On Monday, I opened my P.O. Box to a mild surprise: a bill, a credit card offer, another bill, a Dish Network flyer, and an odd letter addressed to me written in... my own handwriting!
Whenever this happens, I start hearing Twilight Zone music. Will a devious mini-Ayo leap out of the box and attack me next? Will my evil castrated twin from a lost village in Yorubaland be awaiting me when I turn around? Did aliens abduct me and force my hand to do terrible things which God wouldn't even name?
When the world snaps back into focus and my heart drops back into my chest, I quickly realize that it's just an SASE. For the unitiated, this would be a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope. Which is what you include whenever you're sending an unsolicited submission to a literary magazine. This is so that they can notify you of acceptance or rejection, four or five months after they've "carefully considered" your work.
Because of the weight of the envelope, I knew it was a rejection notice before I opened it. As I'd sent out seven batches of poems on February 16, I figured it was about time (3 months) that I hear back from some of those publications. When I opened the envelope, much to my surprise, it was not from any of those publications at all:
Unfortunately, we cannot publish your work at this time.
New American Writing
New American Writing? I just mailed my submission to them on May 6!
Now, when you consider that they are located in California and that it takes first-class mail an average of a minimum of 3 days to travel interstate in the continental U.S. and a minimum of 3 days to travel back and that there was a two-day weekend when they were likely not considering my material - well, you get the picture. Either they have the world's most efficient editorial staff, or there wasn't much considering done. Consider: cataloguing/indexing my submission, the voluminous backlog of submissions they must already have, and then actually reading and rejecting my four poems!
Really, I'm not upset with the rejection at all. This all goes with the territory. I've been rejected by some of the finest publications in America - just not so fast! Even the New Yorker humored me with a four-month deliberation period. Then, to add insult to injury, at 8.5" x 0.5", it was the slimmest rejection notice I've ever received. I can't even recycle the scrawny slip to write new poems!
In the meantime, I still have eleven batches of poems floating on eleven editors' desks and more writing to do, much more writing to do.