Taking a trope from Gilda Radner’s character, Roseanne Roseannadanna, it’s always something. Either you’re hanging on a cliff hoping for your fingernails to grow in or you’re at the bottom, wishing you’d tied that rope a little better. The lack of broken bones is nothing compared to the feeling of sheer foolishness.
I started my serious return to published poetry in 2013 when I taught a literary publications class. At the time, I felt that encouraging students to submit work while I wasn’t doing the same was just wrong. I still feel that way, and have additionally set new goals each year. That first run of submissions got quick, positive results followed by the long, dark night of the soul called rejections, or as I call it when I’m an editor, declines.
At this point I’ve promised myself two things: to send out one manuscript submission a month and to keep at least twelve poetry packets under consideration. I’ve done this, but am deeply depressed at times due to wait time and the fear that my submissions fell through the cracks, never to be seen by any editorial eyes. I know this is crazy. Submittable makes that far less likely than in the past. However, there are still very good journals that do emailed submissions and that do not confirm receipt. The result is that I had an acceptance where the journal thought they had sent me an email, BUT THEY DID NOT. I agonized for a month past their stated notices time before I sent a query, because I did not want to be a whiny writer. They were puzzled and sure they sent the email and I was polite and professed befuddled wonderment that I did not feel. I know quite well that I did not overlook it and it was not in spam. I have Gmail and know how to use it. Even advanced search cannot find an email that never arrived.
That incident has ruined my complacency about wait time. Now if a journal is nice enough to say they will send out notices at the end of the month, I worry if I don’t get the email. The former me could think back to MFA days and note the two main groups of MFAers–creative writers who are wrapped up with their own projects and creative writers who were also editors. The problem happens when the first group tries to do the work of the second group. Missed deadlines are very, very common, as are readers who disappear for the summer after saying, sure, I’d love to read. I know this, but now I continually wonder.
So I wait. No news is good news until it isn’t. I can’t believe anymore that a longer wait time means serious consideration. Sometimes it just means a journal that’s behind in their reading or that hasn’t perfected a way to send out notices. It’s always something.