Recently, I received a rejection for a story I’d submitted to a literary magazine. It came with the standard explanation: the material does not meet our editorial needs.
Okay, I can accept rejection. A writer must. But I won’t accept the request that came with it: that I purchase a subscription to the magazine. Listen up, editors. When you slap a writer in the face, don’t expect him to kiss your hand.
I’m not crying about the rejection. The piece is solid. It will find a home. But the crassness of the editors — and they are not the first — appalls me. Where oh where are the caring people of old? I’m thinking of an interview I read recently about Sterling Lord. He was the literary agent who represented Jack Kerouac.
He met the author after his novel, On the Road, had been rejected by a publisher who was kind enough to pass him on to Lord. Lord was at the beginning of his career and looking for clients. He admits when the young author walked into his office, the two had little in common. But, not being “locked into any publishing tradition,” Lord signed Kerouac up as a client. (“Out to Lunch” by John Hellpern, Vanity Fair, 2/13, pg. 46.) He goes on to say that the novel continued to be rejected and so many times, that Kerouac asked Lord to stop submitting it. Lord ignored his request and the rest is history.
I was touched by Lord’s story and his willingness to take on a client whose work he didn’t entirely understand. He did it because he liked Kerouac and because the young author had told him “he had to write.” (Ibid, pg. 46)
Kerouac was lucky. He met a publisher who passed him on to an agent who might do the writer some good. The agent did, mainly because he was willing to work outside his comfort zone and to ignore other people’s “editorial needs.” In the hurly burly world of the 21st century, that sort of risk taking is rare, which may explain why some critics fear literature is danger of becoming stagnant.
(Courtesy of chipkidd.com)