Industry Insiders: Dealing with Rejection
/by Karen Graham/
I started blogging over two years ago while I was in limbo between finishing my Masters degree and starting my PhD. I’d not long started a new job and I was determined to get back to writing creatively. The blog was my way of forcing myself to write routinely and on a wide variety of topics. I was looking to find my ‘voice’ again, one that wasn’t academic. Not long after starting the blog I received a rejection letter, which I wrote about in blog post called ‘Dealing with Rejection’. I didn’t state it explicitly in the post, but my application to do a PhD was rejected by a Professor who greatly informed my MLitt Dissertation. I was so gutted; I was practically inconsolable and I worried my other-half so much that he called my Mother. I remember exactly how it felt, but I also remember the moment when the penny dropped, and I realised that it was for the best. I am now working on that same PhD at a different University, and I couldn’t be happier with my supervisor and the academic environment where I am.
Last year I was also made editor of New Writing Dundee 6. It’s a literary anthology that publishes short fiction from both public submissions and invited authors, and last year the public submissions were in the triple digits. Working on the project was quite fun, until it came to sending out the rejections.
I came back to work after a long absence, and had the task of contacting everyone who had submitted to NWD to let them know if their piece was successful. I didn’t think much about the email as I sent it off, it was just one of the things I had to get done and it was long overdue – for all sorts of reasons. I should have emailed everyone earlier, or at least let everyone know that the decision making process was taking much longer than expected. Valuable lessons have been learned for the next publication, but not once did it cross my mind what it would be like on the receiving end of the New Writing Dundee rejection email.
This was really brought home to me, however, when I discovered that I follow the blog of one of our submitters who didn’t make the long list. Having a strong online presence is such a big part of ‘making it’ as a new writer, that it’s not too much of a surprise that I wasn’t so far removed from someone on the receiving end of that rejection email. They posted their reactions to the rejection in much the same way as I discussed my feelings of rejection on my blog. Only then did it really hit me that I’d just told a bunch of writers that their work didn’t make it this time. I really wanted to be able to turn back time, write to them individually, give them feedback and tell them that it’s not as personal as it seems. I wanted to tell them that this side of the publishing industry is so subjective, and that just because their story or poem wasn’t picked up this time it doesn’t mean that will always be the case. But that’s not how this works, and even if I did have a time machine it wouldn’t be possible.
If you are reading this after having received a rejection, please know that when editors say ‘I am sorry you didn’t make it’ and that you really should keep submitting your writing, we mean it.