I promised when I started this blog that I would keep you updated on my efforts to become a published writer. So: Yesterday I got a rejection. Not my first rejection ever (by a long way!) but my first in the lifetime of this blog, and perhaps numbering rejections in this publicly humiliating way will motivate me to keep on keeping on.
The rejection was for a short story I submitted to Mslexia, a quarterly magazine “for women who write.” They have lots of competitions with judges who are famous authors, and every quarter they invite readers to send in short fiction or poems on a particular theme. My old Cherry Blossom story fitted the bill for the latest round of submissions, so I polished it up and sent it in. The rejection email was one that had obviously been sent to everyone, but as rejection letters go it was pretty helpful and one part in particular stood out for me:
there were lots of publishable poems and short stories. ‘Well-written’ was simply too inclusive, so she [Sarah Dunant, the judge] decided to focus on material that came at the topic from a slightly unusual angle
As if well-written wasn’t hard enough! If all anyone’s looking out for is something gimmicksy, tricksy, startling, shocking, then I don’t know what to do. Should I just carry on writing what I’m writing in the way that I write and hope someone will see something in it? Or should I write something that is tailored to the tastes of competition judges—i.e., something artificial that is not really from the heart—just for the sake of getting published?