rejected, the writing process

Rejected: Falling down and fake histories

I’ve got another couple of rejections to throw on the pile this week, one from a while back and one from yesterday.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that I hadn’t heard about a poem I’d sent to the stylish folks at Linebreak, and was just about to email them to see what was what when I thought to myself that a quick look in the Junk Mail folder might be a good idea. Well, it was and it wasn’t because there was an email from the Linebreakers in there, but the email in question turned out to be a rejection letter.

Linebreak’s rejections are short and impersonal, but friendly and reasonable at the same time, which soothes the sting a bit. This is my second rejection from them. In the case of the first poem I’m confident that the reason they knocked it back was mainly because its tone didn’t fit with their style – it’s a poem I’m very happy with, and which has since been published elsewhere (more on that in a future post).

In this case, though, I think this latest poem got rejected partly because it isn’t quite ready for publication – I’ll definitely give it a closer look before sending it out again – and partly because of it didn’t fit with Linebreak’s editorial vision. The poems Linebreak publish seem to have a particular tone that I can’t quite articulate, except to say that I like it and I haven’t quite managed to get it yet.

Rejection number two came over the phone in person, from Dale Campisi at Arcade Publications. Arcade are a newish indie publisher focusing on Melbourne-based histories, which is why I thought that my series of false histories based around the teams of the Australian Football League might be something they were interested in.

I submitted the manuscript in March and sent a few follow-up emails in July and August, but I didn’t get any replies, so I checked out their website and found a phone number on the Contact Us page. I tried calling a few times, but there was no answer and no voicemail, just a missed call service, and not surprisingly the guys at Arcade didn’t call me back (for the record I’m not in the habit of calling unfamiliar mobile numbers that get randomly texted to me, either), so I kept trying.

I sent a text last week, thinking that a polite message might have more chance of a reply than an anonymous phone number, but a week went by with no response. I know from their mailing list that they’ve been busy with the launch of a new title, so I figured that they would get back to me eventually, but in the meantime it wouldn’t hurt to keep trying.

The Arcade offices are actually around the corner from my workplace, and at one stage I contemplated just dropping in to say g’day, but I quickly dismissed that as a bit too crazy-author-stalkery and a good way to freak out some people whose work I admire and who I would like to keep on side if at all possible.

Yesterday afternoon I came across the Arcade number in my recently called list, and I thought what the hell. To my surprise I got through to Dale Campisi and quickly put on my polite author enquiry voice to ask if he’d had a chance to look at the manuscript.

Dale replied that he had, mentioning that he recognised my name from last week’s text, and apologised for not responding sooner, which was nice. Dale went on to explain that they’re only publishing one book next year, and they’ve already chosen the manuscript, so they were going to pass on mine. He added that they were considering looking into football and also expanding beyond non-fiction into creative work, which was encouraging.

I wasn’t really expecting him to say “oh yes by the way we love it and when can we meet to discuss royalties” (people don’t tend to not return the emails and calls of people they intend on publishing), but I like closure when it comes to submissions, so having obtained the rejection I was expecting, I thanked Dale and let him go.

I never know how to end this kind of conversation. Thanking someone for rejecting you feels weird, and after the conversation is over I’m always left replaying it in my mind, wondering if there was something I could have said – some way I could have made my case to turn the no into a yes. I never manage to come up with any alternatives, though.

Having been an editor and having rejected my fair share of aspiring writers in my time, I know what it’s like to be on the other end of this conversation, so I tend to err on the side of polite acquiescence in these situations, which often in hindsight adds to the disquieting esprit d’escalier sensation that these interactions inspire.

So here I stand, with a poem about falling down and a bunch of prose poems not really about football, both looking for a home. I’ve got some ideas about the falling down poem, but I’m scratching my head a bit about the not-football ones.

Ah, well. Back on the horse, I guess. Here’s to the next letter. May it come quickly and be of the species L. Acceptans.

2 thoughts on “Rejected: Falling down and fake histories”

  1. I’ll keep an eye/ear out for homes for these projects…hmm. Sound fascinating!

    I appreciate you sharing rejections this way. It is reassuring–everyone always says “be prepared to get rejected!” but we writers don’t get to see (gracefully handled) examples of it. I know it is definitely part of the job.

    How about Biblioasis?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s