Rejections and Acceptances

As a young poet, I remember “swearing off” journals that didn’t accept my work. Some, I was gracious enough to grant a “three strike” rule: If they rejected me three times, then I was done with them. But the big picture was just this: I held grudges and gave the mental ax to any publication that didn’t think my work suited their editorial needs.

Today I’ve risen above that kind of pettiness, but I still harbor a few of my old prejudices about journals that don’t greet me with an eloquent acceptance letter. After all, rejection is hard to take — veteran or novice makes no difference. It just so happens that I have developed a system for dealing with rejections these days:

1. When a rejection arrives, and I know the submitted work has true literary merit, I will immediately submit somewhere else.

2. If the rejection is worded in an ugly, condescending, or rude manner, then yes, I “swear off” that journal. I don’t want to be published by people who are high-minded or rude to others. Obviously, I suspend this rule for longstanding, proven journals of cultural worth. Abrupt rejections are expected from places that have made themselves landmarks in the literary landscape. They’ve earned the right to a degree of snobbishness through their history and contribution.

3. If the rejection is well thought-out and the editor has encouraged me to submit again earnestly, then I will wait for a while and try them again, if it’s a journal that I admire or one for which I feel my work is well-suited. These places are few and far between, however.

In the same vein as these rules, I also have a rule about re-submitting to journals that have published me previously: I believe in waiting at least one year before submitting to places that have published me previously. It gives the editor a breather from my work, and it also allows me to seek out other venues for my work besides those that I know are “poet-friendly.”

I believe that every writer should have some set rules about dealing with rejections, whether they mimic those above, or whether they are completely opposite of the opinions asserted here. Only through persistence and critical analysis can writers reap rewards from even the sting of rejection. It’s part of the life, and the sooner one knows how to process it, the better things become.

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