On rejection and persistence

April 25, 2009

“Rejected is such a harsh word….I prefer…declined,” a friend wrote to me after I Twittered about a recent rejection.

While I appreciate her sentiment and her affection, a rejection by any other name still smells not sweet.

I’ve started to send out a manuscript of poems again, after a few year hiatus. I’m targeting a select list of publishing houses that have open submission periods. So I need to steal myself against rejection, knowing how few books of poetry get published each year.

There are a few first book contests I’ll probably enter as well (I’ve come close a couple of times with an earlier iteration of my ms), but the fees have gotten higher and I’m not convinced that’s the way to go.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had either the time or inclination to submit, but I’ve worked over this manuscript quite a bit these past few years.

I have sent it — or a slightly different version — to two poets with whom I’ve studied or worked in the past, and they have both said it’s ready. And the bulk of the poems have been published in journals or magazines, both in print or online.

Nothing prepares you for rejection, however. When that note comes in the mail or over email it is still like a slap in the face. And yet, as another friend once told me, you need to just look up who is next on the list and send it out to them. It’s like an assembly line.

So, I accept that a certain publisher didn’t find room on its list for an important first book, that they rejected it or declined to take it on, and I’ll move on to the next on the list.

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