Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Maybe I’ve mentioned it before, but at my age, and with about forty years of writing and submitting my writing to agents, editors, and publications, I’ve just about had my fill of rejection. Oh, sure, I know: “You can never give up! You owe it to yourself! If you don’t put your work out there, it’ll never get accepted! You gotta be optimistic!”
But, kids, listen. There comes a point where you just can’t do it no more. Your pride won’t let you. Your sense of dignity.
Case in point, I recently submitted an essay to the online outlet, Vox, and never heard back. That’s their way of rejecting you. The same thing happened with Salon with a different essay. And the esteemed Kenyon Review turned down yet another essay, though at least they provided a standardized no-thank-you letter, as in days of yore.
None of those really bothered me. I expected them.
No, the one that bothered me, and bothered me too much, considering my mature zen state, was when an online publication of no particular cachet turned down the Vox essay. I don’t want to say which outfit this was, in case you put terrific stock in it, but something about the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.
It bugged me, for one thing, that I had to submit via Submittable and pay a $3 submission fee. That’s how much I believe in this essay: $3 worth. And because of some encouraging things the editor said in responding to my earlier pitch, I was willing to pay because I was pretty confident that she’d take the essay. After all, it’s an online publication. There’s no cost to publishing something online. Maybe $3, but I’d already covered that.
It bugged me more, however, that in rejecting the piece, the editor laid out a number of reasons that suggested she hadn’t taken it in the spirit in which it was intended, i.e., tongue-in-cheek satire. Even though I told her up front it should be classified as humor, she read it as if it were scholarly analysis and thus found it lacking.
I admit, I’m kind of a Charlie Brown at this point, thinking with each submission that this time, this time I’ll be able to kick that football.
And I know — I know — every editor has the right to publish whatever she wants, and only what she wants. I also know that I’m new to essays and it’s possible that what I think is relevant and sharp as hell actually reads like warmed-over Cream of Wheat. But I also also know that I’m about to turn 59 and I’ve been around the flippin’ block. I don’t need to hear why a 30-year-old editor disagreed with my opening premise and found some of my arguments to be “straw persons.” (Yes, her words.)
Have I learned my lesson?
Let’s just say I’m about to send something to The New Yorker’s “Shouts & Murmurs.” Stay tuned …