Chopped Liver (The Writing Rejection Merry-Go-Round)

 

ZaydeLucy

“Bubbeleh, is my writing chopped liver???”

 

DEDICATION:

This post goes out to all writers who don’t give up on the publishing game.

Lucy and I salute you!imagesI mean….

images-3

 

Recently I emailed an essay to a local magazine that publishes personal essays and poetry. The publication has a special interest in pieces about writing and life in this area. I’ll call it The Banana Slug Gazette. 

Yesterday I read the current issue and chuckled when I recognized two of its writers. These men were members of a gym where I worked as a desk attendant/certified personal trainer in the 1990’s. We had some lively chats at that front desk. Back then, I didn’t know the two members were writers, but they were my favorite kind of member: warm, witty and kind; in other words, they treated me as a person rather than a warm body whose only value was in handing them fresh towels.

I read their pieces, and I thought my writing was at the same level. Clearly none of us had the talent of another local writer, some guy you may have heard of named Jonathan Franzen. I noticed their submissions had nothing  to do with life in Santa Cruz, or writing.

I submitted The Found Girl  to The Banana Slug Gazette because it included (and examined) local references and, most importantly, I believed in it. I thought that my topic of surviving mental illness (a subject I hadn’t noticed covered in the archives of The Banana Slug Gazettemade it a worthwhile read.

A few days ago I received an email from the Gazette editor. She wrote,  

“Thanks for your heartfelt nonfiction submission. It doesn’t fit with our needs right now, but I thought it was very well done.”

Okay, it could have been worse…

But it’s never fun to read an editor’s “thanks, but no thanks”, and by her wording, it was clear that The Found Girl would never fit with the Gazette’s “needs”. I was being let down with faint, insincere praise.

Yes, rejection is a de rigueur experience for any writer. It has happened to me quite a bit, and some of you may recall that I’ve whined blogged about writing rejection here and here.

After reading the Gazette email, I reacted poorly. Apparently I haven’t earned my Writing Rejection Yellow Belt yet! The bottom line was that I felt like my writing wasn’t good enough. Despite my having a literature degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz, landing two book deals and having my articles published over two decades, I felt like my writing sucked and that I sucked too! 

This icky feeling of unworthiness made me want to email the Gazette’s editor and fire off this puuurrfect William Shakespeare invective:

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King Lear

 

My next thought was this: As The Found Girl mentions my struggle with bipolar disorder, I couldn’t help but wonder if mental illness stigma also played a role in my rejection. Could it be that mental illness wasn’t a “deep” enough topic for this small-town literary magazine?

Who knows.

 

images

 

It’s most likely that the editor simply didn’t like my writing. Perhaps my essay was written too informally. But we’re talking about one person who, according to my Google Advanced Search, isn’t a professional editor, agent, or accomplished writer. She’s doing her editorial work as a labor of love; I just wished she loved my essay!

Why did I even want The Found Girl to appear in the Gazette? The magazine isn’t well known – it’s no Tin House or Glimmer Train. However, I really liked the grassroots aspect of it. I wanted to connect with that particular group of writers. I wanted to be published where I live, writing about one of the subjects that’s closest to my heart.

To that end, yesterday I submitted yet another piece to The Banana Slug Gazette, and I won’t stop trying until they publish me or fold! 

Unknown

In memory of my father Richard David Leshin, violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, May 22, 1927-January 6th, 2009. Dad, I miss you more than words can express.

UnknownDyane & Dad 002

Dad and Dyane, Santa Cruz, 2005. I’m 8 mos. pregnant with Avonlea

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder, with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa, will be published by Post Hill Press in Fall, 2017.

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40 thoughts on “Chopped Liver (The Writing Rejection Merry-Go-Round)

    1. Awwwwww, thanks!!!!!
      I haven’t heard from the editor yet, but it’s still early. If I get another “no”, then I’ll keep sending in submissions because I’m one stubborn gal! 😉

      Xoxo

      p.s. my daughter wants a rabbit and she wrote a long letter last night explaining to us why we need to get one. Then she watched a YouTube video about the reality of caring for a rabbit (some older woman expert with the celebrity Amy Sedaris by her side?) and Avi realized that it takes actual work.
      That SHE would have to do!
      Her enthusiasm waned despite the absolute, super-cuteness of the rabbits in the video…….

  1. “I really liked the grassroots aspect of it. I wanted to connect with that particular group of writers” – you wanted to belong, nothing bad about that. I have no doubt, as an already published and accomplished writer, you have the perseverance and tenacity to bust through that editor. I know you will succeed

    1. Thanks so much! There’s always stalking; I could print hard copies of my 315+blog posts and leave one on the editor’s doorstep topped by a rose every day as a hint. (I’M KIDDING! I know that’s super-twisted, although in truth there’s a fair amount twisted-ness in my outlook!) I would never do that; I do have a little bit of pride and sanity. 😉

      In all seriousness, you are quite sweet, and your comment made me feel great. I hope that you have a wonderful day, Pieces of Bipolar!!!🌈 I’ll keep you posted on how it all turns out….

  2. Just remember Steve Jobs got fired from his own company–but it never deterred him. He may have recently passed– but oh what would life be like without his work?

    The world would have sorely missed his gift and talent. 🤓 keep talking and writing nerdy to everyone online- and keep fighting for what you believe girl.

  3. At least today I am down to the 27th comment and still I whine 🙂 How do you all beat me to it? If at this level I can’t thrive then will it ever get to the banana bush?
    Oh lady, I can imagine how it sucks too, but as your mum says above, T’is all part of life. At least none ain’t gonna reject you here 🙂
    Frankly, I try my best to limit my exposure or reaction to Negative… you name them. It’s just a one way ticket to Life you got oh, make every second count darling because yes you can
    May Dad’s memories last forever. Please could I find some of his music somewhere?
    love from the jungle 🙂

    1. A seriously beautiful, funny & profound comment, Lady M! Blogging about the rejection always helps me through it, although I know it’s not the best way to retain followers! :))))) But you promised none of you would reject me here, right? Still planning on reading your latest blog post (from Jan. 7th, that is) – you’ll see me there!

      You gave me some great advice about exposure/reaction to Negative – now I just need to heed it!!!
      And thank you for what you wrote about Dad – I do have some of his cassette tapes and would love to get that music online!

      XOXOXOXOXOXOX now and always,
      LOVE LADY DY!
      and of course your buddy Miss Lucy

  4. First of all..you cracked my shit up. I so hearted the insertions. Super cute my dear.

    Especially Oh no she didn’t

    HA

    But you know you may have something there…mental illness isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Understatement of the century award goes to me!

    But we are all so used to talking about mental illness and we are all a bunch of TMI tell it straighters and it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. And it SHOULDN’T be.

    But yeah. I guess it is. For others.

    I liked this post a ton. Honest and warm and funny.

    It is weird that on one hand you can know your writing is great and at the same time feel like it isn’t. What’s that about?

    Rejection always stings. If people say they are immune to it they are probably lying or trying really hard for it to be true.

    It is always best when we can rise above and remember our truth

    that and when we say

    FUCK THAT SHIT

    rock on Dy

    1. We are kindred spirits!!!! I was literally JUST over at your blog writing a novella comment while you were here writing this comment!!!! Ha ha ha ha ha ah !!!!!! I LOVE the synchronicity!

      And I’m super-pleased you liked the little insertions – I have so much fun doing those, as I bet you could tell!

      I’ll keep you posted of what happens with this particular publication. I’m not gonna stalk the editor….I won’t swing by her house and leave a gift bag of chopped liver, although I *do* know where it is thanks to that Google search and this being a small town!! (cue “Twilight Zone” theme music here)

      No, seriously. What I though a lot about today is that line “1 in 4” or “1 in 5” or whatever the real statistic is when it comes to how many people in this country are affected by mental illness. (ESPECIALLY creative people!) This magazine needs to publish someone’s shit about mental illness (preferably mine, LOL!) because it’s relevant and it’s interesting.

      I’m stoked you liked my post – that takes the sting out of the editor’s “meh”! Thank you so much for this comment; you truly made my day!!!!!!!!!!
      Love,
      Lady Dy

  5. What a mix of emotions in this post, Dyane. On the anniversary of losing your father, you maintain your strength of spirit over the literary rejection, while honoring his memory and keeping a sense of humor. Well done. Be proud.

    p.s. Your dad barely changed over the years…such a lovely picture. And…good call on the Living Color video. Haters gonna hate…move on, for sure. ☺

    1. 🎭 !
      I searched for that emoji since it represents the mix of emotions in the post! I knew you’d appreciate it!

      Ever since you turned me on to how to use the emojis I’ve become quite the emoji aficionado – bless you!

      Anyway, thank you so much for such kind words. It has been a difficult day for me for various reasons.When I found out he died, I became suicidal and asked to be hospitalized. At the unit asked (more like begged) for my first round of ECT. (It was lifesaving).

      It’s hard to believe that was 7 years ago. I wish that my father was still here, but I’m hoping all the New Age/afterlife authors I’ve read over the years are correct regarding their staunch belief our loved ones are still with us, and that we’ll see them again! (I hope I’m not offending your religious beliefs – I know it’s a delicate subject.)

      Hope this finds you well, dear Van, and I send you my love and happiness for the New Year! ❤️💗💓💖🚐🚐🚐

      1. No offense at all, Dyane, I have often felt the presence and influence of those I’ve lost.💕 Wishing you the very best this new year. Hugs to you.

        p.s. Love the comedy/tragedy masks…can’t have one without the other.

  6. Honey, you ain’t chopped liver, you’re smooth as silk pate! If that editor can’t see that, well she can suck eggs!! Keep trying!! One thing I’ve learned about you is that you are TENACIOUS and that characteristic will see you through. ❤

    1. Thanks SO SO SO SO much sweetness – I know this post is yet another indulgent whinefest, but between that rejection and being sick with the Evil Cough From Hell (***you*** get that!!!) it has been the most opportune time for a good whine!

      While I love spilling my guts and exposing my envy & insecurity-filled warts to the world, I love kind, non-Judge Judy comments even more!

      Love ya, smoothielicious,
      XOXO
      TENANCIOUS “D”! 😉

  7. Aww, I”m sorry they rejected your piece, Dyane. I’ll tell you this, from the perspective of a fiction reader at a literary journal: it probably had nothing to do with the quality of the piece or the topic. Our journal says no to many wonderful pieces (okay, and many more crappy ones, but that’s not what we’re talking about here!).

    Sometimes, it really isn’t the right timing; maybe we published something similar (or are going to publish) in tone or on that topic, and we don’t want to repeat ourselves. Sometimes it doesn’t fit with the target readership’s interests or the vision the editors have for a particular issue’s theme. Sometimes we just have too many good submissions to accept them all at this moment. Sometimes it just isn’t the right piece for us . . . but it might be for another journal. I read a lot of stories that revolve around mental illness or mention it, and though there are probably journals that wouldn’t like it, I wouldn’t reject a piece because of that. (Not just because I’m bipolar, but because it’s a darned popular topic in literary works!!)

    If they said that it was “well done”, then that’s an encouraging rejection. So no need to fret, hon, or send funny Shakespeare insults. 🙂 It was nothing personal, I’m sure. It’s hard to have rejection letters. But you can still submit other pieces to them and submit that piece somewhere else.

    1. It’s so good to “see” you here, Laura! And reading your comment was like drinking a hot, soothing cup of Tazo passionfruit tea. I’m serious!

      You know of what you write, that’s for sure, from the perspective of an editor, a writer, and a mom with bipolar disorder. I’m very lucky that you read this post, for you’re absolutely right in what you wrote about here. I know that you’re spot-on in my gut. (God, I’ve been watching too much “Scandal” – for those of you who don’t watch it, that’s the main character’s catchphrase…) Anyway, I’m writing this response when I really should be rushing off to pick up the kids, but you inspired me and I wanted to reply while I’m fired up. Thanks for writing what I needed to read and assimilate into my bone marrow. Also, if you want to read other cool Shakespeare insults from assorted plays alongside adorable (and not-so-adorable) cat photos, visit this link!

      http://www.buzzfeed.com/lukelewis/shakespearean-insults-to-use-in-everyday-life#.hiXJGXwYM

      Thanks for taking the time to write such a helpful, insightful and compassionate comment. I *know* you’re busy, so it means a lot to me that you took time to do so! Happy New Year, Dyane :))))

      1. Love Shakespearean quotes! One of my characters in my WIP quotes the Bard all the time; his dad is a huge Shakespearean film fan, so 10th grader Jerome has seen every single film (including the foreign translation ones). 🙂

      2. AWESOME! Count me as a buyer for that WIP when it’s ready to download on my Kindle! 😉 I meant to include one of my fave Shakespearian sonnets in today’s post “When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes” since I’ve always related to it so much and love everything about it except that I wish he added “women’s eyes” too, as I’m envious of both men and women, LOL…but then the whole thing would sound bad.

  8. I avoid rejection by publishing myself. Did submit pieces of poetry for publication and was rejected. It stung. Especially since one of the editors was in OC Writers round table with me and was a retired psychologist. Ouch.

    1. Publishing oneself is a balm to the rejected soul, Kitt! That’s what I love about blogging (apart from its other obvious benefits). I’m so sorry that you knew one of the editors & that you were in the OC group together. That would %%*&^(^(&)*. (Yep, I’m eloquent!)

      It’s weird to have this drive to want to be published. Sometimes (who am I kidding – many times) I wish I didn’t have the compulsion, but I do. I’m reminded of a cool exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s the sardine fish tank.

      A beautiful lucite cylinder of silvery fish going around and around, driven to swim without let-up by Mother Nature. None of the sardines stop unless death calls for them. I’m a writing sardine machine, I suppose. Although you know that I break for chocolate!
      XoXo

      p.s. thanks for commenting. I’m sending you a big hug this very moment.

  9. Dear Dyane, I was just about to look for your email from maybe the day before yesterday and I think that like this email notification for this post, I may have accidentally deleted your email. I’m gonna recheck and see. I have kept the email rejection letters of four digital mags that have rejected me as I had seen this goofy Law and Order Criminal Intent where the serial killer was a frustrated author of at least thirty horror novels and his walls were fully plastered with rejection letters. Your rejection had nothing to do with the quality of your writing. Based on an experience I had with Marie Claire with a near miss on an Eating Disorder Fairy Tale I wrote, of all things, it had to do with the percent of their readers, they think, are interested or uplifted by an article about your resilience in the face of a overwhelming challenge. More likely they publish ‘fluffingtonstyle’ lifestyle pieces about carpooling, sustainable farming, xeroscaping vs having a green lawn, children, etc. I foolishly sent an article about the causality and statistics of atypical antipsychotics to a publication whose sole advertisers have patent protection on sales for two such products. Having the courage to put a name and a face to mental illness is daunting for those who don’t want mentall illness close. It’s possible your article mentioned having children with this illness and if it did, their failure to publish was a disservice to you and the community at large. But we can’t account for their lack of perspective, can we. Perhaps your strength in the face of this situation is threatening!!! Since I’ve had tardive dyskinesia, I can’t tell you how many choose to distance themselves from the task of providing me healthcare or allowing me to volunteer at a drop in center where I founded and grew support groups previously. Now, I’m TOO sick, they think. I’m testament to the fact that medication is very RiskvsBenefit and the tradeoffs can be scary. Maybe you are testament to the risk factors of pregnancy setting of peri partum …I can’t name the new name correctly, I’m sorry, Post Partum Bipolar Disorder. They are just finally wrapping their minds around unipolar depression and its’ effects on absenteeism, turnover, burnout and mortality.

    I had your experience and reworked my material three times until I was accepted. It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done; tailoring my stuff around a publication whose values and ethic I’m still a little unclear of.

    Remember, you can get mileage out of rejected pieces. Tweak and recirculate and keep writing stories about this being your “White Whale.” hahhaa

    Allison

    1. Thanks so much for this amazing comment – please let me know if you need me to re-send the email I sent you most recently- no biggie!! Actually, I’ll go re-send it now! p.s. it’s bipolar, peripartum onset in the DSM-5 but formerly the disorder has been called postpartum bipolar disorder – I go with both terms, and I’m using the latter one for my book’s title as you know! :))))

  10. I know you’ve read many times, likely, the number of rejections suffered by very successful writers. You’re on the way and there’s no way to get there but through the rejections, right? Good luck and good work on persevering!

    1. Hi there Debby! oh yes, I’ve read many of the stories of the famous rejections! I had second thoughts about publishing this whinefest today 😉 But it feels good to let it out and show the warts, you know what I mean? Thanks so much for taking time to read/comment. You’ve made me feel good and I’m very grateful to you. take care, and hope you have a great day! Dyane

  11. PS
    Forgot to comment on your writing to this paper. Very well put and I especially like your sense of humor coming through lately.
    Mama

  12. Like your spirit Dyane. Today as we mourn the passing of your father seven yrs ago I cannot help but remember what he told me.
    A prominent and gifted violinist was he. A member of the First Violin Section of the LA Philharmonic for 35 yrs as well as concertmaster of the New Orleans Philharmonic, a Fullbright Scholar , graduate of Julliard, etc. Did he face rejection in his career? Poor reviews of his concerts as a soloist? Ah yes! So my dear daughter. T’is all part of life. Move in. 🎻

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