Writerly Rejections And Cheesy Cheer Ups

Building a career as a writer is always going to involve rejection and I’m no stranger to it. About mid-way through 2020 I decided I was going to start submitting properly to literary journals and websites which is a guarantee that I’d quickly find myself very well acquainted with ‘thanks, but no thanks’ emails. I’d sent off work before 2020 (as you can see by my pre-2020 publications), but this was the point I started keeping track of where, and what I was writing in a spreadsheet. 

I was lucky. The first poem on my spreadsheet (Credit Card Gal) was published by The Fieldstone Review, the Daily Drunk then accepted ‘When Medusa Goes Shopping’, and my short story ‘For The Love of Jellyfish’ ranked as a finalist in the London Independent Story Prize. In total, I sent out 14 submissions to journals, prizes, and competitions, and got back three publications. 

2021 saw 41 submissions and 2 publications, while last year I managed 29 submissions: two successful, and two which ranked but did not get any further. I’m still waiting on responses for a couple so those numbers could change just a smidge. On the whole the numbers don’t matter. I’m immensely proud of the publications I have, and I write because the words are going to come out no matter what I do. Learning to craft them into something beautiful has been a requirement for my own sanity. However, statistics (lies, damn lies and statistics) are not what I want to talk about in this post.  

I want to talk about thick skin, or more specifically, the requirement for writers to have thick skin. 

Personally, I’m relatively good at shrugging off that initial, sharp breath moment of rejection. You can often tell before you open the email if it’s going to be disappointing news. “Thanks so much for your submission” will immediately drop my heart through my ribcage, because I don’t think I’ve seen an acceptance yet that starts with those words. It’s a standard form opening for ‘thank you, but no thank you’ emails, and it does its job. My disgruntled musings do not stem from those words themselves, but the tone of the last rejection that I received. 

Before I try to  explain why this email rankled me as much as it did, I’m going to be very clear that under no circumstances should a writer ever respond to a rejection with abuse. An editor is well within their rights to pick whichever work they wish to for their publications. If you send work off for consideration, you do so in the knowledge that it might not get picked up. This I understand fully. 

The part I can’t on board with, are the form rejections that come across a bit… well, rude. 

The one I got today is three sentences long, and I know it’s a template job because it’s an exact match to the previous rejection I have from this press. I’m not going to name the press, and I will delete any comments that mention it, but here is the body of the email in full:

Thanks so much for your submission. We appreciate the chance to read your work, but unfortunately won’t be publishing it in our next issue. Best of luck with finding a home for it elsewhere.

It’s brief, it’s concise, and who knows, on any other day, at any other time, I might not have felt quite so hurt by it. But in this particular case I did feel hurt. I think it’s because it is an exact copy, which means someone is using a template and sending these out in bulk. Not an issue in itself, but if you’re going to create a template rejection for your press to use over an extended period (my first rejection was in 2021) should it not read a little less rushed? 

Form rejections are a thorny topic, and not one I think I’m in a position to solve, but I would like to suggest this:

If you’re using a template for your rejection emails, and you’re not open for submissions all year but have set windows for certain issues, perhaps tweak the template for each window. 

I’m going to leave this topic here. This is not a press I will likely submit to again because it appears my work doesn’t suit their style, or their tastes, and that’s fine. We all have different styles and tastes and part of sending out work is finding the journals that your work fits into. The initial disappointment of this rejection was somewhat mollified by my other half bringing home cheesy bites. In a couple of days I will sit down and send out more poems and maybe a short story or two for consideration with different journals, but for tonight I’m going to call time. Getting rejected sucks, but it shows I’m putting the work in. It’s still a step in the right direction. 

Time For A Change – Social Media Misery and Overhauling Writing & Works

Part of being a modern poet; is social media but as I said in my last blog, I’m crap at blogging on a regular schedule. This failing extends to my social media accounts (TikTok, Instagram, Twitter). Over the past year, I’ve slowly got my head around what I’m supposed to do with Instagram. I’ve even gotten past the initial terror of filming myself for TikTok. While my focus has shifted to those platforms, I’ve wondered what to do with this site. Part of me is keen on the whole, hit delete and start again– except that would be twelve years of work down the drain and not particularly fair on the followers who keep coming back each time my lazy arse remembers to put together something to post.

An overhaul is overdue.

Continue reading →

Poems Against Platitudes, No.7 by Carol J Forrester

Outside the sky has shifted to tin, but the rain holds off
even as the clouds buckle
thick bellies heavy against the horizon,
beached mothers in their slow, sloping movements.
A tremor that might be a plane, or a kick, or my imagination
is proof enough of life.
I needed proof today.
The world has emptied, drained out while I slept
still damp along the edges but vacant.
I need the sky to fill me up.

“Stars, Like Policemen, Often Come In Pairs” Giles Sparrow, A History of the Universe in 21 Stars (and 3 imposters)

After chapter six I get distracted, put the book down, and leave it
on a shelf with likeminded volumes of good intentions
I mean to come back to. 

Ursa Major makes a den for itself among scattered thoughts
hibernates until night unfolds, then The Great Bear yawns
stirs like memory and steps into the sky. 

It takes the right kind of observation, to find binary stars. 
They huddle so close that they obscure their own pairings,
burn as a single pinpoint to the naked eye. 

Two magnitudes in perpetual orbit, moving as one, 
two halves of a whole, it is easy to paint a romance on devotion 
so far removed. 
Our sun is solitary, though not extraordinarily so, or oddly so. 
Stars (I read) are loners just as often as couples
And it makes no difference to their brightness. 

There is nothing wrong with a little loneliness. 
Sometimes the only light you need is the one you hold
sometimes space is what makes you seen. 

#Poems Against Platitudes, No. 6 – Carol J Forrester

There were no feathers, though my father looked
torch an oily, smoking star
he bid me follow north.

We found bones.

Cracked open for their marrow, stacked
in heaps against the walls
too brittle to be clever
no matter how my father willed it.

He took one with a sharpened end
kept it in his palm, even while we slept.

I knew he feared the dark.

We ate beef, until the maggots set in
and then we built ourselves an escape
from the ruins of its ribcage.

No feathers, only broken bone.

No feathers, only broken hope.