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My All-Time Favorite Rejection Letter

Once upon a time, rejection letters from literary magazines came on slips of paper of different sizes and colors.  I have a sheaf of the 'best' ones--where the editor scrawled either his initials, or something like sorry on the standard 'thanks but no thanks' slip--which I took to mean that someone thought enough of my work to encourage me.

I mean, they see a lot of crap, right? I've read for magazines. It's enough to turn you into Simon Cowell.

My best rejection letter is on pretty, parchment-goldy paper.  This was for a set of poems, back when I was writing poetry regularly.  I won't name the magazine.  The editor hand-wrote me a letter for each set of rejected poems, the fourth one saying, "these came pretty close." Be still my heart!  The fifth one, I decided, would be it. If I didn't get in, it wasn't meant to be.

Helen W. Mallon (he wrote),

The problem here lies not in the technique but in the tenor...As an editor I have made it my position to publish only work that indicates...the life is worth living, that existence is a positive process.  Those writings of yours I that I have seen do not fulfill--to my sensibilities--those requirements.  Thank you for your continued interest.

I've been called a lot of things, but depressing isn't one of them.  Well, that was the first time.  This made me laugh so much it's probably the one rejection I least minded getting.

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How can one have a favorite rejection? Isn't that akin to having a favorite pain, or a favorite rebuff, or a favorite snub? Not that rejections should be taken personally, it’s just that they imply “you just don’t get it, do you?” and often from folks whose ability to comprehend may be marginal at best.

Be that as it may, some of the more amusing rejections I’ve seen, should you care to share war stories, are as follows.

I submitted a short fiction entitled “For a Feeling” to a magazine entitled Anthrolations in 2001. I received a two page email in February telling me in great detail that it had made the short list but both editors were confused by certain aspects of the tale and what I could do to rewrite “Humanity’s Gift” for possible inclusion in another issue. Two months later I received a terse rejection for the piece I had actually sent them, saying it was a bit too obscure. This email, oddly enough, referenced the previous email. Perhaps someone else had gotten the one meant for me in February. I was too embarassed for them to ask.

In 2006 I got one from Neo-opsis that included this rather colorful line. “Its artsy style reflects its plot, but it doesn’t pull me in.” Perhaps I should have sent her a bucket of quicksand instead.

I suppose my least favorite came from George “Alas” Scithers, the late publisher of Weird Tales, in 1994. The lines that stood out were “Good—yes, and publishable. Alas—not so irresistible that we can overlook the overstuffed state of our inventory.” He followed that by asking for more of my work and hucking subscriptions to his magazine.

None of them are my favorite anything, just examples of really bad chemistry.

Wishing you better luck with good chemistry.