house…and into the arms of my feverish five-year old – and then I was all ‘what rejection letter?’.

Perspective. Releativity. Family.

I really, really, really thought I would get the grant. I really, really, really worked my ass off with the writing.

I didn’t get it. I was sad. I AM sad, but then what?

I am not alone in my consistent receivership of rejection. All the ‘greats’ have rejection stories. One cannot give up. I’m not saying I’m one of the greats…although it’s what I strive to be as a writer.

My best friend and writing hero said that maybe the reason I didn’t get the grant was because I don’t need it to write. That right now, I’m supposed to focus on the ‘writing’ not the submitting and get my projects finished, polished and then try again. He’s probably right.

I’ve read blog after blog about writers receiving rejection letters and how daunting it is. I’ve read blogs from the editors and agents who write and send the letters. It’s not all smiles and joy for them either.

So what does my blog and my experience have to offer the world of rejection?

Probably not much. But maybe, just maybe, there’s another ‘me’ out there, getting letter after letter of ‘we regret to inform you’ and she’s on the edge and feeling like what’s the point and who am I and where do I come from…

I say look at the moon. Inhale its lustre. Don’t give up. We’re writers. We write. This is what I shift my focus back to. Letter after letter. Email after email. Cry after cry. And, no, they’re not all rejections. And I do celebrate the ‘we are happy to inform you’s. Trust me. I do.

This is it. These are the challenges. I can’t stop. Crying. Celebrating. Being rejected. Being accepted. It’s all happening becasue I’m alive. And though death will become me, what I can do in the meantime is write my little (big) heart out.