The Art of Being Rejected...

Says the man with more money than me...

So, I'm going through a spell of rejections.

Notice how I say "spell" as if the rejectors are some sort of witch clan sending me a bit of negative karma. Or maybe I mean "spell" because spells are temporary, spells are something that happens to you, but ultimately, every spell will break eventually.  Even my beloved Red Sox's curse went away.

But I am.  Being rejected that is.

From a young editor from a tiny publication who wrote to me and said, "Please send us your poems, we would love to publish you and it would help our journal," who upon seeing my poems wrote, "They were good, just not right for our publication."

While I am being rejected, friends are having major successes.  A third book deal (congrats Ms. Jeannine Hall Gailey), 2 acceptances to fantastic journals (congrats to Ms. Susan Rich), a new book and Poet Laureateship (congrats to Ms. Kathleen Flenniken), not too mention all the other good news that have flown by me like clouds in the last three months.  (Insert cheesy 80's song: ..What about me? It isn't fair, I've had enough, now I want my share...)

I heard a now-very-rich-and-famous fiction writer read who said during his reading, "When my friends get published and I don't, a part of me dies..." - he was joking (um, kind of), but sometimes it feels as if everyone is holding a trophy and you have your "thanks for trying" ribbon, you can feel a little left out.

After writing, submitting, and publishing for over 10 years, I find it interesting how my emotions still fall back on the need for outside validation.  That Sally Field acceptance speech, "You like me, you really like me!"  Is that all we want?  Isn't there a deeper fulfillment?

When my friends are being named pageant queens and receiving tiaras on a daily basis, I remind myself The Artist's Way good karma message, "Success occurs in clusters."  If they're winning awards, receiving publications, and all good things, then I'm next... right?

Oh the negative-critic voice speaks up, "Nope, your time is over."  (Thank you, Ms. Inner Doubtfulness.)

But there's also humor to this phase of rejections.

For example, an editor whom I know personally from a very prestigious journal wrote me this painfully funny rejection:

"I liked 'PoemX' quite a lot, but I felt that you gave up the poetry in the last stanza and settled for a brief speech instead."

Actually, good advice, but I've been amused with that "brief speech" comment for the last week.  I sometimes think I end all my conversations with a brief speech (think Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women), so the fact I included that in my poetry made me laugh a little.


Now, cut to my kitchen the other morning with my husband and daughter.  My daughter had overheard me telling a friend that I was rejected by this male editor who was about nineteen and his start-up journal, which he asked me to submit poems to.

We're having breakfast and my husband asks me how things were going?

And I say, "You know, it's been a tough couple of weeks."

"Why?" he asks like a good caring husband.

And before I am able to say anything my daughter adds, "Oh, mom was rejected by a teenage boy."


My husband: Really? Is there something I should know here?

Yes, not only am I being rejected, but my rejections have me looking like Mrs. Robinson to my family--Would you like me to seduce you? Is that what you're trying to tell me?



I've been eight days since I started writing this Art of Rejection blog post and to be honest, all of blah-blahs that can sometimes come with rejections has worn off.

What I realize is we can't possibly be accepted all the time and if we did, being accepted would lose its magic and fun.

I also realize, my joy is in the writing.  As much as I can sometimes tie my happiness onto a publication agreement, my kite is the ultimately the act of writing.  Publication and where my poems go after I send them out into the world are the clouds passing by and stars circling.

Dark days come and dark days go.

We are all in this together and rejection happens to everyone.  Everyone.

Try not to let it bring you to the "what about me?" 80's song place and if you go to the 80's song place, try to end up in Howard Jone's song "Things Can Only Get Better..."  Thank you, Howard Jones.



  1. Hey! That was the week I had a couple of weeks ago (like 7 rejections, all in a row :) ).

    The nice rejections are very rewarding, at least (send more! Just not these).

    [I am annoyed on your behalf...if someone solicits work, I don't get how they then turn it down??? I don't wish to say any rude about the publication, but it's not very good manners.]

  2. whenever i am glum from many rejections, i watch this video and it makes things better:

  3. I haven't had a rejection in quite some time. That, of course, is due to the fact I haven't submitted anything lately where I wasn't sure of an acceptance. Which means, my submissions have been close to Nil...

    But I do take comfort and sound advice from this. Dark Times do pass, whether it's in writing or life, or writing about life!

    And I am finding that the writing is what is important to me, not necessarily what I "do with" the writing. Writing is its own reward.

  4. Thanks for sharing this and writing about it in the first place. Accepting rejection is so difficult. Sometimes, I think its hard for writers to be accept rejection because writers are usually free thinkers. Their thoughts are original. You approach other opportunities with so much expectation to be accepted and sweep publishers off their feet because you know you worked hard on this thinking that originality is all they're after. Experience proves you wrong. What I love about your post is that you made people like myself don't feel alone in the rejection sphere. I had to face a similar situation where I was asked to write an article about "US aid in Egypt" from a peaceful perspective. Strangely, they kept altering the article till I thought I don't know what I thought anymore on this particular subject. I said you're forcing me to be a hypocrite. They wrote back a rejection to publish with them. I think there has to be "chemistry" between writers and publishers. It's another kind of marriage.

  5. Oh well, never fun but at least you tried and can move on. Most of us get stuck at the not trying stage.

    Reminds me of playing some open mics, where you look out at the crowd, can be boos (rarely but it happens), people ignoring you, or sometimes actually paying attention and seeming to get into it. Even though it could be the same song, completely different reactions from a different audience.

    And it's funny because when you look back, the ones you get the most laughter from, are of course the ones usually the most tragic.

  6. Oh, wonderful! Thank you for this. You made me laugh even while I was feeling blue for you, so I hope you cheered yourself up, too. And we are in sync! I wrote about rejection today, too. Yes, indeed, a spell!!

  7. I really love this post.

    I went through something similar a couple of years ago when a handful of my grad school friends all got first books published, and I was getting an onslaught of almosts from editors. I still don't have a first book, but my poems are finding good homes, and I am taking comfort in reminding myself that Elizabeth Bishop wrote and published at about the same pace I am doing. Still, it's good to know I'm not the only one who occasionally gets publication envy.

  8. Thanks for the congrats! If it's any consolation, I also got like seven rejections in a row right around the same time the book was accepted....

  9. Can't thank you enough for this honest and funny post, Kelli. I know your pain. Good things DO come in clusters, so hang on: your bunch of luscious cherries is right around the corner.

  10. Kelli: When you first mentioned in an earlier post you were going to address this topic down the road you sounded so forlorn that I actually worried about you and wanted to send some kind of words of encouragement. However, thinking about some of the acceptance droughts that I’ve had it occurred that I might not be the most authoritative to be offering comfort that this too would pass. Fortunately from the tone of this post I believe you’ve come to grips with this and are well at peace over it.

    I appreciate you post for two reasons. It reminds us that it’s good to look deep inside from time to time and take personal inventory on what writing really means to us. Looking for that “crown of glory” may feed our ego but I think prize is often right within the borders of the page.

    I did say there were two reasons I appreciated your post and the second one, as is so often the case when I come to your blog, is your ability to find the humor even the most discouraging places.

    I trust in the spirit with which this was written you will not mind that I laughed my ass off when I read your daughter’s remarks.

    The past six months I’ve been pushing myself to be more particular about where I submit. I’m still getting rejections; they are just a higher class of rejections. ;)

  11. Kelli, thank you so very much for sharing this post. I've been going through my own spell of rejection, and it is nice to know that I am not alone in this and that this, too, shall pass. I know it will pass for you, also. You're pretty amazing. :)

  12. You said very well what a lot of us feel frequently. I try to just take things in stride and keep putting things out in the world. That's the best that I can do.

  13. Thanks so much for this. It's comforting to know I'm not alone when I go through the same cycles. Hang in there.

  14. Dear Kelli, Thank you for the shout out but you didn't mention the months of rejection that I had before that lovely week of acceptance. I know you will have huge accolades again -- as you have had before. The trick is to just keep sending out. Have you tried the license plate game? I predict an acceptance for you very, very soon. Love, Susan

  15. I'm sorry to hear rejections are coming your way for now, but I'm glad to hear you realize your love is in the writing. (Though the publication is certainly a nice perk from time to time.) Keep writing, keep submitting, and eventually amid those rejections we all sort through you'll find a shining acceptance note. =)

  16. So pleased to find your blog. A brilliant post -honest, true and funny at the same time. All writers should read it. As a novelist I recognise everything you say and more - rejections are so tough because novels just take so damn long to write. Like you thankfully I find the blah-blahs wear off after about a week or two. And who knows what's waiitng round the corner - I have an author friend who always says our work just needs to find the right desk.

  17. Kelli, thank you for this post--both the thoughts on rejection and your "Overall" thoughts. I tend to get a lot of rejections (including one this afternoon) and I try to do my little moment of grieving and then remind myself of the acceptances (!) and that joy in writing--the real reason.


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