Rejection Letters

About our guest blogger:

Katherine Heiny’s stories have been published in The New YorkerThe Antioch Review, The Greensboro Review, Seventeen, and have been presented on Selected Shorts on NPR, and performed off-Broadway.  She lives in Washington D.C. with her husband and two children.

Rejection Letters

Let me be very clear about something from the start:  I don’t mind rejection letters. What I mind are poorly written rejection letters.

Recently I got a rejection letter that read, “Dear William Fitzgerald, while we chose not to accept your story, we thought it was bright and lively and well-written and we’d be interested in seeing more of your work.”

Nothing wrong there … except that my name isn’t William Fitzgerald.  (And William, if you’re out there and got a rejection letter that began “Dear Katherine Heiny,“ please call me and I’ll take you out for a beer.)

In addition to the letter meant for Mr. Fitzgerald, I received a rejection that read, “We really like this story, except for the plot and characters and dialogue.”  Think about that for a minute.

Another letter contained the sentence “You’re a good enough writer not to need ‘compliments.’”  Funny, but quotes usually indicate that the opposite of the word in quotes is intended.  (And who says I don’t need compliments?)

Still another said, “Your [sic] very talented.”  Which is a compliment but would be more meaningful coming from someone who knew the difference between “you’re” and “your.”

Sometimes I think I should have become a stripper, where humiliation and degradation are at least known occupational hazards.  (And I think that most strip clubs employ bouncers to deal with obnoxious customers – maybe that’s what I need.)

But then I got a beautiful handwritten rejection letter (who handwrites anything these days?  it was like something from a time machine), praising my work and asking to see more.  It was almost as good as an acceptance letter, and yes, I’ve gotten some of those recently, too.

I meant it when I said I don’t mind rejection letters – I once had a story rejected thirty-one times before it sold.  So listen up, all you editors who can’t spell or get my name right or find anything to like about my work:  I’m going to keep sending you stories, so get used to it.  (Or else I’ll send a few freelance writers around to deal with you.)



One thought on “Rejection Letters

  1. I once had a rejection letter where the agent clearly cut and paste a form rejection another agent had written. I know this because the agent forgot to change the signature. So I got a rejection letter emailed from the right email address but with the wrong signature. Which effectively allowed me to be rejected by an agent I never met who mentioned meeting me at a conference. It took a few seconds to reason out what was going on. Then I laughed.

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