It’s true, I’ve let this blog stagnate for a good long while. And I’m not back out of some pent-up need to write, or because something of import has happened that I want to share with you. Nope. I’m back because The Rejectionist is giving away mix CDs to five people who write blog posts on the topic “What Form Rejection Means to Me” and, well, I’m a sucker for a mix CD. (Yes, shut up, I’m pandering. If you don’t like it, go start your own pander-free blog.)
My favorite rejection of all times was a form rejection, though of course it wasn’t just any old form rejection. No, it came from one of the most prestigious journals in Creative Nonfiction (big giant hint right there, since usually I say I write memoir) and was for a piece that I had been invited to submit, although with substantial changes–in fact, I had to shave three thousand words off of it first, which required two weeks of pretty painful editing.
The first correspondence I got from this journal was an email entitled “About Your Essay.” It had nothing whatsoever to do with my essay, of course, it was just a form offer to subscribe. I was a little put off by the tricky subject line, but like any hopeful writer, I expect journals to treat me badly and to get bitch-slapped by apologists if I complain about it. Heck, I have even heard poets defending The Paris Review’s recent decision to “unaccept” a bunch of poems. We know where we are on the food chain: at the bottom.
Still, I was surprised when I got a form rejection of only two lines on a poorly-cut 1/6 of a page of typing paper, tucked into an envelope with–of course–a large, glossy page urging me to subscribe. I don’t remember what the rejection said, but it wasn’t the wording that made it so spectacular. It was the blood.
The thing had obviously been cut from a sheet of similar rejection slips using one of those machete-on-a-block-of-wood paper cutters, and some hapless intern had cut herself on the blade. A streak of dried blood two inches long and 1/4 of an inch across ran right through the “does not meet our needs at this time” boiler-plate rejection.
And I thought, “You know, it sucks to be a writer sometimes, but it must suck to be an intern at a journal like this all the time.” So I put the three thousand words back into my essay and sent it out again. Eventually, Ninth Letter took the piece, it was awarded a Pushcart Prize, and it will be listed as a “Notable Essay” in the 2010 edition of Best American Essays.
Was it the magic vodou power of intern blood that blessed the piece? Maybe. I hear it’s some pretty powerful stuff.