Rejection Letters from magazines/publishers

I was reading The Swivet last Friday and saw this:

It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you’re in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you’re dealing with someone who can’t.

(By the way, here’s a simple way to find out if you’re a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you’re not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)

It was right after a trip to the mailbox where I received my latest fiction story rejection. Per usual, I got a personal note. They liked the premise but didn’t think there was enough conflict or at least not a “big problem for the main character to deal with/solve”.  Apparently, the moral ambiguity  involved in selling terminally ill individuals as though they were shoes doesn’t count as conflict which is, of course, not the point. If I have to explain the conflict, I failed. It’s that simple.

And by the way, I don’t disagree with the quote at all. It’s something I struggled with as a teacher and more recently in writing groups. Which is why I agree with the other quote by writer/director Josh Olson on the importance of being honest rather than breaking your brain to find something positive or encouraging or worst of all – nice – to say.

I think a lot about the idea of focus. What do I write best? I should be putting my energy there. Right?

I received my first rejection email  the other night. It was from an online poetry magazine called Blue Skies. I believe that it is run by a member or former member of the Fort writing group. I had gotten word of an open call for submissions from the leader of the Fort group and submitted three poems before the first of the year. They were about Alberta places: the Fort, Edmonton and a range road near our home. The rejection was short and to the point, which was “sorry, but I don’t like your poems”. At least that is how I read it. 

Poetry, in my own opinion, is one of the most subjective forms of written expression, and for the most part I don’t enjoy reading others poetry or even listening to them read it. I think that is because many poets are pretty ordinary writers and it shows in their choice of topic, theme, word choice, comparisons and structure. By far the most common has to do with emotional upset, particularly of the romantic variety, and consequently it reads like the bad poetry of a heartbroken 15 year old. Plaintive and cliche. Of course there are those poets who write about things – like their cats – or are “landscape” artists who drone on about flowers and meadows and the brilliant blue sky.

I didn’t really love the poems I submitted because I was tied to writing about Alberta as a place. That was the theme. The work was a forced and I guess it showed too much. Oh well, I am not a poet by nature though I can write it and an ever inspired to do so spontaneously on occasion, but I really just consider poetry a writing exercise more than something to do on purpose day in and day out.

Since I haven’t much invested in these poems, I am going to publish them myself here and on my Anniegirl1138 site. 

Prairie Canopy

Sitting atop the earth like a crown

A canopy covering

Cloudy or crisply stark 

Close enough to touch

Where far off rains occasionally drape its horizon

And the moon might hold a mid-day chat with the sun

A clean blue awning over all I can see

That darkens gradually from the prairie to become a backdrop for the clouds

Range Road 213

East past the tracks in Josephburg

Right at the gymkhana field

Forest lined but for acreage drives, canola fields and ponies grazing

Rolling and narrow it leads to the Yellowhead

From there, anywhere

Edmonton Skyline

Just past the Camrose exit 

Heading west on Yellowhead Trail

And nearer than it looks 

Sits Edmonton

So much like a cutout, 

A child’s toy,

Waiting to be reached for 

Scooped and carried

Away from refineries 

Hazy obscurity

That the problem with writing to order. It’s soulless.