I made a promise to myself a few months back that I would submit two stories a month to literary journals, contests, online magazines, etc. After two years of working on a collection of short stories, I now have 15 stories in the bank. They are good stories. Some are really good. I dug deep for these stories. Bunkered down for weeks at a time to spill them out, tear them apart in editing, piece them back together, rewrite, ignore, rediscover, polish. I’ve given these stories a lot. I felt (feel) that it’s time to get them out there.

But that doesn’t mean anyone else will care about them like I do.

I am often plagued by the nagging question: what if I have nothing to say? Or what if what I have to say means nothing to anyone else? It’s a great fear I have – not of being rejected, exactly, but of discovering that my stories don’t have an audience. That in the great mysterious world of publication, there is no place for my voice.

I set up a submission schedule (See the above photo). The document is based on one I found here. Out of the first four stories I submitted, two were accepted for publication! Cue the champagne! One even placed in a contest! I have never done drugs, but the high must be like finding out you’re being published. For days I felt like I had conquered the world.

And then today I got one of these: (See the below photo). I knew it was coming. It wasn’t like every magazine was going to magically love my work. And the act of publication is a bit like match-making: I have this story, I like that literary journal. I think these two could work well together… until the lit journal gets back to you and says this relationship is going no where.

Prairie Fire Email

But here’s what surprised me today: as amazing as I felt when I got my acceptance emails/phone calls, I was not devastated by this rejection. It did not take away anything from what I’ve accomplished – the stories I’m proud of, the growth I’ve made as a writer, the recent publication successes I’ve had.

I made a new email folder called “rejections” and I just filed the note there. I know there are more to come, because I’m going to keep sending my stuff out. These stories will only land somewhere if I launch them in the first place. Or, to quote Wayne Gretzky, “You only miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”