J.K. Rowling said, over a Twitter interview, that Harry Potter was rejected “loads” before it was accepted by a publisher. And, after that story was published, J.K. Rowling not only became one of the most popular authors of her time, but one of the wealthiest as well. What’s the moral of this story? We all get rejected, but it’s what we do with our rejections that makes us who we are.
No one likes rejection letters.
You know the ones: “Your work was one among many excellent submissions, unfortunately…”
However, have you ever been on the other side of the editing table? If you have, you know the task of an editor is arduous and exhausting. And maybe somewhere along the hundredth rejection you decide on, you start to forget that these are writers your dealing with behind the blind submission numbers.
My mistake during this process was using my position as an editor for a literary journal to my own advantage: getting to listen in on the discussion process about my piece. I submitted my own work, which I knew would not be sent to me or my group of editors, but would be sent to another group I worked with for consideration.
Once blinded and given a number, it was handed out. I decided to find my submission’s number and locate the group it was assigned to.
I sat close to them as I eavesdropped on their deliberation, but this did not last long.
“So what did we think?”
“Mediocre at best.”
Suddenly, the passive rejection letter didn’t sound so bad.
– Nicole Neitzke
“Everybody gets rejected straight out of their bachelor’s degree,” Professor Powers, soon to be Dr. Powers, said.
I got the first rejection January 31st, 2015. It was from USC – the school I had been able to visit and speak with professors at. I didn’t take that as a great sign.
I was applying for my Ph.D. in Early Modern English, with an emphasis in critical theory, namely performance theory, and digital humanities.
I was applying so I could one day teach and share my enthusiasm for Shakespeare.
“If you want to teach Shakespeare,” my friend and former professor yet again continued offering much needed insight and advice, “you’re going to have to do lit. If you do rhetoric they won’t ever let you teach literature, especially not Shakespeare.”
Other rejections soon followed. On February 6th, 2015, UCLA rejected my graduate application. Ten days later, Cornell sent a rejection. Three days after that, UC Santa Barbra rejected me as well. UC Santa Barbara had a professor there that had, kindly, sent her regrets at my rejection.
“In my graduate program at the University of Iowa, only one student of the thirty was straight out of their undergraduate degree. Only myself and one other student of the thirty were two years out. It’s really competitive. They want to know you’re a serious student. They don’t want to waste their time on English majors who are just continuing school because they don’t know what else to do,” Professor Powers continued.
UC Santa Cruz rejected me February 27th and the University of Pennsylvania rejected me March 10th. I was getting numb to the rejections by now. My last hope was UC Davis.