The Act of Submission, The Act of Rejection

I'm going to juxtapose a couple of links here. First, here's an excerpt from an interview with Steve Almond, in which he talks about a story of his that received forty rejections, but finally won a Pushcart. As Steve Almond comments, "You just have to go, 'Okay, fine, I'm going to ignore that rejection,' because those are the odds."

Now here's Sven Birkerts on how he processes the slushpile at Agni. Strikingly, while selling a story is usually the laborious work of months or years, rejecting a story can be the impulsive work of a few seconds.

I should pursue this thought further tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “The Act of Submission, The Act of Rejection”

  1. It seems to be the natural order of things that rejection is necessarily more abrupt than creation. Even the process of fertilization requires countless rapid-fire rejections. Mentally, we constantly and instantaneously filter out much much more than we accept.

  2. Ransom Stephens

    I got my first AGNI rejection yesterday and, indeed!, it was the quickest of that batch of submissions. It is ironic that agents/publishers laud the sort of demonstrable value of an author by whether or not they’re published in literary reviews which, let’s face it, have a demonstrable lack of commercial value. The fact is that once you get past grammar, spellling (sic, that is, self-sic (sort of flu-like)), and some minimal story telling skill, literary quality is as subjective as your favorite color. If indeed they take these clips as serious commercial promise, they might as well use their horoscopes as a guide (No, I can’t pick a winner today because Jupiter is obstructed by that street lamp on the corner. Dang.). Random variables have the annoying quality of not looking particularly random. Which brings me to another point: no one should be allowed to vote (or, to be more thorough, breathe) who hasn’t studied calculus based probability and statistics… (James *asked* me to flame, threatened me if I didn’t).

  3. The hierarchy of writerly competencies has more levels than Ransom suggests, but it is as true that, as one ascends the hierarchy, more elements of subjectivity come into play.

  4. A followup comment — since several of Steve Almond’s stories have won Pushcarts, I checked with him to see which of his stories he was talking about in the Glimmer Train interview. It was “The Darkness Together,” originally published in the Southern Review, which you can also find here ttp://;col1

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