By Jay Duret
Every so often these pages feature advice and words of encouragement for writers. This is my contribution.
I will change the identifiers so as not to cause embarrassment, but this story is true.
Last year I received a note from a journal about a story I had submitted. The note said:
Thank you for giving us the chance to read your work.
Unfortunately, we do not feel this piece is a good fit for the Squamish Review. This does not necessarily reflect the quality of your work, but, more so, the large number of submissions we have received.
Thanks again. Good luck with this elsewhere.
Milton Q. Chadwick,
I gave the note the same attention I give to all communications from editors who have considered my writing: I read Milton Chadwick’s email with the greatest care. I weighed every word, every syllable. I read between the lines, over and under the lines. All to see what he was really communicating about my story. Fine, he wasn’t going to use it, but what else? Was Mr. Chadwick saying no go this time but we loved the work, please submit again soon? Was he saying Jay, you are funny as hell but sadly our journal is condemned to publishing prose as dry as burnt toast and so it just isn’t going to happen here, with my blessings submit it elsewhere ASAP and I’ll give you a letter of reference?
I read the note three or four times to see if I could mine any bit of encouragement. At first I took some heart from the sentence that said the decision did not reflect the quality of my work. But when I gave it a closer read I had to confront the word “necessarily”. The letter said the rejection did not necessarily reflect the work’s quality, which I suppose was Chadwick’s way of saying that some things that he rejects are by good writers, but his note to me, fairly read, contained no suggestion that I was in fact one of them. Indeed, the more I parsed the wording, the more it seemed like I had a received a flat out form rejection letter, the one sent to rejectees who were of no interest to stone-hearted, small-minded, Chadwick. Ugh.
I hate a rejection letter that ugly, but I didn’t let it get me down. I have had worse rejections. And even if the piece I submitted was vibrant and strong, I understood that it is hard to get a spot in a journal of quality. There are themes and page constraints and inherent biases all to contend with. I wasn’t going to get angry over the rejection.
What a lie! Of course I was going to get angry! What else would I do? Obviously I had been the victim of Chadwick! A nasty, nasty editor, probably sleeping with the writer whose work he choose over mine!! Damn him! Damn them both!! I would never stoop so low. Those wretched wretches. Damn them.
My anger did not last long though. After all, there were so many other things to get angry at, so many more editors to curse. But when another email arrived from Milton Chadwick, my anger returned twice as fiercely. I didn’t even need to read Chadwick’s post to realize that that the bum had decided to reject my story twice! He was such moron that he did not know that he had already rejected it. Oh, what a dingus!
I began to compose my response. You can’t write to protest when an editor rejects your work. All the knowledgeable people say that. But if you have the same piece rejected twice by the same editor you surely are allowed to bring that fact to the attention of the cretin. And I was just the guy to do it. I was going to enjoy this. I was going to make sure that he knew how it feels to pour heart and soul into a work of creative genius only to have your offering stomped on by a heartless bastard like Chadwick. Oh you miserable soulless beast! You, you…Chadwick!
I started to write and it was great. I was on fire! Oh I would not want to be Chadwick when he opened my email, when he read my smoldering prose. I was just ready to press send when it occurred to me that I wasn’t sure how to spell Squamish – really? they named their journal the Squamish Review? – so I opened Chadwick’s latest email to find the spelling and this is what I read:
Don’t know what happened, but as you know, we accidentally sent you a rejection note intended for someone else. The truth is we loved the story and would like to publish it in the October issue of Squamish Review, if it is still available.
Sorry about the mistake.
Milton Q. Chadwick
I know there is a moral here. Probably it is not to give up hope. But frankly the one that I have extracted is that before writing an angry email to Chadwick, read his email first, cause he is a prince among men…
Jay Duret is a San Francisco based writer and illustrator. His novel, Nine Digits, published by Second Wind Publishing, will be available later this year. See www.ninedigits.com. Jay welcomes feedback at email@example.com.