READING BETWEEN THE LINES

If you’re a writer and you submit your work, rejection letters are a part of life.  They are generic and carefully worded, so as to let the rejectee down as gently as possible.  My poem is crafted out of sentences from actual rejection letters I have received (in bold).  Note: I obfuscated or changed proper names to protect the innocent.  Sandwiched between the sanitized lines are my own sarcastic additions (in italics).  If you’ve been snubbed, you might as well have some fun with it.


Dear WRITER,
and I use the term “writer” loosely

Greetings from the LALA-ZINE staff
tasked with drafting rejection letters
Thank you for allowing us to consider
how appalling poetry can be, owing to
your recent submission, WHATEVER
which, quite frankly, took the cake.

We recognize the effort you put into
ignoring the clearly stated guidelines for
submitting this piece, and regret that
because it is a complete waste of paper,
it doesn’t meet our needs at this time
or at any other time, for that matter.

Rest assured, it was read thoroughly
by a sleep-deprived, first-year intern
and given most careful consideration
as in, What the hell were you thinking?
before being returned to you by mail
in the SASE you so dutifully provided.

Ultimately, simple editorial preference
for quality work over hackneyed refuse
guides our choices; it is not a comment
OK, you got us…  it actually is a comment
on the merit of your particular piece
one best suited for the recycling bin

Although we are unable to accept it,
(our congenial euphemism for rejection)
we wish you luck in placing it elsewhere
You are going to need it, in this situation
and in all your future writing endeavors
Take my advice, don’t quit your day job.

Sincerely,
Not really,
Mae B. Nextime
First Assistant to the Assistant Editor
and Voice of Your Harshest Inner Critic

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31 thoughts on “READING BETWEEN THE LINES

    • Just Joan April 22, 2018 / 9:15 am

      Thanks, PB. You can read just the bold, if you want the sanitized version. Or bold and italics together for the full story. I know they’re trying to be nice, but the letters are so generic it’s impossible to guess whether you were a hair’s breadth from publication or they wouldn’t take it if it was the last poem on earth. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan April 22, 2018 / 10:51 am

      Thanks, Peter. Figuring out the line breaks was the hardest part, and making the sarcasm flow smoothly in between. I read an earlier version of this at my poetry group and they wanted to know what literary magazines I intended to submit it to, who I thought might publish poetry that pokes fun at their rejection process. That wasn’t what I had in mind when I wrote it, but I sent it to a couple of the edgier journals as a sort of joke. In reply, I received a handful of generic rejection letters. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. chevvy8 April 22, 2018 / 11:48 am

    Well done Joan. You’re quite the expert in your use of sarcasm to illuminate a subject which I’m sure most writers have to deal with. I’ve never submitted anything for publication and wonder if I could stand the pain of rejection. It takes some tenacity which is a good thing and I think you have it.😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Just Joan April 22, 2018 / 12:13 pm

      Thanks, Chevvy. Rejection is a fact of life in the writing world; it takes a thick skin and a sense of humor to get past it and keep on writing. WordPress is nice because we function as both writer and editor, making it 100% more likely that we’ll get our pieces “published.” Enjoy your Sunday! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • chevvy8 April 22, 2018 / 12:18 pm

        I wonder whether publishers won’t soon be redundant in a world where we have so much freedom to spread our own words and choose what we read. Have a lovely Sunday too. Got my feet back on the ground now! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Just Joan April 22, 2018 / 3:43 pm

        Publishers are a sort of validation of what is good, what is worthy of reading. Anybody can self-publish, electronic or traditional paper books, but many readers view self-published books as second-class, not good enough to make the cut with a “real” publisher. Sad, but true. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Marissa Bergen April 22, 2018 / 1:05 pm

    Well, whenever they send me one of these letters, I am certain that whoever wrote it handcrafted it carefully to clearly let me know that my piece almost made the cut and that the next one certainly will!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan April 22, 2018 / 3:49 pm

      Wow, Marissa, you are a lucky duck! I guess we must be sending our stuff to different places. I had begun to think this was a form letter used by editors at every literary magazine. Getting feedback or comments has been a rarity. But I just keep sending stuff out, like a blind woman at a shooting range, and occasionally, I hit something. 🙂

      Like

    • Just Joan April 23, 2018 / 10:55 am

      Editors are a rough bunch, Snoozin, impossible to please. But think how many piles of hackneyed refuse they have to sort through to find enough quality stuff to fill their pages! Like this rejection letter poem, for instance. I hope they at least cracked a smile when they read it, or wondered how I was reading their mind. 🙂

      Like

  3. L. T. Garvin, Author April 24, 2018 / 1:14 pm

    Oh Joan, I had to laugh. I’ve been there too many times. Despite all those pesky, mean rejections, you must persevere. Many of the premiere literary mags are headed up by the Snobs of Academia, and I have also given them their humorous due on my blog to be sure. I would send more of my stuff out if I had the time, but I am able to fire one off here and there. My bravest attempt was to send to Rattle which is really in the same category as sending to the New Yorker, haha, but I must say that I got the nicest rejection letter back from them 😀 Keep on keeping on, and if you are not already, follow Trish Hopkinson who lists poetry markets almost daily on her site. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan April 24, 2018 / 6:22 pm

      Thanks, Lana. Glad it made you chuckle. I have submitted to Rattle, too. (What poet hasn’t? They have the biggest contest out there, a $10K prize! Worth a try. And their rejection letters are really sweet.) I’ll check out Trish’s site, thanks for the heads up. I will definitely keep sending stuff out, you do the same. Make Aunt Agnes proud. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • L. T. Garvin, Author April 25, 2018 / 10:51 pm

        I do jump through hoops for Aunt Agnes, haha! Yeah, that 10K would have been a great way to add to some writing time, but hey, there’s always next time. Yes for sure, we have to keep on keeping on, that’s what it is all about. Happy writing my friend! xx

        Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan May 1, 2018 / 11:50 am

      Magazines are almost as ephemeral as WordPress… a lot of subscribers don’t even read them, and if they do, your piece is likely forgotten by the time the next issue hits the mailbox. It’s a nice feather in one’s cap, to be sure, but it’s rare to make a lasting connection; I think I’ve done that here more often than I ever would in a literary mag. Keep writing, keep blogging, keep hoping those arrows you’re aiming will hit somebody right in the feels. 🙂

      Like

    • Just Joan April 27, 2018 / 1:54 pm

      Thanks, KE. I thought maybe it was just me. Kind of like lemons… When life give you rejection letters, make poetry. Or toss them in the fireplace. Hope your weekend is lovely. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Tippy Gnu April 30, 2018 / 11:06 pm

    I love what you did with this. Have you considered submitting it somewhere?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan May 1, 2018 / 11:43 am

      Thanks, Tippy! Glad to see you back on WP. Have you and the wife been off to see more Missions? Or just filling more dumpsters with detritus a la Jake? When I read an earlier version of this poem at my group, they wanted to know what literary magazines I intended to submit it to, who I thought might publish poetry that pokes fun at their rejection process. Really, I just wrote it for fun, to blow off some steam, but I sent it to a couple of the edgier journals as a sort of joke. In reply, I received a handful of generic rejection letters. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tippy Gnu May 1, 2018 / 12:33 pm

        We’ve been off on a Caribbean cruise. I think I came back with malaria. Or malaise. I can’t figure out which.

        Too bad your submission was rejected. Although they did give you more material that you could add to your poem.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Just Joan May 1, 2018 / 12:49 pm

        Malaria, malaise, whatever… sounds like you’re needing a post-vacation vacation! I’ll set aside any new rejectatory phrases (is that a word, rejectatory?) and use them when I revamp this poem. Well, if I do. Feel better soon, Tippy. I’ve missed your stolen quotes. Did you know they start and end the show CRIMINAL MINDS with a famous quote? Thanks to you, I have been familiar with quite a few of them. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tippy Gnu May 1, 2018 / 2:21 pm

        I did not know that, but it doesn’t surprise me. All my quotes are stolen, and stealing is what criminal minds think about doing.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Quirky Girl May 17, 2018 / 3:15 pm

    This was a most entertaining read! You know how much I adore sarcasm, and this hilarious take on rejection makes the world of rejection seem a little less harsh. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan May 17, 2018 / 3:34 pm

      Thanks, Quirk. It was fun to weave the lines together. I think the problem with rejection letters is that they’re too nice. Perhaps they could give us a clue, like ICE COLD, COLD, GETTING WARMER, WARM, HOT, ALMOST ON FIRE, etc, so we’d at know if we’re even in the ballpark. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Max Meunier June 9, 2018 / 12:55 am

    lol, this is pure gold! though I can’t help but wonder if any underlying subtext was inferred from my comment!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan June 9, 2018 / 2:47 pm

      Fool’s gold adorned with a three-carat cubic zirconia? Just kidding, Max. If you submit your poetry, you’ve received this letter. And wondered if you almost made the cut or if the editor was laughing so hard he nearly peed his pants. 🙂

      Like

  7. circumstance227 July 9, 2018 / 5:26 pm

    This made me laugh once again, even though I have never gotten one of these letters. In my whole life I only tried once to submit a poem I had written (which was rejected- but no letter). That was to my high school literary magazine. I was the editor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan July 9, 2018 / 7:43 pm

      Whoa, hold on a minute, 227. You rejected your own poem, and didn’t even have the decency to write yourself a nice rejection letter? Something about that reminds me of my wheeling-dealing adventure with the FahrverGremlin-mobile. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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