Submissions and Rejections

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A promotional Washington Mutual “Whoo hoo!” bumper sticker. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have solid proof that I have been once again submitting my poetry for publication; I have received my first rejection email! Whoo hoo! This truly is exciting. It at least proves I did something, even though the rejection was pretty standard, no personalized information, I take comfort in  knowing that I was acknowledged, if nothing else.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am really not upset. I thought my poems might be a bit of a stretch for the journal in question anyway. Though the pieces I sent were very appropriate to the central Pennsylvania region, I was aware that they might not quite fit the needs, broad, albeit a tad ambiguous, of the journal in question. They are looking for, it seems more historical Americana, rather than a relatively recent personal connection to the history and mood of a place in America. Fair enough.

At least that’s the best I can work out. I am less concerned about the quality of the poems I sent, than about their appropriateness for the project. The advice I’ve received in the past, as well as recently, is to submit to journals I like. That means that my own work will probably more closely fit the bill of what the publications are looking for. It also pushes me to increase my reading of good journals. So if you have a favorite, please share it in the comments. I plan on submitting to Rattle and a few others soon. Unfortunately Boxcar Review is backlogged and not taking further submissions at this time.

The advice I get about rejections is that everyone gets them, many more of them than acceptances. It’s normal, especially considering the vast number of poets adding to the editors’ slush pile these days. So, again, I am not discouraged. It is worth thinking about though when looking at my recently submitted work, what might send my poems to the slush pile faster. The Sue Boynton Poetry Contest blog had this link this week to Five Marks of Oft-Rejected Poems, by  of the Indiana Review. It’s worth taking a look at.

One of the five is so obvious that it has me thinking about a few first lines that could pack more punch. I realize that weak first lines are in fact one of the biggest reasons why I stop reading a poem. If it doesn’t grab me in the first few lines. . . well, frankly we all lead very busy lives, there is only so much time. Why waste it on mediocrity? The other four reasons are worth a look too, so check out the list, but don’t panic, and keep submitting your own works too!

18 Replies to “Submissions and Rejections”

  1. My own experience in the past was to just keep submitting to journals that I liked till they got used to seeing my name and got used to my rhythm. It takes a long time to develop a relationship with an editor. They have to start having some idea of what to expect from you. So that when they put their journal together they can create their own form of poetry… deleting and inserting what plays well together, what sings. Just about the time I’d get a good relationship going with an editor I’d have about a year with them, and then they would leave and I’d have to start all over again with the new editor… or sometimes the journal would fold. Being a poet means being in love with your song… just keep singing… sending them out….
    I guess I took the shortcut and started sending out graphics to get my foot in the door to begin with. That way the editors got to know who I was. That way too I got to understand what the editor needed for any particular issue and was in a better position to provide it if I had something they could use.
    The other thing to do is to start your own journal.
    But I certainly wouldn’t sweat a few rejection slips. I was often glad when I got them and as you seem to be doing, going over and really looking at the poems with a critical eye …. that’s how I learned to write in the first place. That’s when the editors are your best friends.
    Good luck to you….


  2. I don’t trust ‘the process’. My area isn’t really writing, it’s dealing in fine art, but at one point I realized that submitting an item for auction at a major auction house was a waste of time. Calling the president of an auction house or a director and asking to be called back within the next 30 minutes got much better results. People’s ears prick up and the power structure changes. You go from interviewee to interviewer. Sure, lots of people end up hating me in the process because I go over their heads, but it changed my career entirely 😉


  3. trying again and again my favoritest family-feeling publications…apparently i was orphaned. aside from a couple of online journals who asked…i’ve ONLY received rejections…sigh


  4. I don’t really submit stuff yet. I’ve done a couple of times, and have received – ages later – a form rejection. It goes with the territory. Now, I can’t write short. It’s just not in me. My poetry, when I do attempt it, feels belaboured and forced, and my short stories… they just don’t work. I am better at long form, novella and novel, but nobody would publish me yet anyway, so I don’t let it get to me. Rejections go with the territory, as I said.


    1. Yup, it’s part of the process. Funny, if I try to write short stories, they become novellas. I do better in the short form because it pressures me to say as much in as few words as possible. My focus can go all over the place, so it’s better for me to narrow it down.


  5. I think your attitude is a good one. Yeah, ok, so the poem got turned down, but, it hasn’t made you want to stop. Submitting work is really a big step, and, knowing that rejection isn’t necessarily a reflection of the quality is important. Being published is a great thing, but, ultimately, it should be about how much satisfaction the writing brings you.


    1. Frankly it’s annoying as hell. Every journal has a different method. Some have an online submitter program (those are the wonkiest I’ve found so far), others want them sent as email attachments. Others want the work in the body of the email, with no attachments. A few still accept only mailed submissions. Grrrr. . .

      Anywho, thanks! 🙂


  6. I’ve been lucky enough not to receive more than two or three rejection letters before I found a publisher, but one of the letters told me my dialog sounded like something out of a Scooby Doo episode and another was a form letter — from someone I knew personally in real life. I’d expected something more like, “Sorry, James, but this doesn’t quite fit our magazine.” Not a form letter! Anyway, my point is, rejections suck, but every writer (nearly) gets them.


    1. I am waiting to hear back from one such editor, someone I know. Awkward, right? I have seven journals up on my screen in tabs right now that I am prepared to send more poems to. I’ll let you know how it goes, of course. 🙂


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