I dislike all rejections of my work (duh!), but I think I dislike email rejections most of all. There’s something so sad about seeing that subject header—“Your Story”— and even though you know not to get up your hopes, in the millisecond that it takes to move your hand to the mouse to click the file open, you’ve already read the email in your mind: “Your story is the most perfect work of genius we have ever seen. Of course we’re publishing it! In fact, we’re devoting the whole issue to your brilliance—please send us more of your stories, including your very, very early poetry about loneliness from junior high so we can trace the path of your immense brilliance.”
Unfortunately, what the message really says is something like: “We appreciate the opportunity to read your work. However, it does not suit our needs at this time.”
And somehow that sentiment seems much meaner in email (though I appreciate the absence of an emoticon—a smiley face will not ease the sting).
Rejections through the mail have their own filter system of the thick or thin envelope, so the imagination can’t roam quite so far. With a thin envelope, the most you can hope for is some sort of personalized scrawl: Thanx! The thick envelope does lead to hopes for a contract and acceptance letter…though often it’s merely some intern messing with you by folding and shoving your 15-page story into your business-size SASE.
Anyway, I got one of each rejection over the weekend, and while both were crappy, the email version felt crappier. Maybe I think too much, but I couldn’t help but imagine a computer program somewhere that takes all those email submissions and automatically dumps them into a file based on the date they were received…at midnight, exactly three months later, this program opens the file and rejects them all in one swoop with one generic email. At least the other way, a human had to open the envelope—and that seems a comfort. I can imagine that in the act of transferring my manuscript to the recycling bin, someone might one day accidentally glance down and read a sentence…and then want to read the next and the next.