I live in the world of horror known as “the unpublished author”. Last month, I sent out two stories for contests, stories which I consider to be the best I’ve written. I’ve polished and shined, cut and added, thrown out and started over on these two until they could not be made any better. I’ve received favorable feedback from my husband, my mom, my writing instructor, my friends online, even people I work with at the bank. There is nothing else that I know to do except send them out into the world and let them be judged by those that take it upon themselves to paste together the gloriously glossy pages that we call “literary magazines”.
I waited on pins and needles, constantly checking my email for any kind of a response to my brave act, dreaming of the day that the email would come that would read something like this:
Dear Mrs. Johnson,
We are pleased to inform you that your story has been selected as the winner of (insert contest here) and we would be happy to publish it in our esteemed pages. Congratulations, you have toiled through the muck and mire, ridden the roller coaster of anticipation and defeat, and come out the other side victorious. You, madam, may now call yourself a Published Author. Where may we send your check?
And the emails did come. But they did not read exactly how I imagined they would. They were more along the lines of “Sorry, this game piece is not a winner. Please play again soon!”
When I finally received confirmation that my two darling pieces of fiction had been unceremoniously dumped, I took a moment to reflect on it. Where had I gone wrong? Did I need to rewrite yet again? Were they too short? Too long? Too skinny? Too fat? Should I just dump them in the little icon called “Recycle Bin” and forget they ever existed? Would I be eighty and still not be published? These thoughts and many like them flitted through my mind as I stared at my inbox, my fleeting hopes of success thoroughly dashed. I stared for a good five seconds.
And then I picked myself up, dusted off my jeans and got right back in line for the next roller coaster ride. Because there’s really nothing else I can do. Someday, I’ll write the perfect story, match it with the right editor, send it at just the right moment and maybe, just maybe, get that dream letter in my mailbox. Until then, I’ll just keep plugging along. Because I’m not afraid of the big, bad Rejection. After all, Stephen King got rejected. So, in a way, if I get rejected too, that means I’m just like Stephen King! Right?