I got a rejection letter today that struck a painful chord. Usually, my rejection letters are merely tossed into the rejection bin (to be marveled at when I become ludicrously famous) or stapled to the bulletin board to provide fuel for the creative fire. But this letter... this letter really stung.
Of course, it's all my own fault. A few weeks after the expected decision date, I sent a query to the magazine that had my story. Someone wrote me back to say, yes, the story had been duly received and considered, and that it had in fact made it past the first round and was being considered directly by the editors.
The story in question has made it past several slush piles in the past, and I was glad to see I'd done it again. But this obviously off-handed, non-committal e-mail revelation, this affirmation that my work had indeed been passed on to people with real purchasing power drove me mad: personally, I'd rather not know whether my work is rejected at the first sentence or the last word. But that was not to be, and, knowing that my work had impressed someone--even if that someone was nothing but a slush assistant, perhaps a summer student or intern, even, maybe, a crusty barnacle-being in the back of the editorial offices--made me excited. Far too excited, in the end, for my own good.
That rejection letter is now staring down at me from the whiteboard over my desk, looming over my story arcs and Heinlein's rules like an admonitory index finger: the next time someone thinks my work merits a second look, I intend to remember that the story ain't sold until the check's been cashed!