26 October 2011

Hesitation Blues

by Robert Lopresti

Imagine, if you will, that I have been having a very bad day. Assume that the IRS has shown an unhealthy interest in my career, that the Klingons have fired disrupters at the starboard nacelle, and that Hittites are demanding apologies for my allegedly anti-Hittite rant at a nightclub. That sort of day.

Evening has fallen and I am checking my email. There is good news and bad news. Unfortunately the good news is all from strangers who want to improve my love life or want me to help them smuggle millions of dollars out of Nigeria. The bad news tend sto be from my nearer and dearer, and it is not improving my mood.

After reading and weeding the majority of correspondence I find a message from a familiar name. Specifically an editor. The subject line is YOUR STORY. My fingers reach for the Enter button, and then I hesitate. This is what you might call a binary dilemma. Either I am about to get an acceptance or a rejection. Good news or bad news.

And the way my day has been going there is no reason to expect good news, is there? I am really not in the mood for more gloom.

I know a lot of writers keep all their rejection slips. Do they print out the ones that come electronically, to add to the pile of misery? That seems above and beyond. I used to save mine, but it began to feel ridiculous. And the file was overwhelming my acceptances. (I got seventy-sox of the precious little beasts from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine before I collected one sale there.) So the rejection slips have gone away.

Nowadays when I get a paper rejection note I tend to crumble it, throw it across the room, and stomp on it before I throw it in the recycling bin. Call me Mr. Mature.

My favorite rejection note was from an agent, informing me that she had decided not to represent my diet book. Fair enough, but I had sent her a mystery novel. Perhaps she was making a helpful hint.

Of course, this current email might NOT be a rejection note. Perhaps the editor has seen the light and decided to share my masterpiece with her lucky readers. I DO keep all my acceptance notes, or contracts.

The first acceptance I ever got came with no letter or contract. I opened the envelope and out fluttered a check; there was nothing else. Fortunately the check had the title of my story on it or I might never have figured out what it was for.

Meanwhile the current email is still waiting for me to open it. I seem to be stalling.

Of course, the note doesn't HAVE to be a yes or no. Once an editor wrote to tell me she had lost the manuscript and would I please send another copy? I did, and she rejected it.

And once an editor wrote to say she liked part of the story and suggested that I rewrite the ending. I'm still thinking about that one.

Okay. I've run out of stalling techniques. Time to hit the button and see what there is to see. Cross your fingers.

Here goes...

Screw the Klingons. We're gonna party tonight.


  1. Wow! You nailed those emotions we feel when we hear from an editor. I save contracts, but not much of any other correspondence with the powers that control when and where our words will be read. Congrats on the acceptance and on this article, which is mighty fine reading.

  2. I can't decide if rejections are better or worse on the screen than in the mail.
    The new email certainly does take the suspense away from watching the mailbox!

  3. Hot Tuna was my first thought followed by Holy Modal Rounders. My parents loved W.C. Handy and Leadbelly.

    Rob, great story!

  4. This is actually a true story, happened to me last week (well, the Klingons etc. are metaphors).

    I love the Holy Modal Rounders but when I think of this song I think of Hot Tuna and Jorma's vocal.

  5. Good story, Rob.

    I'm afraid my emailed rejections outnumber my acceptances, just as my regular-mail rejections outnumber my acceptances. The only thing better about a snailmailed rejection is that you can toss it in the trashcan and step on it.

  6. Rob, you made me laugh at a very painful subject. I also stomp on rejection slips, but only after crying like a little girl for a few minutes. Fortunately, these events generally occur within the privacy of my home. As to the number of these things I have been awarded, I mercifully suffer blackouts when I try to recall and wake up in parts of town that I don't normally frequent. Otherwise, I handle rejection as well as the next writer.

  7. P.S. Congrats on the acceptance! Are you gonna fill us in or keep us in suspense about it?

  8. Congratulations, Rob! And thanks for a great article. You really nailed it.


  9. OH, and as for the music ... I always seem to hear the Jaws theme in my head just before opening one of those letters. Da-da DA-Da DA-DA

  10. Rob, congrats. I'm assuming it was your next story in your Shanks series for AHMM, May 2012 issue?

  11. Rob, when I print out those emailed rejections, it's only because I imagine some day the IRS will want to see them: proof that I'm a Real Writer.

  12. And thanks for the video clip, which sent me on a long ramble through music history. You wouldn't recognize Jorma now, but Jack Casady hasn't changed a bit, except for the hair.

  13. You struck a chord with this one.

  14. R.T. Lawton said...

    Rob, congrats. I'm assuming it was your next story in your Shanks series for AHMM, May 2012 issue?

    Does anyone else find it scary that Mr. Lawton, a former federal agent, knows so much about our private lives? Seriously, R.T. and I discussed this last week (he had an acceptance as well). Yes, this is the seventh Shanks story to be accepted by AHMM, but I have idea which issue it will be in.

    David, thanks for confessing what you do to the nasty little slips. They deserve it, I say.

  15. In response to Velma:
    -- Guitar chord, that is.

    (Sorry for the pun. But, I mean, if Velma's gonna set 'em up... )

  16. Rob, congrats! I'm still at the stage where I print out the rejections and the (joy of joys!) acceptances. Congrats, again and i can't wait to read it!


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