I’ve been submitting work for publication for the greater part of my life at this point, and recently I received a rejection so insulting that I was frankly astonished. I’m no stranger to rejection—having been doing this so long, and having great sympathy for editors, I view rejection neutrally and, generally speaking, don’t take it personally. In this particular case, however, the editors sent me a rubric response as though I were a student submitting work for a grade. I’ve screencapped some examples of their “feedback” below. Not only is it objectively wrong (the idea that a story is good if the protagonist learns something is wildly unsophisticated—and, my God, the idea that I’ve made grammatical errors rather than choices—and so many other small touches which I did not bother to screencap but which I assure you are insulting, really dumb and kind of illiterate) but it is so amazingly offensive that I’ve had to shrive myself of it by showing it to friends and, now, the public. I won’t say the name of the publication—that would be ungentlemanly. I hope that these editors (described to me as my “peers”) are in fact undergraduates of the university to which the magazine is attached. The idea that these are serious adult readers and writers is ghastly to me.

Comments 2

  1. juddbagley October 12, 2021

    I’d love to be able to read the piece and see how my impressions compare to theirs. Having said that, I’ve read enough of your work to suspect I’d disagree with much of it.
    The Zen of the situation is this: you may now take the rest of your rejections even less personally knowing that the rejectors are likely this un-smart. This just happens to be a rare instance of having visibility into the process.

    Like

    • Elizabeth October 13, 2021

      It’s disheartening—more disheartening than it should be—to think that people are reading this carelessly. For the sake of my sanity, I tend to assume that rejections are simply an issue of fit—the ms didn’t suit the magazine or the issue or the taste of the editor. But thinking that people are reading like this is exhausting to me. It’s hard enough to be disliked. To be misunderstood because people simply aren’t good at reading is unbearable.

      Like

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