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  • Writer's pictureErika Nichols-Frazer

Bless the Personal Rejections

Well, friends, it's happened yet again: a rejection. From an arts grant I was crossing my fingers for. Statistically improbable, I know, but maybe.....? Nope. Not this year, anyway. I'll try again. If it's one thing I've learned in my writing career, it's persistence. And if there's another thing, it's resiliency.

My freshman year of college, I got rejected from the school's poetry festival - the largest free poetry festival in New York - and instead of realizing that almost everybody got rejected and I had another 3 years to work at it and try again, I was too dejected to submit my work for a few years. I got my first acceptance into a literary magazine my senior year of college, but I still was afraid to keep trying, to keep putting my vulnerable self out there.

And then grad school. And lots and lots of writing. And reading. And talking with other writers, including famous ones whose work I love. And realizing this is the game and that you dust yourself off and move the fuck on. I've gotten 21 rejections this year and it's only September. There are many rejections to go. But I've also submitted 90 times this year, including 7 times for whole books. And I edited an anthology I came up with. And have my own book coming out next year. None of this would have happened without all those rejections. In 2020, I submitted work 114 times. And I had 10 acceptances, including 2 books.

The nice thing is, I'm now in the stage of my still-emerging-career where I'm getting a lot of nice rejections. Personal, encouraging rejections. And those are the absolute best (second only to, you know, an actual acceptance.). A writer friend taught me to pay attention to those good rejections. Take them seriously. And when someone says they want to read more of your work, send it. And soon. Of my 21 (and counting) rejections this year, 6 have complimented me and asked for more work.

There's definitely a difference to writers between the encouraging rejection and the form rejection. We can't blame them for copying and pasting; they have a lot of this shit to get through. And those of us who've been on the other side of Submittable know that sometimes it's just too damn hard to comment on every single piece or give a meaningful critique to every writer. So, when I do get a personalized response, maybe even one that offers some constructive critique, I cherish it. I read it several times, sometimes again after I get yet another rejection. But, somebody somewhere liked something in my work! Then I move on.

So, that rejection I got this week (well, I got 2 this week...but the one for a grant I was really hopeful for) - I impatiently waited for the email to load and, when it did, my eyes scanned for what I was sure was coming: "Unfortunately..." I felt like I couldn't read past that. But, then I made myself do it and what I saw was surprising. I had made it to the second round and they liked my work.

They wrote:

One panelist commented “Great character development and drops the reader immediately into action and investment into the story.” Another remarked “Love it. The writing is great, and the synopsis made me want to read it! So much complexity, beauty, pain, etc...”

So, there's that. I've got that. And that's enough to keep me going.

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