Saturday, August 21, 2004

The Postman Delivers

All right, I can't complain too much about Poets & Writers, since they did send me my free copy before they sent a past-due notice. What's more, the current issue seemed a lot more interesting than in the past when I've been exposed to the magazine.

In the past, it always seemed a little "ivory tower" to me -- too many features about the old guard of literature and maybe not enough that really spoke to new writers who are looking for advice. This issue seemed to take a more contemporary bent, though, which I think is great. (Yeah, I'll subscribe.)

One article in particular that I enjoyed was one called "After 20 Years of Rejection." The writer in question, Dan Allan, had a very different outlook to the rejection process than I do, concerning "encouraging rejections," or what I have been referring to as "personal rejections," as opposed to "form rejections."

His standpoint was, that it's more discouraging to get enthusiastic praise of your work when the outcome is that the editor is not choosing your work. I simply can't agree with that assessment. There are only so many slots in a magazine, and of course the editors are going for what they believe is the best of the best. If there's one small thing that nags, or even one subjective or thematic complaint, it's probably plenty for an editor to say no, but you've got talent, try us again.

Hell, who could possibly complain about a personalized rejection from The New Yorker? But Allan did, and wrote about his temptation to just throw out the whole idea of being a writer (another thing I've posted about in the past). (He also wrote about some frustrating experiences with agents and a workshop -- and doled out some snarkiness about other writers as well.)

I felt his viewpoint was a tad bit self-centered, completely discounting how damn competitive the publishing world is. Maybe these magazines get hundreds of manuscripts a month? (The Atlantic receives 1,000 a month, for just a little perspective on what you're up against when you submit to one of the major paying markets.) And out of such a pool, one would complain when an editor sees something good enough in your manuscript to seize them to write?

Despite my disagreement with Allan's premise, I found it to be a good article that lots of people could relate to (plus, it ends up being a success story after all, always inspiring). The years of rejection (yes, sometimes decades) certainly can sap your strength -- not to mention, so many variables are simply out of the individual writer's control.

More good stuff later. Write on,

LLB

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