Years ago, I applied to Rivoli, a four-star restaurant in Albany, California. Of course, I had delivered my résumé to several restaurants, but I was very interested in this job, as I had eaten there several times, and it was genuinely deserving of its reputation as one of the finest Mediterranean restaurants in the East Bay.
The chef thanked me for my interest, but told me that she had decided not to offer me the job at the time. Of course, I had to respond.
Dear Chef Wendy,
You’re an idiot. If you can’t see the value I would bring to your third-rate eatery, maybe you should go back to cooking school.
At any rate, I was hired at Bucci’s, so obviously they know quality when they see it.
Good luck with your little Italian chuck wagon.
You are now horrified that I would do such a thing, aren’t you? Why would I do that? Why would I insult this chef, throw it in her face that I got another job, risk any chance of working with her in the future—indeed, anywhere in the East Bay, given how people in the same industry tend to run in the same circles and tell these stories?
The answer is I didn’t. I wouldn’t. Would you? Have you?
I am Writer Liaison at Spark: A Creative Anthology, which means I’m usually the guy giving you the bad news if you submitted to us. The above letter is actually a rewording of several responses to our rejection letters to submitters. Now, we’re not perfect, but we do offer personal feedback and do our best to make sure that it’s constructive and encouraging. I’m sure that we’re closer to that now than when Spark started. However, just as opinions on a story or poem are subjective, so are writers’ reactions to those opinions.
But here’s the thing: you are better off keeping those opinions to yourself. Nothing good will come of telling the editorial staff of any publication that you disagree with their assessment of your writing. Those notes are offered to help you make your writing better, to improve that piece and hopefully future efforts, or at least find another market more suited to your style and vision in your writing. It is not an invitation to open a dialog.
That last statement sounds a bit harsh, I know, but please keep in mind that we are volunteers. We don’t get paid for this, it takes time away from other activities, such as family obligations, hobbies, cleaning the house, scratching our bellies while we eat a jumbo bag of chips during a Twilight Zone marathon, whatever.
So what do you say to that rejection? If you want, a thank you would be just fine. Most people don’t respond at all, but some reply with, “Thank you for the feedback. While I was hoping for an acceptance, this is the next best thing.” And we’re always happy to hear that. We probably won’t respond, but it does bring a smile to our faces.
Because many of the writers who have had work accepted for publication in Spark have also had work rejected by Spark, yours truly included.
But nobody has been accepted after responding to us with anger and insults.
Food for thought.*
In the spirit of the post, today’s song is You Don’t Love Me Yet, by Roky Erickson.