Michelle Wittle on Her First Rejection Letter

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

Yes, it is true folks; I got my first rejection letter of the season. Normally I would be cursing the person and the magazine and everything and anything that comes into my sight. But this time, it’s different. I am not at all mad. Maybe because I went into it thinking I was going to get rejected (I know, way to “power of positive thinking” and all that) or it could have been because I was treated like a human.

When I was a little Michelle, I really thought I had something going with this poetry stuff. I thought I had to be the reincarnation of Sylvia Plath. So I was like twenty and sending out my poetry left and right. I would get so upset when the rejection letters would come because I was like, “Don’t you know who I am”? Then this one came from, I think it might have been Broken Arrow or something like that and they guy was dreadfully mean. He told me that no one puts his or her poems in the center of the page and that I was immature and I, basically, sucked. I think of him now as the Simon Cowell of literature. However, he was right but it still didn’t stop me from crying my eyes out and opening the oven door (Plath reference there for ya).

I will tell you this funny side bar story that goes along with that time period. My friend found this local contest where you submitted your poem and if you were picked, it was placed in a book and you got to read your poem in front of an audience in Cape May. We both submitted poems. My submission was what I would now call a disastrous work of nothing. It was a short hot mess and it even had a typo. Well, guess who’s poem got picked? It was mine. I couldn’t even tell you where the book is now that is home to that horrific slaughtering of a poem. I have no idea why they picked me, but I will tell you I was one of two of the youngest people in the room reading their poems. Everyone else was like eighty if they were a day. Also, my friend…didn’t go with me to the reading.

But anyhow, back to the rejection letter. This one I didn’t freak out about; the rejection letter was fine. The person said that my idea was good but they prefer things happening in real time (but the story was about a chick and her doctor who doesn’t really try to help her…but that is my fault for not making that clear in my story) and I had a few typos. I’ll be honest with you; I really didn’t put much effort into it. I only read it over twice and read it out loud once and then sent it on its merry way. I think I just wanted to start putting stuff out there and get the ball rolling so to speak.

I wrote the person back and thanked them for telling me their thoughts. I also wrote that I hoped I would be able to submit again. I sent the email away and then I started really thinking. First I giggled because I have this curse of when I read something, my brain will automatically fix mistakes. I am not kidding. One time when I was reading a sample question for a standardized test to my class, the sample had a mistake in it that the students had to fix.  As I read the example to the class, I fixed the mistake. They were all like, “Uh, Ms. Wittle…you already fixed it”. I felt kind of dumb…like what do you say after that? I am sure this blog even has some typos even though I will read it like 20 times and then look at it again before I post it. My second thought was I am going to take that person’s advice. They liked the idea, so I am going back into the story and I will rework it and put it in real time. I will treat that story with as much care as I do all my work; that story will go through the writing process. I am also going to send another story to see what they think (you can send up to 3).

I’ll let you know how it goes…it will probably be another rejection letter, but then again, maybe it won’t (power of positive thinking?).



2 thoughts on “Michelle Wittle on Her First Rejection Letter

  1. All writers experience rejection, like all artists. You put yourself out there and some people are just not going to connect with the material, but perhaps someone else will. Another editor could read the story and say, “Hey I like that this story is not in real time.” It is all very subjective. Think of how some many great artists like Van Gough were not truly appreciated until after their death, while others, like Warhol had experienced some rejection but after recreating and evolving in his work, he was then recognized as a genius. Writing is art. We grow and evolve through rejection. If we all got Pulitzers for our first piece of writing, just think of boring and and uninspiration our writing would become. It is the struggle that makes us great.

  2. I used to keep a folder of all my “thanks, but no thanks” letters. It kept me from getting a big head. And it’s also a reminder of how hard you’re trying.

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