• Kathleen Lees

Submission: Rejection, Understanding, Acceptance, and Strength



Summer school recently started, and it's been a joy to reconnect with old and new faces. It's also been a joy to reconnect with a part of my past: creative writing.


As far back as high school, but especially college, I'd use journaling as a form of self-expression. Later, thoughts and ideas would turn into more--stories with deeper meaning (typically connected to something from my past or someone who was special to me.) I'd argue that's how all creative writers gather information--through their own experiences and the encounters that shaped their reality.


As much as I enjoyed doing this, I never really put any of my work out there. I'd write something and possibly put it on Medium, or I might start a story and never finish it. (I have been published on several non-paying publications online, mostly for self-reflective essays or comedic pieces.) However, I'd never really finished something and actually looked at submitting it to a literary journal, magazine, or online publication that specializes in poetry or short fiction (and that pays.)


I'm doing that now. And despite the rejections I'm receiving, it's really wonderful.


SUBMISSION

I wanted to emphasize this word in the title because I think there's something so beautiful about it, particularly for writing. Whenever you submit your writing to a publication, you're giving a stranger(s) the opportunity to read a story you created typically without the synopsis of what it's really about. They have to come to their own conclusions.


As a writer, you're really allowing yourself to be vulnerable in a beautiful way--whether the editor offers feedback in the case your piece is rejected or whether they don't. And just that ability to share a piece of yourself with a stranger--that submission--I think is really beautiful.


TAKING A SECOND LOOK

I have sent my story, titled "Sewing Machine," to several places. So far, I've received two rejections, including one with feedback, which I requested.


When I first submitted my piece after working on it for an extensive period and having several others look at it, I felt confident that it had a chance to be accepted. In addition, the longer I didn't hear from one of the publications that I sent it to (Smokelong Quarterly) the higher I felt my chances were that it might actually be published. (Honestly, I became a bit obsessive about it.)


However, as I read the piece again and again, I kept finding things that weren't necessarily wrong but details of the story that could be added or that were essentially missing. Details that might make the story better. Details that left less ambiguity.


When I finally did receive a rejection, the feedback I did receive from the editor made sense. And it didn't sting as much either. It felt like another opportunity to learn something and to grow.


LESS IS MORE, IN MOST CASES

In my writing, I like to use a lot of symbolism. I prefer for the reader to come to a general idea about what's going on in a story, but possible questions about certain descriptions and sensory details. I like to leave some things unanswered.


The critique I received for my piece was that it wasn't fleshed out enough; that I didn't communicate my intentions enough. In other words, there was too much mystery.


The more I examine short and flash-fiction, the more I understand that this editor is right. However, I wanted to share a famous piece of micro-fiction believed to be written by Ernest Hemingway (that most people have probably come across before).


"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

The writing is also believed to be connected to the May 16, 1910 article from the Spokane Press, pictured below.


Hemingway's piece is perfect as it is, but this gives a bit more context. Some stories need more context; this was true in my case.


At this point I'm not sure whether to scrap the story or edit it. Sometimes it just feels better to start something new rather than deal with something old. (Though I will still be hearing from a few more places for just this one story.)


Whatever I decide, I have found that rejection isn't a bad thing. After acceptance and understanding, it has the power to strengthen your skills and your character.

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