Rejection Song: Cemetery Dance, Midnight Echo, and Fearful Symmetries All Send Their Rejections

Well, that was fun.

Six days ago, Midnight Echo sent a form rejection in for “The Broker.” Three days ago, I learned that a screenplay I co-wrote, “Bad Apples,” missed the semi-finalist cut in this year’s short screenplay Shriekfest competition by one freaking spot (cheers to the first loser!). Over the last two days, two other stories were rejected in a single day by two other magazines, and then … well, and then today.

First, my 211-day wait ends with a rejection from Cemetery Dance, where “Sprachlos” failed to pass by the keen eyes of Mr. Norman Prentiss himself, and then about five or so minutes ago, I received a form rejection for “Seal” from Fearful Symmetries. 

Banner week, my friends. All this while I’ve been coding like a fiend at work under deadline pressure, then coming home and working until three or four a.m., trying desperately to finish typing, editing, formatting, and publishing my grandmother’s book, so I’ll have a copy to hand her next weekend when I go up to visit. Call me crazy, but the closer to completion that thing gets, the more I fear a sudden turn in her health. I’d originally promised to have it done last Christmas, but I procrastinated. Now I don’t want this whole thing to turn into a bad joke where the good-for-nothing grandson delays just-too-long to do what he’s promised until finally making good on the promise … one day too late.

But the way this week is going? Shit, I’m glad I don’t have a dog, because it would probably get hit by a car during a week like this.

But okay, okay, enough crying into the whiskey. All of these markets (and Shriekfest) are tough ones to break into. The odds were never in my favor. Fearful Symmetries received 1,100 submissions for two open slots. Cemetery Dance, well–they publish people like Stephen King and Dean Koontz and Clive Barker, and it’s a lucky day when they even open for submissions. The other markets I targeted were all equally high-end. It would be the height of hubris to expect anything other than a rejection from such places, even if every horror writer out there would be out of his or her mind not to try. Aim high, but keep in mind you are aiming high.

What is actually shocking is that I made it as close as I did. “Sprachlos” made it past the first readers at Cemetery Dance, and then it survived until the final twenty or so among the eight hundred stories submitted during the two months they were open. And Shriekfest? Man, that was close, too!

I’d like to add here that Brian James Freeman, who moderates the Cemetery Dance forums and is the managing editor of Cemetery Dance, was surprisingly approachable and forthcoming about the behind-the-scenes goings-on during the incredibly long and agonizing wait for my rejection. I have nothing but good things to say about the guy. He really did his best to reach out to us and ease our anxieties and shed light on what was happening. I’m so thankful for his responses, both via e-mail and the forums. The guy rocks.

As far as the other places go, sure, the form letters are lousy, but they’re also to be expected. I can’t lie to myself and say that I didn’t see any of this coming, because I certainly did. Hell, last night I sent out two submissions, because I had a feeling that I was about to get down to the felt again, and I made a promise to myself that I’d never let the responses catch up to my submissions — which would have happened if I hadn’t sent anything out.

Too close. That was way too close, and it tells me that, despite how many response I’ve received this week, I’m still not really sending out as many pieces as I should be.

If nothing else, the book I’m putting together of my grandmother’s old columns from the local paper is great. It’s going to be beautiful, and it’s almost done.

And it will be published (self-published, sure, but hell with it–it’s something), so there. I’ll have accomplished something real this week, rejections be damned. I don’t want to discount my own tales of misery and terror, but I do think that book’s completion is far more important than any of the rest of this crap.

So, tonight, back to the grindstone.

Tomorrow, work work work. These rejected pieces of shit don’t edit themselves.

Sunday I’ll be at the Black and White open mic on E. 4th street to read something. Something new, I hope. Because the best way to get over a rejection is to write something new.

Or something like that, right?

4 comments
  1. Aaron said:

    Very sorry to hear about your rough week, Kristopher. Hang in there – it will turn around. Cool idea about your grandmother’s book! I was thinking of starting a similar project. How did you go about it?

  2. Kristopher Kelly said:

    Thanks, Aaron. It’s really fine. This is what we do, right?

    For my grandmother’s book, I am using Scrivener (would have been a real nightmare without it, I have to admit) to work on and organize the book, which I’m publishing through CreateSpace, Amazon’s print-on-demand service. If you haven’t played around with either, I’d strongly encourage both.

  3. Aaron said:

    Kristopher, just a quick update. Received my rejection this morning after 296 days. Pretty numb right now. Back to the drawing board, I guess. Hope you’re doing well.

    • Kristopher Kelly said:

      Damn sorry to hear that, Aaron — I know a few others who’ve gotten similar bad news today. Sucks.

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