I've had a great run so far as a writer of fiction and other weirdo stuff. I'm really glad for it. It's a great outlet, this writing stuff is. I'm happiest when it feels most natural, and happily -- most of the time -- it feels very natural. I'm also happy for the places I've been accepted for publication. I want to acknowledge that first and foremost, so I don't sound to whiny here in a second (though I know I'll sound whiny, and that's no one's fault but my own). I've had a ton of success publishing my stories. I'm really proud of that fact. HOWEVER, there's one realm I can't seem to break into. I'm sure we all have our "targets," those of us who write and submit work. Mine of late (that is, for the past two and a half years or so) have been literary publications associated with MFA programs. Usually they're amazing! The ones I like definitely are. And so I can see how exclusionary this necessarily leads them to be, how exceptional the work must be. But still, with all that taken into consideration, I'm humbled by my lack of success. While I've had hundreds of stories accepted over the past four years, only one has been published by a literary magazine associated with an MFA program (Booth Journal, which I highly recommend you read, by the way). Yes, poor me. Pity me! No, I know. Obviously, no one should do that. Don't pity me in the slightest. I have nothing to complain about. And yet, here I sit, typing out a pretty obvious complaint.
I guess the difference is, I don't expect anyone to coddle me (certainly in the wake of a rejection, I feel a good deal of outrage -- but I know that's my problem. What's more, eventually the feeling abates and I'm rational again). It's just stunning, the lack of success. I'm really impressed by my failure at this point. I suppose that's where I'm going with this, the positive spin I intend to make. Here is a complete list of the MFA literary journals I was rejected by last year alone: Washington Square Review, Whiskey Island, Moon City Review, Black Warrior Review, Mid-American Review, The Journal, West Branch, Emerson Review, Devil's Lake, Superstition Review, Diagram, Quarterly West, LIT, Puerto del Sol, Ghost Town, Barnstorm, Redivider, The Minnesota Review, The Cincinnati Review, Bat City Review, AGNI, Phoebe, Beecher's Magazine, Noctua Review, Eleven Eleven, The Kenyon Review, Ninth Letter, MAP Literary Journal, Gulf Coast, Cutbank Literary Journal, Passages North and Fence. And that was just last year. It's a bit liberating to write them all out like this. I might be forgetting a few. I know I submitted multiple times to quite a few on this list, so this list will need to be multiplied by number of times submitted and number of submissions each time (I send flash and prose poetry!). By my count, thirty-two separate places. Granted, they're thirty-two of the most revered publications that publish literature in the country. And in case you're wondering, yes, I've read pieces -- if not entire issues -- from each and every one. Something drew me to each one of them (I try not to just send my work out in rapid fire). (I should also mention several have been very kind with personalized rejections that give me that nagging hope that some day something could change.)
So ultimately, my hope is that this jinxes me. That one of the places listed finally caves to my undaunted, stupid will, which I expect in time will happen, and I finally can be published in an academic literary journal (other than Booth Journal, which again is awesome, don't misunderstand me). Thank you.
UPDATE (1/23/14): Green Mountains Review rejected me yesterday. The streak continues!
Next Letter in the Mail: Melissa Febos
17 hours ago