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. 

Ten Years Learning How To Be A Poet – Part One: Submitting And Publishing

2022 marks ten years since I first read my own poetry in front of a live audience. I was lucky enough to be invited to respond to the displays at the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery in Shropshire. My poem ‘The Boats’ was perhaps one of the shortest pieces on the launch night, and I was also horribly late due to a misread signpost, but it was a fantastic experience and one that pushed me towards open mics. I will not sure share the bio that I wrote for the Shrewsbury Museum, as quite honestly, I reread it and cringed. I was far more confident as an eighteen-year-old than I am at twenty-eight, which raises the question of what else may have changed about me and my poetry since then. What have I managed to learn over ten years of writing, performing, and publishing? More importantly, would it make a good series for my blog? Somewhat wonderfully, I have poetry on display in a museum again this year, this time in Nantwich, Cheshire. It seems like a very good point to pause, and take stock.

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SHOP

Carol J Forrester lives in Cheshire with her husband and their fish. She wanted a dog, she got koi instead. After growing up in the glorious greenery of North Shropshire, and spending her childhood exploring the countryside around her parents’ farm, she moved to Bath for university, then to Crewe to live and work. ‘It’s All In the Blood’ is her first full poetry collection, and covers topics such as family, ancestry, feminism, mythology, mental health, and how a rural background can shape you as a person.

“These deftly written poems cover all aspects of life in a farming family from the hardships of lambing and the contradictions of relationships, to a world of Bic razors, children’s games and old teapots. The poems are vivid and confidently crafted, including effective use of myths and legends which counter the muddy boots of everyday survival. A most promising debut collection.”

Helen Kay The Poultry Lover’s Guide to Poetry’ (Indigo Dreams), ‘This Lexia & Other Languages’ (V. Press)

A bold, brutally honest and dazzling debut collection that insists on being read. Forrester tempts the reader with arresting and hypnotic poetry that leaves an urge to research and ponder each subject she touches upon: Poseidon, Persephone, the literary flowers of Offred and Mrs Dalloway, farming ancestry, death, female identity. The whole rainbow of emotion is explored. The title alone of ‘Zeus Is Spear Fishing Over Stranraer’ is a whole poem in itself. Beautifully written and a voice to watch out for.

Deborath Edgeley ‘Testing the Delicates’ (Amazon), Wilkommen Zum Rattenfanger Theatre’ (Amazon)

New Year, New Decade, So What’s The Plan? #WeekendCoffeeShare

A few years ago I decided that I wasn’t going to bother making New Year’s resolutions anymore. The fact was that whatever I ‘resolved’ to do, I always ended up feeling like I’d failed by year end. So instead I set myself a number of goals that I wanted to achieve at some point in the year, and then periodically I would sit down and review my progress towards those goals.

CoverThis year I had a few things that I really wanted to achieve, number one on that list was publishing my poetry collection ‘It’s All In The Blood’. The collection launched in November and is now available to purchase through Amazon, so I’m counting that as goal achieved.

It’s even had it’s first review:

Quietly powerful, heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time

I’m quite chuffed with that as far as reviews go.

My other main goal for the year was to complete my AAT exams, and on the 19th December I found out I’d achieved 87% on my Personal Tax exam which means that I’ve passed all my level four assessments! Now I’m just waiting for my work experience submission to be reviewed as part of my application for full membership to the AAT.

So what now?

The next step on from AAT will be CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) but I’ve decided to hold off for a few months and focus on my writing and my drawing. The last couple of years I’ve been trying to juggle study, writing, and a social life with varying success. For a couple of months I want to work on finishing the draft of my novel, improving my sketching skills, and writing some new poems. At the start of December I decided to have a go at a few of the DoodleWash December Prompts and I’ve been pretty happy with how most of them have turned out. I’ll admit that I didn’t draw ever day but I’ve been drawing a lot more than I was so that’s the main thing.

 

A new year also means a new monthly speculative prompt. Some of you might have noticed that there wasn’t one for December. The official reason was ‘a Christmas break’ the unofficial reason is ‘oops, I forgot.’ However, the January prompt is now up and ready for you all to take part.

Self-Publishing: Planning A Launch, Holding The Proof

Back in June I talked about my plans to self-publish my poetry collection, in a post I called To Self-Publish Or Not To Self-Publish? That Is The Sleep Depriving Question. In all honesty, it really was a tough decision to make, and I questioned myself every time I told someone I was self-publishing because I almost always got the same response.

‘Oh, why have you decided to go down that route?’

At that point in the conversation I could point them towards the blog post where I list all the reasons I decided to go down that route.

Of course it wasn’t all smooth sailing from writing that post to finalising the manuscript. There were moments where I wondered if I was making a huge mistake and if I had made the right decision to following this path. However, today I finally felt that it was all worth it. Today I got to hold the proof copy of my poetry collection in my hands.

 

There are still a few tweaks to be made before I’m happy to hit that publish button. The font for the page numbering needs adjusting and I want to give all the poems one last run through for typos, but overall I’m really happy with how this book has turned out.

I have to say a massive thank you to Caroline Layzell for designing the cover, and to Helen Kay for helping to edit the collection and Deborah Edgeley for helping to blurb it.

Now I’m moving on to planning the launch night (November 30th) and finding poetry events to read a few of the poems at. The book itself should be available to buy from the 30th November onward.

It’s real, I’m holding it, and I’m very happy that I did decide to go down the route of self-publishing. I’m not losing sleep anymore.