Fear & Expectations
Sucker Volume 2
~a work in progress~
About six weeks ago I sat down with my intern to go through these final submissions left in the “no” pile and make sure that the feedback sheets were kind in tone. For example, we changed things like “this piece bored me out of my mind, it was so slow” to “the pacing of the story could be a little faster” and “the piece wasn’t that bad…if it was completely rewritten” to “with some revisions, this piece will be much stronger”. And the like.
After careful inspection and slight tweaking, we sent off the first ten (out of 70)….
Days later, I received an email that had words such as “feedback” and “destructive”.
My whole body literally pooled into itself as I read those words. I felt hot and nervous and my heart pounded. Shitshitshitshitshit. I checked the feedback sheet and there it was, a few of the lines of feedback that were not the kindest of words, feedback that was more “destructive” rather than “constructive”.
So, as I feared, I let one slip through my fingers. I didn’t check the feedback sheet carefully enough before I sent it off, or maybe I was tired from worrying about everything. : ) Who knows. But the response from the writer was scathing towards us as a magazine and upsetting, personally to me. I forwarded the sheet to the reader as well as the email from the writer, and I apologized directly to the writer myself. The reader, of course, was very apologetic and felt terrible.
Lesson learned. Lesson forever and ever learned.
So after that, we went through the rejections again and reworded things obsessively…and I came to the conclusion that from now on, I am going to send out all the rest of the rejections without the feedback sheets. Instead I will add a line that says if you want to see the feedback, reply back to us with a request. It will buy time to recheck the feedback sheet before it goes out.
The thing about the writer who wrote the scathing response to us is that I actually agreed with the feedback that had been given, just not the form that it took. But as a writer who has been out there for over ten years and has received all kinds of rejections and critiques, I don’t care how someone tells me what they think, what really maters is if it resonates with me.
But I have a very seasoned and thick, thick skin—like bbq chicken with a heavy rub, you know? The thing about that rejection is that, what I didn’t pay enough attention to is the piece was heavily based on the writer’s real life. Actually, I think the line on the cover letter was that the line between fiction and fact was something this writer didn’t pay much attention to. So what I believe the writer was angry about was the reader’s response felt like an attack on her personally. (See why we won’t publish CNF?)
Going forward, I will continue to screen the sheets and impress upon our readers that kindness is a must. The feedback sheets are written for me, really, and not the writers. Although the readers were informed that the writers would read them, I just don’t know if they realize how sensitive they have to be. But because we had never had a bad response, in fact, only genuine thanks yous for taking the time to tell me why you are saying no, I thought we were fine.
So now we are just about finished sending out all requested feedback sheets and getting ready to work on deciding about mentored pieces. We have five stories that are definitely going in the magazine, five stories I feel so fantastic about and excited to share with readers. I know that my fear and expectations and my neurosis about taking care of everyone will be a continual challenge for me. I know that we may hurt writers’ feelings sometimes, and I know that I will have to live with that.
I end this blog post series with the following quotes about rejection and failure (courtesy of www.brainyquote.com):
I failed my way to success. -Thomas Edison
Ambition is the last refuge of the failure. -Oscar Wilde
I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat. -Sylvester Stallone
Look up the definition of rejection in the dictionary, get really comfortable with it, and then maybe you can go into acting. -Loni Anderson
As actors, we deal with rejection so much more than any other business. So I don't care how much of a genius you are, if you don't have the propensity to be able to get back up every time you get knocked down, then you're not going to survive. -Ryan Kwanten