I had a feeling my self addressed envelope would be in the post that day. I arrived home from the nursery drop off, took the baby into the house and then unlocked the post box. There was a pile of post (we are not very good at emptying it regularly) and I could see an A4 sized white envelope. I put the post on the kitchen table and set about taking the baby upstairs for his nap, the whole time knowing that when I got back downstairs I’d have to face the fact of the rejection.
Once downstairs again I made myself a cup of tea, delaying the moment further. Then I slowly turned to the post. I pulled the envelope out from the pile of circulars, election pamphlets, bills and bank statements, noticing as I did so the mark from the fold I had made when I’d enclosed it in my submission package. I opened the envelope and there it was. A short standard form letter thanking me but stating that my submission did not meet the Editor’s requirements.
Of course it didn’t. I re-read my story which was enclosed and had to put it away on the side, unfinished. I was alone in the kitchen but I felt embarrassed. Suddenly it seemed naïve, obviously amateur, not good enough. How had I not realised it before?
A few days have now passed and I have still not gone back to the story so I am not sure if my impressions of it were correct or whether they were a reaction to the rejection. I do know, however, that I hadn’t got the type of story they wanted right. They wanted stories that show the best in people, mine showed some of the worst. They wanted stories with warmth, my main character was cold, deliberately so. I think I had been so excited that I had finished a short story that I was happy with, even proud of, that I had overlooked the very important issue of whether it was appropriate for the magazine I was submitting to. And I had done this even though I knew that this was a fundamental point to consider if I wanted them to publish it. It took the rejection for me to see their requirements clearly and understand them in the context of my work. So hopefully this experience has been helpful. I will learn from it and do better next time, perhaps getting nearer the mark with my next attempt.
Alternatively, perhaps my reaction on re-reading my story was right. But I am not going to think about that now.
I think I’ll leave the story on the side in the kitchen a little longer, just in case.