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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rejection and The Place of Dreams in Fiction

I got a rejection letter from Bartleby Snopes a few days ago. First let me explain that Bartleby Snopes is quality in every sense. They do what they love, they do it well, and they do it with attention. They are pretty darn selective, and of course that helps the magazine.

I've been constantly trying to place the story I sent to them ever since I finished it in March. If it hasn't been at one zine, it's been at another. I knew I probably wouldn't have it published in Bartleby Snopes-- I'm just not that cocky-- but it never hurts to try. The reason it doesn't hurt is that Bartleby Snopes stands out for two more reasons: the editor gets back to submissions very quickly (not even two days for me), and he actually tells you a reason why he's not taking it. Non-writers and writers who've never tried to publish in a periodical are often surprised when I tell them that it's highly unusual to get an actual reason along with your rejection notice. In a perfect world, every editor would have the time and energy to explain in a couple of polite sentences why the piece isn't right for her publication at that time, but, the world just isn't perfect.

Anyway, in the scheme of things, I'm thrilled with this rejection letter because it gave me some aspects about the story to consider.

Thank you for submitting to Bartleby Snopes. We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this piece is not for us. This was an interesting read, but it didn't feel focused enough. The glue bit and the spray didn't mesh well for me. It felt almost like there were two different stories here, and the piece wasn't sure which it should tell. The piece also felt a little too restrained. It didn't allow the absurdity to fully develop and take control in a way that made it believable. Definitely a fun read though.

Good luck with this one elsewhere. Please try us again in the future.

Here's the thing: the story was based entirely on a dream. Not "focused enough," fine, but "too restrained"? Who has restrained dreams? I wonder if he means that he wanted the story to go further, and my dream cut off before the absurdity could really take over. Alternatively, he might mean that my conscious mind ought to have taken over, instead of staying so faithful to the dream and its cutoff point. (That would be if he knew I was writing down a dream, but he didn't.)

But here's the other thing: this was a flash fiction piece. It was pushing the traditional 1000-word limit already. If it were going to be a proper short story, I would have approached it from a completely different viewpoint, attack mode, word choice, etc. And maybe I should have...

White rhinoceros and her child in a South African reserve.
But here's the last thing: I really like this story! I can't imagine why no magazine has published it yet! It has a shrinking rhinoceros! I think it's pretty clever how the narrator starts out trying to sell something, witnesses something else bizarre, and then briefly reflects on the worth of the thing he/she was selling. To me, that's literature with something to say! 

Unless you're my husband, you haven't read this story I'm talking about, so I apologize for the impassioned plea in its favor. And I'll let you know when it does get published. 

This story is what it is. Which is not Bartleby Snopes material. But I will try them again in the future, because they're quality.