Fond Memories

A colleague sent out an email to all of us. He was troubled. He had a student who had written an excellent essay/article for him, and he suggested the student submit it to a contest and the student won the contest. So on the basis of that success my colleague suggested the student send out his article to a "real" periodical and, wow!, did the editors of the journal do a hatchet job, saying things like trite, full of cliches, banal, lacking insight, name dropping. Just a bunch of nastiness. The poor student was devastated, and my colleague wanted to know what to tell the kid.

I wrote back about the rejections I received during the 70’s and early 80’s for the short stories I wrote during that time. I think I wrote forty, maybe fifty, if I count the science fiction ones, along with the "serious." And I sent individual stories out repeatedly, some of them a dozen times or better. I became a connoisseur of rejection letters.

Most of these were purely perfunctory; sorry, we have no need for your work at this time. Occasionally, somebody would scribble a few words on the standard rejection, and somebody at Paris Review wrote a couple of paragraphs of encouragement. But I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about, so I didn’t follow that up.

The worst I got was from some editor at a "little magazine.l" He wrote two fat paragraphs saying stuff like the characters were unbelievable, not to mention insane, the dialogue was wooden, the thing had no narrative movement, lacked all plot, and so on and so forth. And, oh by the way, he concluded, I had the worst pseudonym he had ever heard.

Well, as you might have guessed, I did not use a pseudonym, but my real name, "Nick Tingle," and I guess that sounded so weird to him that he thought I made it up. Though why he thought anybody in his right mind would make up a pseudonym like "Nick Tingle," I don’t know.

This was long ago in the days before the internet and the so-called personal computer. Today, the guy might have googled to see that in fact some people are named Tingle and a tiny number of those have the first name, Nick. But that guy was so nasty I expect he would have written, and oh, by the way, you have the worst name I have ever heard. You had better come up with a pseudonym especially since you don’t really want anybody to know you have written such awful stories.

Give some people a little power–especially editors–and they will use it to their own sadistic ends.

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