• Top 5 Reasons Why I Miss Rejection Slips

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 6 comments

    Rejection Slip Collage

    Last week I had the following Twitter conversation (if one back-and-forth can equal a conversation) with Steve Himmer, author of The Bee-Loud Glade:

    Write_By_Night: Does anyone else miss getting rejection slips in the mail, instead of over email?

    SteveHimmer: No, because with email I can delete and move on. Paper stares me down until the next trash day.

    Write_By_Night: True enough. But I always felt a tingle seeing that envelope in the mail. Never has an email given me a tingle. I like tingles.

    These days, fewer and fewer publications accept hard-copy submissions, and even fewer send rejection slips via mail. Remember rejection slips, writers? How your 5,000 words of sparkling narrative prose was reduced to 5″ x 3″ pieces of stern rebuke? I’ve thought about it some more since that silly Tweet (redundant?), and you know what? I actually do miss getting rejection slips in the mail. And I do miss mailing hard copies of stories.

    And since the Internet thrives on lists and porn, and since we’re not yet ready to post porn here on our blog, here is a list of five reasons why I miss rejection slips:

    1) Having hard proof of my failure

    A rejection slip is a lot like gonorrhea: yes it stings, yes it burns, yes it makes my genitals swell (not in the fun way); but damned if it doesn’t make me feel alive. You know, alive? I can’t remember the last time an email made me feel alive. Or made my genitals swell.

    2) The sense of anticipation

    It’s that tingle I mentioned above. I mean, I’ve never heard of anyone receiving an acceptance slip; if you found that envelope in your mailbox and there was a tiny slip of paper inside, well … you ain’t hit the jackpot. But maybe you got a consolation prize. A handwritten note from an editor saying, “I liked this. Send me more.” I remember my first. It came from The Iowa Review, and on the back of the form rejection some lovely Assistant Ed. wrote, “This story made me laugh and kept my interest all the way through.” I saved that puppy. Still have it somewhere. It made me want to keep writing. I can’t remember the last time an email made me want to keep writing. Usually they make me want to quit writing since so few people seem to give a damn about doing it properly anymore.

    3) Having a reason to get the mail

    Now all I get are come-ons from AARP (Stop it, assholes! I’m 33!), credit card companies (Stop it, assholes! I’m broke!) (Actually, that’s what they want, isn’t it?), and the ACLU (Stop it, assh … actually, I like what you’re doing. But see “credit card companies” note above). I don’t have to get out of my chair to get an email. And if you’ve seen my own asshole lately, you know I need to get out of my chair more often.

    4) The decision on what to do next

    File the slip away in my neatly-organized file folders? Tape it to the wall? Crumple and discard? Burn it in the sink? Burn it in the shower? Burn it in a shower of my own tears, whilst in the shower? Wipe my ass with it? I cannot wipe my ass with an email. I tried that once. Had to get a new computer.

    5) …

    Okay,  guess I only have four reasons. But they’re damn good ones. So good, in fact, that each should be worth 1.25 normal reasons.


    Tomorrow: the five (maybe four) things I miss the most about submitting hard copies. Or, the five (maybe four) things I miss the most about the television tabloid news program Hard Copy.

    Discussion question: Do you miss rejection slips? Or are you glad to no longer receive tangible proof of your failure? Let us know below.


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    Steve Himmer

    I do miss the excitement and anticipation of opening mail, but like I said on Twitter I appreciate how fleeting email rejections are – delete them and they’re gone, which seems appropriate to the small impact I want each rejection to have on my life. Some sting more than others, of course. By the time the first novel I wrote failed (rightly) to find a publisher, I had a thick file of rejection slips and just looking at it was disheartening. Not having that tangible reminder of past failure hanging around makes it easier for me to get on with… Read more »

    David Duhr

    Maybe what I really miss is being a very beginning writer and just excited to get a response of any kind. Because you’re right–these days, I would probably look at them more as failure than I would’ve back then. I don’t save email rejections; I make note of them and immediately move on with my life. And if I were still getting slips in the mail, I’d probably do the same.

    So perhaps that’s the feeling I’m chasing. “Hey look, I got a rejection slip. Now I’m part of the club.”

    […] I talked about on Monday and Tuesday, the submission process has changed quite a bit in the past couple of years. Very few […]

    […] you miss rejection slips? David Duhr via WriteByNight gives us his “Top 5 Reasons Why I Miss Rejection Slips.” They are […]

    The Weary Luddite

    I’m late to this party, but this sentence alone, right here: “And since the Internet thrives on lists and porn, and since we’re not yet ready to post porn here on our blog, here is a list of five reasons why I miss rejection slips:” If you can’t laugh at the lists as you join ’em, it’s a sad road ahead. That said, Fantasy and Science Fiction to this day is still hard-copy submission only. Kind of endearing how one of the premiere outlets for predicting the future refuses to get with the times. Besides, it was nice to finally… Read more »

    […] I listed five reasons I miss getting rejection slips in the mail. For today I promised five reasons why I miss submitting hard copies of manuscripts, or […]

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