21 April 2006

Rejection is a one horse town (sadly).

One of my friends submitted a short story, which I really like, to one of those London café reading outfits that have begun to spring up. They then rejected it – fair enough, it is always a lottery, a really disheartening one at that which is why the Froosh gave up playing that particular game. I only tumble of the wagon occasionally and then regret it horribly. You would think I'd learn, wouldn't you?

Recently G has started to write back after a rejection asking if there is any chance that she could have some feedback. Its a really polite note; please ignore if its a burden but it would really be helpful to me etc etc. Most of the time, of course, nothing comes back but this time her email received a reply.

It was very terse and did use the word ‘shortcoming’; a little harsh and unconstructive as a term but we let him off because the guy was obviously very busy and was just flashing the email back. He didn't do himself or his group any good but there you go - it was ever thus. However, he did make a point, in his single sentence of feedback, which has prompted G to make a couple of changes which make a real difference. But what amazed me was the opening gambit which explained that they don’t do feedback as they don’t get paid and it takes long enough to read the stories never mind entering into commenting on them. Two points on that:

One: Writers who submit stories to them don’t get paid. At all. Even though they charge an entrance fee.

Two: It takes longer to write a story than it does to read one. A lot longer.

This is not his fault, of course. He is right – if an outfit like them did feedback for everyone it would take them longer to process submissions and they wouldn’t be able to showcase as many writers. Although a cynic might say that many of the people running these things are in it to help other writers get better, only to promote themselves, but we Bamboos are not cynical. Not at all.

Anyway, writers can submit story until their keyboards wear out but without feedback – how will they improve? Without improving how will they get showcased?* And without writers to showcase how will our poverty stricken, red-eyed friend carry on promoting his outlet, and himself? His feedback, although only one sentence was useful and G thought about it, agreed, edited and the story improved.

So, what? Firstly, chin up G – the funk of rejection hangs heavily but briefly.

Secondly, for all this talk of a resurgence for the short story it seems to be Rose Tremain, Helen Simpson and William Trevor who are doing all the surging, which means nothing in the real world, only that the rise will be temporary.

Thirdly, it’s the getting feedback and the feeling work develop which is most useful, and most rewarding, everything else is nice but not worth lighting a cigar for.

Don't get me started on short story competitions which don't even respond to unsuccessful submissions - that is just rude and inexcusable. The people that run them don't deserve entries. That would learn them some manners, eh? What? I wouldn't? Oh.

*I know this isn’t how it works – just humour me.

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