My First Rejection Letter

18 Dec

I knew this day would come, but being so close to the holidays, I was hoping to put it off. My first rejection letter came in the mail today. I just had a feeling it was a rejection letter as soon as I looked at it, not even touching it to see how thin it was. My heart seemed to stop when I saw my name in my own handwriting and a return address with a journal title. I imagine many of you reading this have had similar experiences.

Because I felt like I knew what was coming, I made myself ready for it. I had cookies prepared in the kitchen and I put on sweat pants. If that’s not ready for rejection, please tell me what is. When I picked it up to open, I saw how thin the envelope was and my heart sank. Permission to print forms were at least one, if not two, pages and this didn’t even feel like a full page. Wouldn’t an email have been more environmentally friendly?

Unsurprisingly, there as a third-of a page letter inside addressed ‘Dear Writer.’ I won’t print it here, but it was what I can only imagine is standard. “Thanks for your submission… We receive over 2,000 during our reading period… If you’d like to purchase your own copy…” Boiler plate. Cold.

Being the child of the 21st Century that I am, I turned immediately to Facebook (for the record, my husband wasn’t home). Within minutes, support was flooding in. My non-writing friends were sympathetic (“I’m sorry, 😦 ) and also supportive (“At least you had the guts to send something, like JK Rowling”). The best advice came from AP, who insists that I frame it. KK reminded me that everyone gets turned down, even the elites of writing. It’s funny that this happened to me today because I just finished the section of Stephen King’s On Writing where he talks about how consistently he was rejected when he first started writing. So timely. Another fellow writer said she’d gotten a rejection letter herself earlier that day, letting me know I’m not alone. Nicole offered to come reenact the scene from The Proposal where Sandra Bullock dances to “Get Low” with Betty White. I’m keeping that offer in my back pocket.

It’s ironic that this came the same day my “How to Date a Writer” post went up. I’d read the list to my husband when I found it and I guess he listened well because he was very polite about the letter and wouldn’t let it get me down. He offered me caramel popcorn (not chocolate, but still delicious) and reassured me that someone would want to publish my poem. Probably the best thing said to me was when he said “At least your first rejection is a poem and not your novel.” So true, Jay, so incredibly true.

I’m fortunate that a lot of good things happened yesterday that are equaled out by the letter. I got a $50 gift card, Jay got Christmas gifts from his catechism students, I was able to blow my mother-in-laws mind with how much I write (I think) and this morning I got my company Christmas gift. But underneath all of this, there’s a voice saying “Not good enough, not good enough!” I want to punch that little voice, but he’s nagging me.

So where do I go from here? I’ll take another look at the poem, maybe ask one or two more people to read it and tell me what they think. I’ll revise it a bit and then send it out again. I’ve pulled up two magazines already. I’m determined to see it in print, whatever form it ends up taking. I’m going to start a spreadsheet and keep track of where something’s submitted and when I get rejected so I can send it again. I’m going to put myself out there and let the rejections come if they will because I won’t know what I’m lacking until someone tells me.

Reader, I’m not going to ask for your sympathy. I’ll use my mom for that if I need to. What I want to hear from you is how you deal with rejection? Does it motivate you or make you cry in the corner? Did you get a rejection letter on Monday also?

Until next time, write on.


8 Responses to “My First Rejection Letter”

  1. 2unpublishedgirls December 18, 2013 at 11:39 AM #

    I had worked out a system when I was ready to send out my novel Fallen Redemption. Each week, I would send a query to one agent and one publisher. So when a rejection letter came in, I would read it, file it, and find another publisher to send it to that week. Determination and perseverance worked for me. After four months of sending out weekly inquiries, Soul Mate Publishing gave me a contract. Don’t worry, your time will come. Just don’t give up. -RB


    • Sam December 18, 2013 at 11:41 AM #

      Thanks for your encouraging words! It’s so great to hear success stories of people who have done what I aspire to. I have one book I’m determined to see in print and another I want to see as an eBook. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed!


  2. Jools December 18, 2013 at 12:57 PM #

    I went through the exact same experience just a few weeks ago. I blogged about it here: . All I can say is, don’t be sad. Acknowledge it as the start of your adventure into the publishing world, a necessary ‘rite of passage’. For how will you appreciate when the contract finally comes, if you haven’t sampled the bitter taste of rejection?

    You were wise to line up the comfort treats – it’s the best way to deal with it. Then dust yourself off and write to another agent or several. Whatever else, never lose heart.


    • Sam December 18, 2013 at 1:30 PM #

      Thank you for the words of encouragement! I know it’s a rite of passage, but I wish a writer’s rites of passage weren’t so degrading! The comfort treats were really great because they gave me something to focus on. I’ll have to remember that for when the manuscript goes out and the rejection hurts even more.


  3. Gus Sanchez December 18, 2013 at 2:51 PM #

    Rejection letters don’t mean you’re a bad writer. They simply mean you’re not the right fit for the publisher. Or you just didn’t catch someone reading your work at the right time. Rejection letters are a badge of honor. If we could wear them, we would.


    • Sam December 18, 2013 at 2:57 PM #

      I liked the advice I got to frame it. I’m thinking that it means I had the courage to put myself out there and face rejection. I know a lot of writers who have never done that. I’m trying to find some other magazines that might be a better fit for my poem. I’m still hoping to see it in print soon.


  4. Nina Kaytel December 18, 2013 at 10:00 PM #

    I still have my first rejection letter, which was personal. They kindly told me I bored them to tears. 🙂 And its brownies not cookies xD


    • Sam December 19, 2013 at 7:56 AM #

      Brownies are a good option. I keep a box in the cupboard for emergencies and if I get another rejection before New Years, I’m calling that an emergency.


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