FROM THE DESK OF E. KRISTIN ANDERSON:
I have a shoebox full of rejections.
The shoebox once contained my favorite sneakers – a pair of PF Flyers that I bought when I first moved to New York in 2006. I’m sad to report that the sneakers are no longer with us. The rejections, however? I have every single one.
The Rejection Box.
When I first started submitting my poetry to magazines – around the same time I bought those shoes – I knew that I wasn’t going to get a whole lot of yeses. At least not right away. And probably not from the big names. The Paris Review
, The New Yorker
– these are the magazines that make careers. I was just starting. Paper submissions were still the preferred method with a lot of magazines, so I took the long way to the subway every day so that I could stop by the post office and get proper postage for my submissions. I dropped them into the mailbox, thinking that this time, at least ONE of these would come back with a yes.
It took a long time. Finally in the summer of 2007, I heard from an editor at a new magazine called Mimesis. They wanted to print a few of my poems. I was so proud. My roommate and I celebrated, probably with ice cream and bad TV – it’s hard to remember. And I didn’t tell many people then, but the editor was a longtime friend of mine and so I never really felt like that completely counted. But you know what? It did.
Red Bird Chapbooks, June 2014.
Over the past two years I’ve published work in magazines that I never thought would have me, like Asimov’s Science Fiction
and Post Road
. And sometimes when I say things like this – that I didn’t think I’d ever get into these magazines – people give me this look like, well if you didn’t think you were good enough, why did you even bother submitting?
And I get that. Because I have a box of rejections that proves their point. And I have an inbox of archived rejections that extra proves it. But I’ve often told writer friends as well as young writers asking for advice that you can’t win if you don’t play. And that’s kind of how this is, right? I have a copy of The Cimarron Review
that proves my
point. And so I sent work to The Paris Review
Finishing Line Press, October 2014.
This year has been a whirlwind for me, as a poet. My first chapbook, A GUIDE FOR THE PRACTICAL ABDUCTEE
came out last month. (This was another yes that surprised me. This is too weird for chapbook publishers!
I thought. I submitted anyway.) And I have a second chapbook, A JAB OF DEEP URGENCY
, forthcoming in October. Most of you reading this post probably know me from DEAR TEEN ME
, from kidlit events and all things YA. But, what many of you don’t know is that I’ve been wearing my poet hat for much longer. And I think that working in this crazy tough, uber-competitive field prepared me for the rejections that I’ve received since I moved to Austin, Texas and began writing YA. YA is also super tough and uber-competitive, and it’s been good to know that even with a box of rejections sitting in my library, I have a shelf full of magazines that have published my work.
I started collecting rejections probably because I’m a packrat. And then, because I’ve always been kind of an egomaniac and, at 23, I had the most wonderful delusions of grandeur, I thought, well, these rejections will keep me grounded when I’m a famous poet. (Because that’s a thing. No it’s not.) Truly, what they’ve become is a reminder that it takes a lot of rejections to get a yes. It takes making an effort every single day, regardless of your self-confidence or your faith in the universe to please-oh-please throw me a bone. And it takes being willing to accept rejection. Accept it, because it’s part of the game. Collect it, because you can’t win if you don’t play.