07 June 2013

Bottom of the Glass

Several of the Sleuth Sayer bloggers have written about the agony of receiving rejection slips from editors, agents and/or publishers, so now I guess it's my turn to stand up and say, "Hi, my name is R.T. Lawton and I am a writer." And then, after the polite applause that's usually received at these types of meetings in church basements or wherever, I guess I'll have to tell my story. That's the way these things work.

"Well, lately I've received four straight rejections, with personal hand-written notes from the column editor at Woman's World magazine. In the past, this has been one of my bread and butter markets. One of the rejections even credited me for having an original idea which hadn't been submitted to her before....but the story still wasn't quite right for her. Damn.

At this point, I saw two possibilities. One, I was slipping. Nah, that couldn't be. And two, the solution I preferred to accept, was that my friend and fellow blogger, John Floyd, had cornered the market with his engaging series characters. Darn you John, your excellent writing is making for some hard competition for the rest of us. Keep on going though, as I may learn something yet.

So here I am looking at the bottom of the glass. But since those of us who have spent time on the edge, one way or another, usually have a strange sense of humor from operating on the darker side of life, I like to put a little something back in the glass by remembering my most favorite rejection. You see, I am probably one of the few writers who has been rejected by a jail. It went something like this.

When I was vice-prez of the Black Hills Writers Group, a stranger showed up at one of our monthly meetings. This in itself wasn't odd, because we often had some newcomer sitting in for a meeting or more. However, this newcomer said he was the editor of a newspaper for one of the more infamous biker campgrounds at the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and he was looking for biker stories to purchase for his rag. He didn't know me, but I knew him professionally and it wasn't from the writing side of my profession.

Since I'd had stories published in Easyriders and Outlaw Biker under some of my undercover aliases, I figured I had a good shot at this, a mere campground newspaper. I wrote up a story, submitted it under an alias with a return address to an undercover post office box and awaited the results. Several days later, I received an envelope  from the Pennington County Jail with a rejection  and the request that in the future I not send anything consisting of more than four pages.

While I knew that the editor was on probation for violating the state drug laws, I had no idea that he subsequently violated his probation and got put back inside. At which point, this same editor had all his mail forwarded to the country jail, to include my manuscript. Thus, sad to say, I was promptly rejected by the jail officials who read all incoming mail for prisoners. My manuscript never saw print in the public venue.

Therefore on occasions such as today, I still raise my partially filled glass and toast the fallen editor who never knew my true identity. God bless the idiot. In later years I would ride my Harley out to the infamous biker campground during the rally and watch this same editor as he MC'ed the Miss Bear Butte (Bare Butt) Contest in his white suit, white bowler hat, white spats, white shoes and white cane. You had to be there to appreciate it.

Sometimes, just the memory of this rejection keeps me laughing. To me, it's an inspiration, but then I've led a rather odd life and tend to see the world in a different perspective than most folk.

So, it's on my mind that you should lighten up when you get rejected. Just keep on writing and submitting. Sometimes you have absolutely no control over what happens to your stories. You're a writer though, just go get 'em.


  1. R.T., I don't send much out because I write mostly novels and have publishers for those, but I've been on the receiving end of rejection letters for short stories.
    However, I have a close friend who writes only short stories and always reacts strongly to a rejection.

    I forwarded your blog to him today and he responded, "They ought to put some of those editors in jail for their stupidity." I disagree with him, especially concerning the Women's World Fiction Editor, but
    I'm sure he's not the only one who sometimes feels that way.

  2. Believe me, R.T., I get plenty of rejections from WW, and plenty more from everywhere else too. I wish I knew the Secret.

    Outstanding column!

  3. Just got a rejection notice the other day, R.T.--glad to see I'm in good company.

  4. I know your pain - I just went through a string of rejections that made me wonder if I should just pack it in and take up the manufacture of feather boas or something similarly useful. But we're writers, and we're tough. Bikers have nothing on us. (And sometimes nothing on anyway.)

  5. Mr. Lawton: Thank you for bringing this up. I've been rejected my whole life. Still haven't figured out why Brenda married me. Your words encourage me to keep on truckin. Your perspective on things cracks me up. Maybe someday. Anyway, fill the cup once more. Yours truly, Toe.

  6. Toe, thanks for jumping in here with your comments. Sooner or later, everyone needs a little encouragement and praise.

    Everyone, thanks for your words, it's a common situation we all face in this writing game, and it won't be the last rejection to come our way.

  7. Rejected by a jail. R.T., that’s priceless!

    I think the thing that always gets me about rejections is the mystery: WHY did they reject this story? Is there something I could have done differently that might have sold it? That’s particularly true when an editor has held a piece for several months, then sends a kind handwritten letter. Don’t get me wrong – I love knowing that it was close, and that it was deemed worthy of a letter or note. But, I still wonder…



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