Rejection. I got rejected by my high school's star quarterback when I asked him to senior prom. I knew I didn’t have a shot, but I asked him anyway because I’d rather hear the no for sure than to wonder later what if he would have said yes by some miracle. I asked. He politely said he wasn’t going, but thanks. I saw him at prom with one of the most popular girls at school and that was that.
When I first got serious about submitting, I decided my first rejection was going to be by a top dog, so I submitted to The New Yorker. The. New. Yorker. A literary quarterback. This was back when they still sent rejection letters. I knew I wasn’t getting in and just wanted to feel it. I wanted to process it all before really putting myself out there. But still, when I got the rejection letter I cried. I let myself feel the rejection. It stung. And I let it sting and then I went back to submitting because that’s the only way to feel better. To get back to it. You can’t let one place dictate your writing career. You keep at it.
After that rejection, I kept writing. I did a lot of research to see what places my stories would fit best because sometimes it’s not that your work isn’t good or that they don’t “like” it, it’s simply not the right fit. Don’t send an essay to a magazine that just takes prose. Don’t send a story that is too short or long or is about love or aliens to a place that doesn’t want that. READ the magazines you are submitting to. If you don’t you are wasting their time and yours.
I have a spreadsheet of all the places I have been rejected AND accepted. There are magazines I still super-really want to get into and I keep trying. I send them new work when I think it’s a good fit. Some magazines I submit to only once and figure the sting of their rejection wasn’t as strong as I had anticipated, so I focus my energy elsewhere next time.
If you are writing and researching and having a life (like I hope you are), you only have enough time and energy to spend on submitting. Make it count. And just know rejections will happen, but so will acceptances. It’s all worth it. Now go and write something amazing and then send it somewhere and then go back to writing some more.
Cyn Vargas’s short story collection, On The Way (Curbside Splendor, 2015) received positive reviews from Library Journal, Newcity, Shelf Awareness, Heavy Feather Review, and elsewhere. Her prose and essays have been published in the Chicago Reader, Word Riot, Hypertext Magazine, Midnight Breakfast, Bird’s Thumb, Chicago Literati, and elsewhere. www.cynvargas.com
Read Cyn's essay On the Island of Quicksand.