Tag Archives: Rejection

Comfort in a Cookie

You Are Not What You EatFor an exercise in my fiction workshop, each student was given a fortune cookie and asked to interact with it. We interacted: we broke them, read the fortunes, nibbled on the cookie chunks or chomped them down in one bite. The exercise was about magical thinking in our own lives and our readers’ lives, and how stories so often rely upon the magic of symbols, the mystical confluence of coincidences. Despite of our capacity for logic, we often attach special meaning to mundane things.

I wanted to resist that superstitious behavior. I am, after all, a pretentious English Major, cold and unfeeling, so I instinctively dismiss all fortunes found in cookies, or any other bourgeois baked goods.

In this class, we have also discussed publication (and lack thereof) at great length. “Writing is an industry of rejection,” the instructor has pointed out. While we try to have thick skin, rejections pile up and start to hurt. So when I read my fortune, I will admit that for a moment I gave into magical thinking:

You will soon be receiving some good written news.

It could have been written just for me. Why not? Why can’t I find a little comfort in a cookie? Most writers know to take rejections in stride, but it’s difficult to take for so long, so why not admit that I wanted some factory-produced strip of paper to let me know that if I wait just a moment longer, I’ll get a big publication in a well-known journal?

After class yesterday, I checked my email, and was surprised to find a response from a literary journal I’d sent a collection of environmental poems to back in December. My heart skipped a beat as I read the email quickly, and to my utter amazement, the journal rejected the poems.

Maybe you thought for a moment that I got a big publication. I’d hoped so, too. Maybe I’ve just demonstrated how easily I can connect an arbitrary object (a fortune cookie) with the right combination of values and aspirations lurking in you, the reader. Or maybe not. Perhaps I’ve manipulated your own experience with rejection, especially if you’re a writer. This is an industry of rejection, and good fortune doesn’t correlate with publication. I’ll keep submitting, and I’ll keep writing and revising, and every now and then I’ll allow myself the comfort of dreaming that maybe, just maybe, I’ll get some good written news.

Fellow writers, how do you cope with rejections? Or have you fortuitously gotten any publications lately? Let me know in the comments, and spread the writerly love.


One Final Poem

Today marks the end of National Poetry Month. Tomorrow, I will begin a short story I have been planning to write since March. For me, this month brought numerous rejections, one after another, including three short stories, several poems, and a complete poetry manuscript. Nevertheless, I have written twenty-two fresh poems, and to make things better, some of them are not too bad. To celebrate the end of April, I will post one more poem I wrote this month, entitled “Carpe Nix.” Enjoy.

April Snowstorm

Carpe Nix

There may be no good days to be useless,
but what use is today
when it snows three inches, when professors

grow pale over glasses of wine,

when coffee shops contract like muscles
as students file in one by one
preparing for public execution
sanctioned by professors
with sharp wine on their breath?

What good is today
over any other day
when we can’t make snow angels together
because there are convoluted superstructures
to deconstruct into postmodernity?

But I insist on today’s uselessness. I lean in
and whisper to you that you need not
sever your ear and mail it to the Dean
of Arts and Letters for inspection.

That can wait, but
snow angels dance only for so long
before curling up in blankets of mud,

just as you and I will curl up beneath six feet
of fattened worms and swollen soil.
Today it snows voraciously

and you spend three hours conducting surgery
on Albert Camus’s footnotes.

Let them soak for a while in Chardonnay.
The snow angels are calling to us,
announcing a need for dance partners
atop their moistened deathbeds.

Today is a fine day to be useless,
even though coffee-stained idols
must be composed for wine-drunk priests
holding the keys to our future.

But what good is a field of grass
beneath three inches of snow,

or a poet beneath a tombstone?
No more useful than warm fingers,
smooth hands, or sloping shoulders
if they freeze holding a pen
tucked indignantly over the nail-solid logic

of how useless it is to be useful for so long.