Tis the season for rejections. The weather outside is frightful. Jack Frost is nipping at my nose--which is creepy and rude. And everyday my snail mail box or its electronic great-great-great-great grandbaby are stuffed with rejections from literary journals like so much undeliverable North Pole correspondence.
Why so cruel in these joyous times? Academic calenders. Time-crunched MFA candidates with their own stories and poems coming back like just-thrown message-bottles not heartily-heaved enough into the azure horizon. (FYI, aspirants, the adjective "azure" is frowned upon by the MFA establishment as having run its poetic course from gorgeous to cliche: an acceptable usage, however, is ironically (not literary irony, per se, more like hipster irony--eg. check out this wicked fedora, I scored it off a homeless dude in exchange for my Droid . . . oh, crap, wait . . . BRB) as I have used it above.)
Having done a stint in literary arts editing, I am familiar with the routine. Submissions are handled as follows:
[a] Immediate rejection after a quick scan for words like "azure" and "ironically"
[b] Eventual rejection after a round-robin gauntlet-slap from assistant editors who confirm the genre editor's initial misgivings, a concurrence typically correlated to the underling's abnegation of self-reliance vis a vis the overlord's presumed omniscience.
[c] Immediate acceptance after a quick scan for phrases like "in the fetid aftergrime of human sex . . . " and "more than that, no, more than anything, Catriona hoped for the moonbird to land and splash in the bath of her plain blue eyes."
[d] Eventual acceptance after a round-robin chin-stroke-pensive-nod-fest from assistant editors who confirm the genre editor's initial intrigue--see above explanation of concurrence.
[e] Belated rejection/ acceptance after languishing for 5 months in a slushpile of equally unstunning pieces--neither so malodorous as to warrant an unceremonious disposal forthwith (Aspirants, do not send you're only copy of unstunning work) nor so transcendent as to warrant a personal phone call to the author, ASAP, before s/he receives an offer from a more immanently prestigious institution. (Aspirants, delusion is a valuable trait--always include your phone number in your cover page.) After those 5 months, i.e. The Epoch of Ignominious Oblivion, the editor-in-chief informs h/is/ers genre editors that the journal is too skimpy in its present state and will need to be stuffed from the slush-pile as a petite filet mignon is plated beside a steaming pile of smashed-cheesy-starch to make the meal seem more substantial. Another round of assisted reading proceeds, this time with more exaggerated moans at the truly insipid and more hysterical laughter at the inadvertently humorous, until, at long last and with final-exams impending, the staff settles begrudgingly on the remainder. For the deigned-upon--an exuberant email overstating the journal's honor of publishing your work. For the failure-to-the-last--a prefabricated post-card overstating the journal's distress at having to pass on your worthy piece and/ or pieces of prose and/ or poetry . . . Sincerely, Current Editor.
And they tug on my very real beard and scamper off into the jollity of the teeming mall and I call for the next in line and daydream of hanging mistletoe above my ass for the behoof of all and for all a goodnight.
Happy Holidays, my friends. Thanks for following along in 2011. Next week, I'll post a Christmas poem. And after that and after that . . . who knows.