I don’t know whether to jump for joy or jump off a cliff over this one.
As writers, we often spend many hours preparing a manuscript—writing, editing, rewriting, listening to critiques and rewriting again—only to send it off to a literary journal or ten, into that black hole known as “submissions.” Ninety-nine percent of the time we wait anywhere from a few weeks to several months to receive a response, which is usually a form rejection letter or e-mail, or an acceptance. A very few times, among all the rejections, is a note from an editor.
I received one of those last week, handwritten from Holly MacArthur, Managing Editor of Tin House, one of the best known and highly respected literary journals in the country. Here’s what she wrote: “Alas the editors have decided to pass. There were mixed opinions, but all agreed you have great promise.” There was also a handwritten note from the initial reader that was very nice as well.
I’m encouraged, of course, that the editors at such a prestigious publication believe I have promise, but it’s also incredibly frustrating to know my story came so close without making the cut. I can’t help imagining how ecstatic I would have been had the story been accepted at this stage of my writing career (I’ve been at it for two years and have had one other story published). I would have told everyone—my classmates in the MFA program at Whidbey, my local writing group, my family, friends, people I passed on the street . . .
But not to be. After all, it’s really just another rejection, although a nice one. I wonder if all the pinpricks the writer’s soul endures on the way to success ever heal when that success is achieved. I hope to be able to let you know.