You know I hate to ask ...

O, the rejections have been coming in fast and furious these last few weeks.

I duly add them to the pile.

Well, not a pile really, but a badly distended folder.

Of course, a folder doesn't photograph nearly as well as a pile.

Even worse, most rejections these days are electronic.

So, before my muse became entirely dated, I decided to dig through it for my top ten rejections.

Southwest Review

Pretty much a perfect example of the anonymous rejection slip. And it is so simple! Just print these up six or seven to a sheet, task some unpaid intern to cut them out as slips (a bit crooked, but this is only an intern) and demolish your slush pile in one fell swoop by getting that same intern to stuff (or slip) these flimsy verdicts into the very self-addressed, stamped envelopes that the submitters have provided. We are fulfilling our mandate! Now give us more grant money!

Chances that your work was actually read: none.


Ah. Cool, crisp, almost supercilious in its manner. On glossy card stock!

Chances that your work was actually read: none.


I like this one because it administers a little lecture. Thank you, unpaid intern, with your BA in Cyber-Victorian Literature! Also on card stock, although this one's matte.

Chances that your work was actually read: moderate, but only with great scorn.

Ninth Letter

I like this one because it has a stamp. Those are fun.

Chances that your work was actually read: somehow less than zero.


This one has a personal message. NICE. (I actually mean that, to some extent.) And I absolutely *love* the use of the nearly meaningless word "suggestive".

Chances that your work was actually read: fair.

The Fiddlehead

The Fiddlehead is almost famous for its rejection letters, which nearly always take the time for a personal note. Also, the Fiddlehead published the first thing I ever wrote, so they always get a pass.

Chances that your work was actually read: high.


I *had* to include this one -- it represents so much crushed hope. It's a rejection letter from a massively influential magazine that (a) takes the time to suggest changes and (b) wants to see a second draft. Believe me, I sent that revised second version immediately. *Then* I got the standard rejection form.

Chances that your work was actually read: inexplicably high for the first version, none for the second.

Queen Street Quarterly

A magazine gone bust by the time they got to my submission (it happens a lot) but these guys were all right. Look at that personal note! They submitted another story of mine to the Journey Prize (of course it did not get picked, don't be stupid).

Chances that your work was actually read: before they went out of business, actually very high, but after that, quite low.

River City

I like this one because it looks like a receipt ... albeit a receipt which suggests that your ideas are bankrupt.

Chances that your work was actually read: maybe five percent.


I include this one only because it is the physically *smallest* rejection I've ever received. Also, what kind of outfit only has a hotmail account?

Chances that your work was actually read: not so hotsy.

* B O N U S * R E J E C T I O N *

Ah, Grain. I've sent you short stories. I've sent you long stories. I've sent you stories about the country. I've sent you stories about the city. I've sent you experimental stuff. I've sent you Can Lit bullshit. I've described the sky, and the wind, and the intensely muted loneliness of the prairie landscape. I've done everything I can think of, and still you reject me. Why? Why? Please be more constructive with your feedback. Does the fact that I grew up in your province mean nothing? No, I will not send you any poems about menopause, divorce or my vagina. Fine, I give up too, then.

Chances that your work was actually read: moderate, but only with an eye to rejection.


  1. Well, although this represents hours of your work and should be very sad to see, you made me laugh! Fascinating to see the many different ways to be rejected.
    On the bright side, as ephemera they are great-and could be turned into the beginnings of a great sketchbook.

  2. Well, I accept every one of your very funny comments about your rejection letters and I wait with eagerness to read your stories.

  3. Published stories, that is.

  4. I admire your determination. And I was thinking as I read this that one of the greatest s/s writers lives in Ontario; Alice Munro. I know its a big place, but maybe you might run into her in the grocery line as she bought a basket of plums? But then I don't live that far from one of the other greats,
    Tobias Wolff. Never have seen him and I have looked, believe me.
    The fact you get real ink on your slips is something to crow about.
    Besides your blog posts are some of my favorites. You can write, red handed.

  5. Anonymous6:34 pm

    We like our hotmail account. -Eds., CT

  6. I totally enjoyed this post, at your rejected expense though...many of them rejected me too, sadly a few I deserved it after I saw what I had sent them...was it the third glass of wine which made me hit send without an attachment on the most recent...hmmm

  7. Awe Berger, even your rejection letters look like art.

  8. Quite a collection you have!

  9. The sting of rejection...ow...but fodder for a blogspot..score!!!

  10. this was a very motivating post and i'm totally serious.


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