One hears the anecdotes about famous authors who had been rejected twenty-seven times before being accepted by one daring publisher, only to have their work become a classic, or sell a zillion copies. But after a piece has seen rejection a couple of times, the patina will sometimes seem to have worn off that glittering short story or brilliant poem. And you wonder, is it me, or is it them?
I wrote a short story told through photographs, so that each paragraph is a “snapshot” in this woman’s life. One rejection said, essentially, this isn’t a story; it’s a bunch of vignettes. Which is true, but I hoped it also told a story. As Wayson Choy said in a presentation at The Ontario Writers’ Conference at the end of May, the writer and the reader create the story together. But, I thought, perhaps I have stretched that too far. I sent it out again, this time to a literary publication. Yesterday, I received a letter of acceptance. carte blanche magazine.
It’s been thirty years since I submitted any of my work for consideration. Oblique Angles is about a young rock singer tormented by desire for his drummer. The drummer is married and no one knows the singer is gay. When it was accepted by Cross Canada Writers’ Quarterly, the letter said, Many stories are better written, but this one is “au courant”, so we would like to publish it. Seriously. Wonderful, I thought. I suppose.
Recently, I submitted another short story to a contest, where they were generous to offer feedback, even to the losers. They said it was a good story, except for the spelling mistakes. Spelling mistakes? I went back and read through the entire story, word by word. And then it hit me: I had submitted to an American publication. All those “ou” words had condemned me…
This time, no buts. Maybe some edits, but no insults.