Sometimes silence isn’t a rejection

Penny legs up on the bed. Happy baby.

I wrote a story a few years ago. In fact, it was a story I began writing before my stroke. It was a story I resumed writing and editing after recovering from my stroke. It was a story that led me to Kartika Review and my current position there as Fiction Editor (thank you, Sunny). It was a story that had been good to me.

It was a story I sent out about sixty times. And it got rejected about sixty times. Maybe like, fifty-seven times. I didn’t hear back from a few places (like I said, about three places)–but after awhile (a year?) I just assumed the rejection got lost in the mail or that the more passive litmags didn’t even want to bother with sending a rejection. In one case, the litmag went under.

I stopped sending the story out. In the back of my mind, I thought I would revise it further. But really, I gave up on short stories and decided to focus on my novel. So it sat on my hard drive. The characters lingered in my memory.

It’s one of a number of short stories that I wrote and never had published. Some of the unpublished stories have placed as runner up in contests, an official way of saying they had “potential,” but like one of my mentors said, “Almost still means no in publishing.”

Short stories are heartbreaking to write, for me. So much effort, such a tidy format, so much legwork to submit, and such little chance for publishing. I mean, short story collections make literary agents break out in hives. Editors will more often than not buy story collections if the writer commits to writing a novel for their second book.

So it was with both my heart and head that I decided to focus on my novel.

It was a total surprise to me when last week, an editor emailed me about the story that had been rejected about fifty-seven times. The last time I’d sent out the story for consideration was almost three years ago. It had been almost three years since they received the story. “We’d like to consider it for our next issue,” he said.

I wasn’t sure if that meant yes–but I was still shocked that it wasn’t a no, after all this time. And it did turn out to be a yes; they’d accepted my story. At last.

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7 Comments

Filed under literary magazines, Publishing, Writing

7 responses to “Sometimes silence isn’t a rejection

  1. Wow. Congratulations on placing the story!

    … but all I can say is that, however unusual it looks from your side of the fence, from this, that’s unthinkable: in the SF world, I can’t think of a single editor who would take 3 years. Of course, they usually have slush readers, and have to keep ahead of the curve to avoid alienating writers and having their magazine tank commercially. (A problem I suspect isn’t faced by literary journals, because so many more people want to sell literary short stories–so the fact writers will talk about it, and say, “Don’t send to X,” has less impact–but also because the litmags aren’t really business operations.)

    On the other hand, it seems a lot more doable in the mainstream to actually sell short story collections as your first book; in SF, you almost need to be a Ted Chiang or an Andy Duncan or a Kelly Link to do that. (And I have the impression often short story collections come out from smaller presses, these days, even for authors whose novels come out with big publishers.)

    In any case, “We’d like to consider it for our next issue,” is a pretty comical response after three years. What’s so hard about saying yes?

    Also, I can’t imagine having 60 markets to send work to! I currently have about 15 or 20 on my longlist, though half of what I write could never sell to half of that longlist or more. I’m constantly on the lookout for more places, since for some of my stories I’ve sent them everywhere feasible and there’s just no place to go next. (In one case, that’s only after five or six submissions.)

    • 3 years is pretty unheard of over here, too. I think this is just one of those extreme exception cases, one the litmag editor himself also acknowledged as a long time to wait. i doubt I’ll ever have to wait 2-3 years, again. and yah–the SF publishing market definitely has its differences from literary fiction.
      P.s. I think you should start a SF litmag, Gord!

  2. Congratulations! I love it. This blog post has kind of a watched pot doesn’t boil twist to it. Love it. Where can I read some of your short stories? I much prefer reading short stories. I just don’t have time for novels these days. But I do get hooked by a good novel from time to time. Anyway, do you have a collection I could purchase? Tweet me: @CharlesBivona .. let me know.

  3. For those of you interested in the story (FRANK AND JINDORI)–
    You can buy an issue of AZALEA here (Volume 7, 2014):
    http://www.uhpress.hawaii.edu/p-8512-azalea.aspx?journal=1

    And excerpts/abstracts (including an excerpt of my story) can be found here:
    http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/azalea/toc/aza.7.html

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