One History of the VFL, poetry, rejected, the writing process

Rejected: Nyan Cats, Football, Clocks, Moments, The Number 2 & Beeps.

Four more of my poetries were rejunkted by the folks at Overland, this time “If We Detached the Hands of the Town Hall Clock From Its Internal Mechanism and Let Gravity Have Its Way”, “…and for a moment”, “After the Beep” and “Second Comes Right After First”.

“We appreciate the chance to read it,” they said. “Unfortunately, the piece is not for us,” they said. Four times they said it.

I’ve noticed that there seem to be two tiers of rejection at Overland, the aforementioned “not for us” bit, and the less-all-encompassing “While we can’t use this particular piece at the moment, we like the writing, and hope you will continue to send us your work,” with which they greeted the earlier submission of my odd little Run-DMC-inspired biopoem of William Strunk Jr., leading me to conclude either that a) they liked the Strunk thing better than the other things and it might be a good idea to revise it and resubmit or b) they’re just tired of my writing altogether and are now resigned to sending me the less encouraging form rejection so that I’ll stop wasting their time. I think I’ll go with a) for now.

A single day later I had my hopes mildly dashed by the genial folks at Poetry when they passed on “8-Bit Rainbows”, which I have to say I would have just kittened to have had published on their pages, but there you go. Their rejection was as prompt and nice as ever, so there’s that. I’ve been listening to their podcasts of late, which I cannot too-highly recommend, so it was difficult not to hear the rejection being read out in the dulcet tones of either Christian Wiman or Don Share (or both).

A few weeks later Slate didn’t so much as reject “8-Bit Rainbows” themselves as much as they rejected ALL poetry – apparently they’re not accepting poetry submissions any more. No idea why. Maybe I should ask them? Just out of curiosity? There’s no way that could be misinterpreted as a passive-aggressive way to get them to publish me, right?

After I got the sincere and apologetic email informing me of their poetry moratorium, I went and had a look on their website, but I couldn’t find any mention of this closure on their site. I also couldn’t find any mention of the submission guidelines that were up on the site a while back, though a Google search for the poetry editors’ email address did reveal a few poems in their poetry archive that had a kind of garbled version of the guidelines as a greyed-out footer in italics. Make of that what you will. They seem to still be publishing poems, though – their poem archive had a poem dated Feb 5 last I looked, so maybe they’ve just got a massive backlog to work through. It happens.

I got a nice bit of closure from Islet, whom regular readers will remember as considering “Lord Melbourne’s Triumph”, a flash fiction joint from my suite of false histories about Melbourne and football. Despite my chagrin at the entire process taking eleven months and essentially coming to nothing, the email I got from Island Editorial Assistant Lesley Halm was very well written and very kind. She apologised for the delay and thanked me for my patience and then went on to explain in some detail the possible reasons for rejection. I liked this bit of the email particularly, so I’ll reproduce it here:

There is a range of reasons for not accepting a submission. Many factors inform the selection of material — often it isn’t simply the work itself. Decisions are influenced by the context of other works already accepted and submitted. We also try to ensure a range and balance ( between content, genre and style). Decisions are also influenced by the tone of the publication, and, inevitably, by the personal biases and aesthetics of the editorial team and ultimately the editor — be these fair or unfair!

I think that sums up the journal selection process really, really well, in a fair and honest way. I may even nick parts of this paragraph for my own future rejection letters.

Ms. Halm’s sign-off was also considered and kind:

Sorry it is not better news for you this time; we hope you are not discouraged and will continue to re/write and send your work out for publication. I wish you well in all your creative ventures in the future.

Though I’d rather be published, if I’ve got to be rejected, this is the way I prefer to be rejected. Kudos to Island for ending this saga on a positive note. I particularly like the reference to rewriting work as part of the writing/submission process.

Finally, I didn’t get the Varuna Publishers Fellowship I applied for, which means I won’t be going to their gorgeous house in the Blue Mountains to be mentored and fed and looked after and pampered while I absorb the tranquility and inspiration of the surroundings and channel it into the completion of my 12-years-and-counting neopulp time travel new romantic spy thriller. To which I can only say Boo and Fuck.

2 thoughts on “Rejected: Nyan Cats, Football, Clocks, Moments, The Number 2 & Beeps.”

  1. I love hearing about your rejections. Keep ’em coming, Adam (or hopefully not). I also like the Islet response, which pretty much covers the gamut. There is an art to writing a good rejection letter, so you don’t receive it and want to top yourself:-) I have always wanted to go to Varuna – one day.

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