Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rejection, Voice and Ten Thousand Years

by Tamara Passey

I received  rejection letter for a short story. It did NOT look like this:

Most honorable Sir,
We perused your MS,
with boundless delight. And
we hurry to swear by our ancestors
we have never read any other
that equals its mastery.
Were we to publish your work,
we could never presume again on
our public and name
to print books of a standard
not up to yours.
For we cannot imagine
that the next ten thousand years
will offer its ectype.
We must therefore refuse
your work that shines as it were in the sky
and beg you a thousand times
to pardon fault
which impairs but our own offices.

Rejection letter from Chinese publisher, from Louis Zukofsky’s “A”

Ah, they just don’t write ‘em like they used to.
I submitted a short story to an unnamed publisher and the letter I received, (well it was an email) started with “Dear Author” (–which I thought was really cool until I came across the “Most honorable” bit.)
I won’t quote the whole letter here, just the one line that cut to the chase:  “Although we did not offer to publish your manuscript, we encourage you in your endeavors to get it published. . .”
See how they quickly followed their rejection with encouragement? Nice, hunh?
I was feeling pretty good and then read near the bottom of the page:
“This is an automated message. Please do not reply to this email.”

There you have it. A punch line disguised as a rejection letter.
I had a good laugh. Hey, I’ll take all the encouragement I can get, generic or otherwise.

Which brings me to voice.
Have you heard the ad campaign, (don’t ask me which one because I really do not pay close enough attention to the tv when its on) “Find your voice and use it?” Don’t know what they are advertising, but I may be putting that with my other writing mottos –I can do that, right? Anyway, my point about voice is that when we find it, we can withstand the rejection. Have you seen the movie (or read the book) The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio? Based on a true story of a 1950’s housewife with an unhappy, alcoholic husband and lots of kids, she enters jingle contests and wins lots of prizes and *spoiler alert* ultimately enough money to pay the 2 mortgages on their house. Of course she finds a little contesting group who support each other in entering the contests. It’s been years since I’ve seen this movie, but somewhere in the beginning, the wife is narrating and says something to this effect – about her abusive husband, “don’t blame him, he lost his voice, but I found mine.” Finding her voice, writing and pursuing her dream, allowed her to withstand the difficulties she faced raising lots of kids with little resources or support from her husband. (At least in the movie version, we find out after he dies, he had put all his pension checks in an account for his wife.)

Whatever it is in your writing journey, rejection letters, brick walls, crashed computers, crying kids, you know, not enough chocolate: KEEP WRITING. Find your voice and use it. For your sake, and mine and all the lives you will touch with your writing.

You never know. Yours just might be the writing that “the next ten thousand years will not offer its ectype” And yes. I looked that up. It means: A copy from an original, an imitation or reproduction.  Happy writing!


  1. Aw, sorry about the rejection letter. But hey, J.K. Rowling got like, TEN rejection letters before finally getting Harry Potter published. And look where she is now! A millionare! I bet she sits in her hot tub of money thinking, “HA! Those rotten publishers who rejected me...GO EAT DIRT!”

    Or maybe she isn't as mean as I think she'd be.

    I like your blog. :-)

  2. It would be nicer to receive a rejection letter like the one on top. But I'm sure the automated program that sent yours out had a tear in it's virtual eye. It's a depressing job for a mailbot.

  3. eeshie - thanks. I like your blog too. The pics of princeton are awesome!
    charmaine - lol.

  4. I think that's what I've been trying to do since I started to write a few years ago--find my voice, and I mean this in more than the technical sense. I'd been a stay-at-home mom for over twenty-some years at the time I discovered my love for writing stories. Its been my undying passion, and soon I hope it will be my career.

    Sorry about your rejection. I know I'll be experiencing the sting of the form letter too, but this is okay. I'll be in good company.



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