Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cigar Supply is Running Very Low

I also considered "You Almost Sunk My Battleship." Anyway, here's a list of (non) writing related news over the last few months:

--Finalist, Spring Garden Press Robert Watson Poetry Chapbook Award.
--Runner Up (1 of 3), The Journal Flash Prose Writing Contest (creative nonfiction).
--Semi finalist, Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award
--Top 50 / 1,000 for Tupelo Press summer open reading period for poetry manuscripts.
--Note from Ronald Wallace at the University of Wisconsin Press with their fine poety book prize series: "Sorry--it's a very strong manuscript."
--Orion seems to like my nonfiction, at least enough to produce a hand-scribbled note.
--Ditto for Missouri Review on the nonfiction.
--America Magazine thinks I'm competent, but my poetry might be too prosey (I should maybe stop working in two genres at once)
--The Chattahoochee Review, Hudson Review, and Mid American Review all seem to like my prose, given their hand written notes of a few lines, but I didn't win anyone over.

There are several levels to rejection, as writers know, but if you don't and care to know:

Level 1: Your work didn't click with whoever happened to be reading this today / by golly you are just awful. Typed form rejection slip on small paper.

Level 2: We respect your work / you have some talent so keep working at it. Typed form rejection slip on small paper with someone's initials or the words "Thanks" or "Best."

Level 3: You're fairly skilled at this, but.... Rejection slip on small sheet or letterhead, with a few words typed or written "Thanks, please try us again" or "We liked x or x."

Level 4: We just don't have enough room and you didn't knock our socks off, but you've got skills. Hand-written notes on personal stationary, specific sentence or two on what worked or didn't in a poem or piece of prose, suggestions for further reading on topics similar to your own submission's.

Level 5: The clouds part and a ray of sunlight shines forth upon you as the sound of trumpets and chariots echo across the prairie, and I say unto you ye shall enter the promised land after 7 years of tribulation, milk and honey shall flow from the bosom of the earth, for we have accepted your writing and the multitudes cry out in ecstatic song, go forth and multiply, this is good, so it is written, so it shall be paid in a contributor's copy perhaps with your name listed on the back cover.

Then the next day you get a level 1 rejection note from some other place and the cycle begins anew.

I'm twistedly happy (I guess) that I've been floundering around in level 4 a lot the last year or two, but it's still simply a case of close, but no cigar. Will it always be like this? Is it just part of the infinite dance?


Anonymous said...

Whew! That is quite the roller coaster. You must have developed some thick skin by now, like calluses around your psyche. But congrats on the sunshiney ones.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful, telling post.
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Don't let someone else dictate your mood! Pretty funny post though and may you only receive Level 5's in the future.

Susan Tomlinson said...

I've certainly had my share of level 2s!

Anonymous said...

Sigh and sigh again. I say, kudos to you for continuing to submit! Sort of like only being able to win the lottery if you actually buy tickets, the only hope for being published is to continue to barrage publishers with submissions. Congratulations! You're doing the two things you must in order to get published: a) writing and b) submitting. Stock up on those cigars, it's going to happen!

themanicgardener said...

That is dead-on-balls accurate. (It's an industry term. You'll find it in My Cousin Vinny, which will cheer you up if you need it. I'd say you're doing pretty damn well.)


Anonymous said...

Hey things could be worst. You could be me, then you wouldn't need a rejection note. You'd hear them moaning when they opened the submission.

Hopefully someday soon you'll get #6. A big fat check in the mail.

IBOY said...

The creative arts have to be the most difficult roads to follow, yet I suppose the most rewarding (unfortunately, the reward all too often seems to be posthumous). It sounds like you have the drive and talent to succeed; you just need a break. Have you thought about hanging out at the local drugstore counter? Just a thought... :o)


VP said...

Sounds like you're close enough not to give up to me. Maybe next year's your year?

Anonymous said...

Ah, the writer's life. It isn't for the intrepid, is it? I loved Level 5 with the "contributor's copy." Isn't that the truth?

Hang in there. Writing poetry is one of the hardest ways to express oneself in this difficult churning career. I send you my blessings though because we're all glad you write.~~Dee

Benjamin Vogt said...

Frances--Actually, my skin is so thick that when people close to me try to offer encouraging words, I actually want them to say: "Those $%@$% editors don't know $@^@$ about #^^$@! and you're work is $^@$&$ worth being pudlished, the whole thing is so #%^!#! Phew. :)
David--I could go on....
Layanee--I'm usually only affected for the remainder of the day after a close rjection. Maybe into breakfast if I don't sleep well.
Susan--I have a drawer to show you!
OFB--Oh it's SOOO like the lottery, isn't it? I mean yes, if you edit and learn and work hard and have decent work, what more can you do? Just be ready, I guess, and out yourself where lightening can strike... under oaks standing in a pool of water?
KAte--That's a pretty cute movie, but now I have a new industry term to use when swearing at envelopes....
WA--That's sort of how I feel when I see you've left me a comment. THAT was sarcasm, fyi. :)
Don--Lord do I need a break, but can't be until February. I've been relying on dark chocolate and tea.
VP--Yes. Next year is THE YEAR!!!
Dee--I lose many a student when they see how hard it is: editing, drafting, editing, going insane, editing. And then they tend to blame me for showing them what it's like, i.e. reality. C'est la vie. Thanks for your note, Dee.

Anonymous said...

So how much longer do you think that a small group of people who scribble notes in long hand or put your msc. in the 'Level 1' pile for their secretary to handle will control who reads what you write? And how many people will read what you write if you make it through their gate? (Or over the bridge under which they lurk?)

Kylee Baumle said...

Well, WE love you. :-) Maybe we should all get together, do self-publishing individually, as a group, and become known the world over as "The Commoners That Write Uncommonly."

Benjamin Vogt said...

Craig--Answer to question the first: forever. Answer to question the second: not many at all. Maybe you'r eimplying something more hopeful, or are you helping to put cold water on my face?
Kylee--Sigh. Much has been written on the games that seem necessary to win this game. I don't know. It's easy to despair over things, but let me tell you, after a good day of writing I feel like I can move mountains, I feel so high I can't begin to describe it, so I will do this until I die. Up and down, up and down you go.

Kylee Baumle said...

I know what you mean, Ben. I HAVE to write. It hasn't always been that way for me, although all my life I've had the desire to be involved in literature in some way. Reader always, editor for a few years, and writing on occasion, until this blogging thing. Now, I HAVE to write. I wouldn't be happy if I didn't.

Garden Wise Guy said...

Benjamin (my son's name): Love your portrayal of Level 4. Now you see why I neither consider myself a "real" writer nor do I aspire to be one. An aging mentor once told me, "Take the thing you love most in life and make it your hobby," referring to my primary passion - drumming. That's what I've ended up doing.

I think writing will not reach the obsession level of drumming, but I firmly intend to keep it at the hobby level unless someone comes to my home and drags me out, kicking and screaming, bestowing lavish gifts and praise upon me to write--throw in some groupies and we're REALLY talking.

I'm blessed that I also have passion for landscape design, but it will never supersede the nipple-hardening thrill of laying down the perfect funk groove with a rhythm section of amply talented funkmeisters.

Reading your profile and understanding your "chops" I'm honored to receive your kudos.

Write on...stay in touch.

PS: As for editing in exchange for that fascinating sounding blog, bring it on. I just hope you're not in too much of a rush and have some "real" editors doing the heavy lifting.

Later, skater.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say this, since I'm late into all of this - but I've experienced another level (with respect to grant rejections) that leaves me going 'huh'. It's the one where all of your reviews from the National Science Foundation are excellent, but due to limited resources, we can't support your excellent proposal.

I tell my students that it's all about perserverance, not necessarily smarts. I also know that the grants that I submit that I think are really compelling, often don't get funded, and the ones that I threw together often do. I have decided the world doesn't make any sense, and I keep submitting proposals.

In other words, what the heck.