I have two stories that have so far only received one rejection a piece, so instead of giving them each their own post, I thought I'd condense them into one. The first, "All Debts Public And Private" is the most autobiographical story I've written. I had a very unique relationship with a girl for several years in my early and mid 20s. I was in love with her, and she was gay and in love with another woman. Though, come to think of it, that's like opposite of Will & Grace, so maybe it's not so unique after all.
Anyway, the story is the fictional account of our reunion, should it ever happen. The names and events have been changed to protect the innocent, of course, and it's something of a stylized version of us, but the emotion is real. Can't fake that.
It was rejected on November 20th, 2010 by Plougshares, one of them there fancy literary magazines. I haven't sent it out again since, but that's something I'm going to take a look at as soon as I'm done with my current project. Or something like that...
"Dear Joseph Romel,
We regret that your manuscript does not fit our current editorial needs, but we appreciate the opportunity to consider your work. Thanks very much for submitting.
The Editors of Ploughshares"
The other one-shot-kill story is "Magic Words", a story about a girl dealing with abuse. I've read this one several times since the rejection, and it never feels right. Too clunky, every sentence like a piece of tough meat. It's not that the subject matter is too difficult, it's that the writing isn't up to the task. I fear this one will be retired to the trunk.
Keep in mind that while I say this, I received a very positive, honest-to-goodness Personal Rejection Letter. Here goes:
Thanks for sending us "Magic Words." Unfortunately, we're not going to publish it, but I think it has some potential, which is why I've hung onto it as long as I have. I found your main character to be well-written and sympathetic, but felt that the story fell apart in the climax - perhaps because I didn't buy that she'd leave her little sister, perhaps because the "magic words" part of it felt kind of sudden. Thanks for thinking of Basement Stories, and I hope you'll send us more work in the future.
See what I mean? That's a great rejection! Goes to show that what the writer sees isn't necessarily what the reader sees. In that sense, it's a little scary because it throws into question how much I am able to accurately judge my own work. I honestly feel this is one of my weaker stories, writing-wise, and yet here's the editor of a respected magazine saying otherwise.
Oh well. Onward and upward. Or, well, in my case, just onward.