First, and let’s be very open on this: I’m very happy to see that Press 53 has chosen the shortlist for their 2014 Short Fiction award. They publish amazing stuff and I love reading their authors, so there’s nothing but good, wholesome feelings towards them in this post.
But, unlike past years, this is the first year I myself entered a manuscript for their consideration. And as one would expect when submitting such a thing to such a great publisher, I wasn’t one of the ones they chose to shortlist.
And it’s great. Rejection is great. I’ve got disappointment coursing through my brain right now, sure, but also pride in actually taking the risk and joy in knowing that I didn’t let my fear of rejection dictate what I would or wouldn’t do.
Point in fact, this is my biggest rejection to date, and I’m thankful for that experience, too. I’m happy that I now have this under my belt, as it were, and that I can move forward without the looming fear of getting my first manuscript turned down. It’s empowering.
So what comes after such a big rejection (to be super melodramatic about it, what comes after an esteemed editor says “we don’t like your entire writing collection“)? Well, I think first and foremost is a self-congratulation, which I’m doing in this post. Next, ice-cream or some other kind of stress-eater sort of pleasure just to make myself feel better. I’m not immune to the pang of rejection, after all.
After that? I suppose looking at my collection as it stands and making some decisions about what works and what doesn’t. I’ve been writing between submitting the collection and now, thank God, so I should have some stories that are stronger than some of the ones currently included. I get the chance to make my collection stronger and more battle-ready. I can shape it a bit more, too, I think.
Now comes the long war. The first battle is over, my pretty MFA uniform is dirtied up a bit, and I’m not nearly as green as I was before this process started (yes, I know one manuscript rejection doesn’t make me a veteran, but it is a sort of right-of-passage, isn’t it?). Now I know I can at least go through the process of submitting a whole collection, and that’s a new tool in my writer’s toolkit, is it not?
I’ve got the same collection out with another small press now, too, but shouldn’t hear back (one way or another) on that until April, if memory serves. I expect that will come back with a “no thank you” as well, but that’s because I’m a realist/pessimist. However, I’m looking forward to the outcome of that one as well. If an acceptance, then I’ll learn about the process of heavy editing and having a collection to push to all my friends and relations. If a rejection, my writer’s skin gets thicker, my battle scars deeper, and my willingness to take chances grows. The fear of submission diminishes, and I get to eat another pint of Neapolitan ice cream.