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.
Screw the Klingons. We're gonna party tonight.