I catalog all of my rejections, many of which are the standard, “not right for us, thanks for your interest sort of thing.” Recently, I received my first rejection since I started submitting stories again. It was a terrific rejection and I’m more proud of it than is seemly. I don’t think it was generic, which is the reason I am pleased.
Dear Ms. Mullins: Your story is absorbing, though not terribly persuasive. We’ll have to pass, but I’m sure you’ll have takers elsewhere. Please try us again.
Michael Curtis has been The Atlantic‘s fiction editor since 1966 (so he must have been there when Ken Smith’s story, “Meat,” was published in the late 1980s. Ken Smith was my first writing professor some 20 years ago, and I used “Meat” as a part of my lecture on plot structure in graduate school). This rejection is for a story I like but also one I keep re-working. It’s also becoming part part of a longer story (Novel? Maybe.).
Now, how to figure out what “not terribly persuasive” means?