Rejection is so much a part of freelancing, that it’s never bothered me much. Sure, I have high hopes for every piece I send out, but there’s no time to holler about being turned down. Instead, I revise, or go to work on The Next Big Thing. I even recall being thrilled back when I received my first rejection. It felt so official, and it served as a sign that I had really started the ball rolling. (Also, it helped to know that a rejection didn’t make the world fall apart. It was survivable, which meant I was ready to try again.)
|Blood on the Floor. Available at Amazon.|
That said, I once wrote an odd piece that was maddeningly difficult to place—partly because I wrote it with one market specifically in mind. A Smithsonian editor had read the pieces I wrote for the magazine’s website and contacted me to tell me she liked my voice. (An editor contacting me? Holy smokes!) She encouraged me to submit something to the magazine’s famous “Last Page” humor column. (The Last Page? I was a big fan. Even holier Smokes!)
Not wanting to waste this opportunity, I thought long and hard before I started to write something. The piece I ultimately came up with is written as if it’s an auction catalog/collector’s guide to various odd things I’ve written over the years, from my childhood hand-written newspaper and my embarrassing teenage poetry to the one-third of a mystery novel I puked up during National Novel Writing Month—each treated as if it’s a rare and highly sought-after gem. Self-indulgent, yes, but I figured it might ring true (and hopefully be funny) to anyone who has ever picked up a pen.
I held my breath and sent it off to the Smithsonian editor. She got back to me within the hour with an email that began, “Oh, shoot”—not a good sign. Turns out, the magazine had acquired a new editor-in-chief, whose first order of business was to cancel the Last Page column in favor of a photo feature. She had just received the news that same morning. I’ll always wonder if things would have been different if I’d submitted earlier. I also wonder if maybe, somehow, it was my pitch that finally killed the column. (“Good God,” they said upon reading it. “Let’s forget we ever even had a humor column.”)
After that, I sent the piece to a few places, but its format was so unusual that I think it bewildered most editors (not to mention the fact that there aren’t many print magazines left that even deal with humor). I did feel a tiny bit of satisfaction when I got my rejection from McSweeney’s. They had previously rejected anything I sent with a succinct “No, thank you.” After submitting this one, I got a little more. “This one,” the editor wrote, “has its charms.” Still a rejection, but hey, I’ve got charms!
When I saw the submissions call for an anthology on writers and rejection, I didn’t immediately think of my poor homeless essay, but when it came to mind I realized that it does encapsulate the writing life in its own weird way, and it makes reference to both unsent manuscripts and rejected ones. I made a few edits, and sent it off once again.
I’m proud to say that “Rare Manuscripts and Ephemera from the Kelly Robinson Collection: A Guide for Serious Collectors” appears in the anthology Blood on the Floor: How Writers Survive Rejection. I love the fact that the piece has its own backstory of being rejected. If there’s a Blood on the Floor 2, perhaps I could get really meta and tell the story of how I came to be in the first one. Then again, I’m a freelancer. I’m not going to run out of rejection stories, ever.