Guest contributor: Colin Hosten
categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence
Comments Off on Reject: A Call for Submissions
I’ve been thinking a lot about rejection lately. But why wouldn’t I? I’m a writer, after all. Mason’s Road: A Literary & Arts Journal is an online literary journal produced by the students of Fairfield University’s MFA program. It’s become a respected journal, now entering its fifth year, publishing high-quality writing across multiple disciplines. But it’s also an opportunity for us as emerging writers to experience the submissions process from the other side of the table, as editors. And sometimes it’s scary as hell to see what goes on behind the curtain.
For our upcoming ninth issue, we’ve already received A LOT of submissions. So many, in fact, that I, as editor-in-chief, have had to jump into the weeds with one of my section editors to read and whittle down submissions on a weekly basis. That’s where the scary part comes in. In order to keep our reading at a manageable level, we find ourselves having to make some very quick decisions on submissions—sometimes within the first two pages. If it’s not something that seems right for our journal, we put it aside, so that we can spend more time reading the work we’re more likely to publish.
Now, I can safely say that every submission to Mason’s Road is given thoughtful consideration for publication. It’s just that some pieces get more consideration than others, because that’s the only way we’re able to narrow hundreds of submissions down to the dozen or so we will eventually publish. And we’re a relatively small and new journal! Can you imagine what it must be like at bigger, marquee titles? I honestly don’t envy the editors of Ploughshares or The Iowa Review.
But I’m a writer first, not an editor. And as a writer, I know too well the stomach cramps that submitting my work can induce. In fact, I’ve been very reluctant to put my writing “out there.” It’s not ready yet, I need to write one more draft, or this isn’t the right timing for this kind of piece. I’m counting myself out before I’ve even had the opportunity to be rejected.
And who could blame me, with so many stories of talented writers receiving so many rejections for the work? Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison was famously rejected over fifty times before she was published. One of my literary idols, Joan Didion, shared some of the rejections she received from magazines early in her career, and reading them made me feel as if I’d been the rejected one. If even Joan could be subjected to such disregard, what chance do I have?
But then, as the story goes, we get to those rare submissions to Mason’s Road that make everyone’s eyes light up. I hate having to reject people’s work, but sending just one congratulatory acceptance note more than makes up for it. It’s a reminder that regardless of which side of the editorial table we happen to be on, the ultimate goal is the same: to celebrate outstanding writing. And we celebrated in a tangible way recently, with a Reading Night and Reception to honor the talented authors published in Issue #8 of Mason’s Road. Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves why we got into this risky business of writing in the first place (besides the booze, I mean).
Both Joan Didion and Toni Morrison, and countless others, have gone on to enjoy successful literary careers, of course. That’s what I have to keep telling myself. All the rejections in the world don’t mean a thing once you get the right acceptance. Hopefully, I’ll know that feeling first-hard soon enough. In the meantime, don’t put yours off any longer—we’re still accepting submissions for Issue #9 at Mason’s Road for another month, so check out our submission guidelines, and then submit, submit, submit!
(As an added bonus, Mr. Bill Roorbach himself is the judge for our Mason’s Road Literary Prize, which comes with publication in our next issue and a $500 award!)
Colin Hosten is the editor-in-chief of Mason’s Road: A Literary & Arts Journal. He will graduate with an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University this summer. Originally from Trinidad, he now lives in Connecticut with his husband. You can also find him blogging at www.itjustbrunchblog.squarespace.com.