This Writer's Life

Stick and Stones: Memoirs About the Writing Life




The Black Dogs of Rejection

Thomas Mann said, “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” We writers sweat over every sentence, agonize, rewrite, and rewrite some more. When we finally get a piece of writing ready to send out, we face that unfortunate fact of every writer’s life: rejection.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that rejections fall into a pattern. I’ve compiled a tongue-in-cheek list of the ones I encounter most often:


The Poet’s Top Ten Rejections


  1. The normal, everyday disappointment: “the New Yorker turned me down again.”
  2. The shocker: “my alumni magazine said ‘no’?”
  3. The self-defeater (also known as “pre-rejection” or “fatalism”): while browsing the calls for submission in Poets & Writers, you convince yourself not to send anything to anyone because you can already see the emails rejecting you.
  4. The Submittable message: “Your submission’s status has changed. Click here:”. The status changes from “in-process” to “denied.”
  5. The silent treatment: after hearing nothing for months to a year after you send in your submission, the journal posts the contributors to its new issue, or the winners of a contest, on its website. Your name is missing.
  6. The disappearing act: you never hear back. The website goes dark. The journal vanishes. So does your contest fee.
  7. The stalker: after rejecting you, the journal sends email after email asking you to buy the winning book, to make financial donations, or to subscribe to their magazine.
  8. The repeater: the rejection you get from the same place, over and over.
  9. The love letter: the eloquent message telling you how much the editors liked your work, but it wasn’t “quite right” for the issue, followed by:
  10. The invitation to re-submit: See #8.

Feel free to add yours!

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