While most rejection experts protect their secrets with lasers that you can only see with blown baby powder and others charge astronomical fees for underwhelming advice for how to compile a set of rejection letters, I’m willing to share my wisdom for free right here. The formula is simple: only submit to journals that are too good for you. I’ve seen aspiring rejectionists accidentally write something good and get published. That’s just Busch League. Others get arrogant and submit to Jimmy’s Poetrie and Chiken Magizine, thinking they’ve got the kind of game that it takes to pick up a high level rejection letter. Idiotic Icaruses, all of them. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Keep the prose paltry, the plots contrived, and the characters stock. And for goodness sakes, send that stuff to top shelf mags.
Here’s a personal example. I recently submitted yet another mediocre story to yet another excellent journal. This time the story was about a guy shopping at Walmart and the journal was Mid-American Review. Let’s break down why that was so smart.
MAR is housed at Bowling Green State University and offers their MFA students editorial experience. BGSU’s creative writing program, as you know, has a strong tradition, one that’s played a role in the carriers of Marc Sumerak, Jean Thompson, Scott Cairns, and Tony Ardizzone.
Since 2000, MAR has been edited by Michael Czyzniejewski, an estimable rejectionist in his own right: he first published a story (on accident, let’s hope) after having been heismaned no fewer than 192 times. Respect. MAR and Czyzniejewski, now retired from professional rejectioning, offer writers a few annual contests, which are always great opportunities to log those coveted literal literary losses. I knew MAR was right for me when I saw that they’ve published two of my favorite writers, Michael Martone and David Foster Wallace (in the same issue, no less: Volume XVIII, No. 2). Odds are it’s published a lot of people you like, too, especially if you’re into people like Yusef Komunyakaa, Rita Dove, and Virginia Tech’s own Bob Hicok. These are luminaries, folks. These are the kinds of names, and this is the kind of work, that you have to surround yourself with if you’re truly committed to rejection.
I wish you way more than suck.