“Bubbeleh, is my writing chopped liver???”
This post goes out to all writers who don’t give up on the publishing game.
Recently I emailed an essay to a local magazine that publishes personal essays and poetry. The publication has a special interest in pieces about writing and life in this area. I’ll call it The Banana Slug Gazette.
Yesterday I read the current issue and chuckled when I recognized two of its writers. These men were members of a gym where I worked as a desk attendant/certified personal trainer in the 1990’s. We had some lively chats at that front desk. Back then, I didn’t know the two members were writers, but they were my favorite kind of member: warm, witty and kind; in other words, they treated me as a person rather than a warm body whose only value was in handing them fresh towels.
I read their pieces, and I thought my writing was at the same level. Clearly none of us had the talent of another local writer, some guy you may have heard of named Jonathan Franzen. I noticed their submissions had nothing to do with life in Santa Cruz, or writing.
I submitted The Found Girl to The Banana Slug Gazette because it included (and examined) local references and, most importantly, I believed in it. I thought that my topic of surviving mental illness (a subject I hadn’t noticed covered in the archives of The Banana Slug Gazette) made it a worthwhile read.
A few days ago I received an email from the Gazette editor. She wrote,
“Thanks for your heartfelt nonfiction submission. It doesn’t fit with our needs right now, but I thought it was very well done.”
Okay, it could have been worse…
But it’s never fun to read an editor’s “thanks, but no thanks”, and by her wording, it was clear that The Found Girl would never fit with the Gazette’s “needs”. I was being let down with faint, insincere praise.
After reading the Gazette email, I reacted poorly. Apparently I haven’t earned my Writing Rejection Yellow Belt yet! The bottom line was that I felt like my writing wasn’t good enough. Despite my having a literature degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz, landing two book deals and having my articles published over two decades, I felt like my writing sucked and that I sucked too!
This icky feeling of unworthiness made me want to email the Gazette’s editor and fire off this puuurrfect William Shakespeare invective:
My next thought was this: As The Found Girl mentions my struggle with bipolar disorder, I couldn’t help but wonder if mental illness stigma also played a role in my rejection. Could it be that mental illness wasn’t a “deep” enough topic for this small-town literary magazine?
It’s most likely that the editor simply didn’t like my writing. Perhaps my essay was written too informally. But we’re talking about one person who, according to my Google Advanced Search, isn’t a professional editor, agent, or accomplished writer. She’s doing her editorial work as a labor of love; I just wished she loved my essay!
Why did I even want The Found Girl to appear in the Gazette? The magazine isn’t well known – it’s no Tin House or Glimmer Train. However, I really liked the grassroots aspect of it. I wanted to connect with that particular group of writers. I wanted to be published where I live, writing about one of the subjects that’s closest to my heart.
To that end, yesterday I submitted yet another piece to The Banana Slug Gazette, and I won’t stop trying until they publish me or fold!
In memory of my father Richard David Leshin, violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, May 22, 1927-January 6th, 2009. Dad, I miss you more than words can express.
Dad and Dyane, Santa Cruz, 2005. I’m 8 mos. pregnant with Avonlea
Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder, with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa, will be published by Post Hill Press in Fall, 2017.