The literary journal I founded and edit will be having its 3rd birthday very soon. (Yes, birthday. Not anniversary.)
I cannot tell you how much that thrills me and yet it’s crazy to think that it’s been 3 years already. It’s been a wonderful experience and I have been incredibly honored to read and feature some amazing work by some even more amazing women.
But I’ve also had to reject a lot of work by women. (And yes, men too… The ones who didn’t read the guidelines that say we feature women’s poetry and flash fiction and art. Come on fellas.)
Most of the time I don’t receive any responses to the rejection emails we send. Sometimes, I receive a pleasant response that thanks us for reading and considering their work. And every once in a while I get a very… how should I say it… difficult response. Let’s just say there has been curse words and threats involved.
On one level, I do understand their anger and frustration. But all writers have been rejected. It is a rite of passage but it is also the universe’s way of saying to you “that place is not the right home for what you created.”
And that’s what I’ve always tried to explain to Dying Dahlia readers and submitters, especially to the people who want an answer to why they were rejected.
It’s not that what they wrote was “bad.” I don’t think I’m in a position to decide whether something is inherently good or bad. The position I am in is to decide whether or not a poem, a story or a photo or piece of artwork is going to find a home with Dying Dahlia and whether or not it fits with what the site is trying to showcase.
That’s what we, all editors, do. We may not personally like a story or poem, but that’s really not the point. There is someone else out there who will. There is someone out there that should be the keeper of your creation. And sometimes that person is me. But most of the time it’s not.
Dying Dahlia gets a lot of submissions, but certainly nowhere near how many submissions other journals that have been around longer are getting. And no matter how many times I’ve done it, I still don’t like to reject anyone’s work. I don’t like to tell anyone that their hard work isn’t going to find a home here.
So getting back to rejection… It’s gonna happen. It’s gonna sting. I am rejected still to this day. And that’s okay. But giving up, throwing in the towel, not writing, not submitting, is not okay.
There is a home for every poem, every story, every book. The two novels I wrote a few years ago probably will never be read by anyone other than the two people who read the final draft when I finished each of them several years ago. Those novels will stay on my computer (or the cloud) until the end of time. And that’s okay.
Those novels mean the world to me. They are my babies. I wanted to write a novel. I did. I wrote two. While they were never published, and probably never will be, they hold a special place in my heart. I know and love those characters and those worlds I created. And I was rejected for each one. And when I stopped submitting I was okay because I realized their home was with me.
Just because poems and stories and novels don’t get published doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have been written. Some of the best work by writers is probably still hiding in their rooms, on their computers, on their bookshelves, wherever.
So when you send your work to journals and reviews, I understand how vulnerable that can feel. But something prompted you to share that with another person. Something inside pushed you to submit that poem or that story to be published for people to read. And if you have that urge to share, do it. And don’t stop.
And if you do stop, feel content knowing that just because it wasn’t published, doesn’t mean it didn’t need to be written. It needed to be written. You needed to write it. Even if it is for no one else but you.