I received three rejections in the mail today. Make that three more rejections. It’s not so much being rejected that disappointments, it’s being rejected so soon after submitting.
Usually, the longer a literary journal holds a submission before responding, the better the writer’s chances of it being published, the theory being that the story is making it past the first rounds of readers and is in the very small pile under final consideration by the editors. A story that is declined quickly, as were these three that I sent out a couple of weeks ago, likely means it was canned on first reading.
I often wonder, who are these first readers? It’s something literary journals never discuss. In their pages, and in seminars, the editors of lit journals talk about their preferences and literary philosophies. But the truth is, your story is not subjected to those parameters unless it gets past that first round or two of readers. And if those people don’t hold the same philosophy, or have the same level of literary sophistication, it’s quite possible it didn’t receive a fair reading.
I need to point out here that my writing ego is not so large as to think my rejections were unwarranted. And I fully understand that journals receive so many submissions that some kind of reading process is necessary for their operation. But I’d feel much better about my submissions if I knew what (or who) I was actually submitting to. Are the first readers freshman creative writing students? Grad students? People who responded to an advertisement? Someone’s grandmother? Do they have any prior experience working for a lit journal? Are they qualified or are they just helping out? Have they been published themselves?
That fact that today’s rejections all came from student-run publications was not lost on me. And I can’t help imagining my work being snubbed by some giggly nineteen-year-old who reads People magazine, watches Hanna Montana and just really, really, really wanted to be on the staff of the college journal, and took a glance at my story and decided she just didn’t “get it.”
Tell me it isn’t possible and I’ll shut up. Or maybe tell me the truth about how lit journals are run and whose standards are truly deciding what stories make it.