Rejection letters, correspondence, and miscellanea from the otherwise empty annals of the Journal of Universal Rejection.

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Landscape Descriptions

Editor's note: Some correspondence with author Sonia Lyris.

Dear Editor,

Attached please find my short story "Done."

I have lots of publishing credits, but none of them will matter to you.

Thank you for taking the time to reject my story.  It is an honor.


Sonia Lyris

Sonia Lyris
  http://lyris.org | noiseandsignal.lyris.com |  AIM/Yahoo: sonialyris

Dear Sonia,

Thank you for your submission "Done" to the Journal of Universal Rejection.

Our readership prefers stories with lots of landscape description.  Clearly as your story stands we cannot accept it for publication.  Should you add something about (e.g.) the hills around Derbyshire into  your story, we would give the story another look.  We also accept bribes, and are almost as trustworthy as the characters in your story; small bills only please.

Best regards,

Caleb Emmons, PhD
Journal of Universal Rejection

Dear Dr. Emmons:

It is beyond me to put into words how delighted I was to receive your encouraging note vis-à-vis my story "Done" rather than the swift bona-fide rejection promised me in your Instructions for Authors.

As a writer little could please me more than an invitation to rewrite a story with the possibility dangled before me of being corrected again prior to my pending rejection. Despair and glee war within; never has lack of rejection left me feeling so conflicted.

But I am helpless in the face of editorial whim. Thus please find attached a new version of "Done" which includes a good number of what I hope you will find tasteful and appropriate references to landscape.

I look forward to your reply.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Sonia Lyris

P.S. I will, of course, blog about this. You'll be famous. Possibly.

P.P.S. Send PayPal link.

Editor's note: the rewrite was very good.  Lots of beautiful descriptions of the hills around Derbyshire, etc., stuck in a pleasing semi-random way into the story which had been only dialog. 

Dear Sonia,

We were very pleased to read your updated story.  So much so that we shared it with our wife, who was also very approving.  The landscape descriptions are fantastic.

That said, however, there is still too much dialog.  Our readership doesn't read dialog.  Perhaps a story that is solely about the hills around Derbyshire?  Or a travelogue (sans dialog) of popular vacation spots for hit men?  Ideally it would be a story with 6 characters and no dialog.


Dear Dr. Emmons:

I lament my inability to express my pleasure at receiving your non-rejection. You are right: there is too much dialog in the story. I see how your audience could not possibly read such a thing.

I wish I could express to you my gratitude for your willingness to work with me on this issue.

Please find attached my complete rewrite with no dialog whatsoever. I hope it will be more to your and (perhaps more importantly) your wife's liking.

Cordial regards,

Sonia Lyris

P.S. It occurs to me that despite your fearless reputation in academia, you might be withholding a rejection out of misplaced concern for my emotional well-being. Be assured that I have been rejected before many, many times, though rarely with quite this much work.

P.P.S. Grateful regards to your wife.  Does she publish a journal, by any chance?

Dear Sonia,

Please excuse my yet again tardy reply.  You will surely understand that we are busy here, and these decisions take time. 

We have decided to reject your submission.  Although we don't need a reason, here is one.  Although you claimed your story had no dialog, clearly on page 37 of your ms appears:
    "Carry on," the monkey said to Alan, with a smile and a rose.

Frankly you can only give us the run-around on this issue so many times.  We have demanded more landscape descriptions, and no dialog, and yet you continue to have your characters jibber-jabber throughout the entire story (or at the very least on the last page.)  I hope you in general submit to editors with more patience than I.

Thanks for playing.

Best regards,

p.s.  You needn't have worried about our fear of rejecting fiction writers.  For example, we rejected Geoffrey Landis on the first go.

p.p.s.  Any interest in our correspondence appearing on the Journal's blog?

Dear Dr. Emmons:

I have a confession to make. I trust that, given the length and intimacy of our friendship, you'll carefully consider my words before passing judgment.

I knew you would bring up the monkey. Given your extensive education, uncommon insight, and position as the editor of the most prestigious arts and science journal in the world, it was inevitable.

Assuming, that is, that you had read the story. We writers are a delicate and insecure lot, never certain that our darling creations will get the attention they deserve. I am deeply gratified to discover that you have, indeed, read all the way through. Yes, the quotes were a deliberate ploy. I trust you understand.

Now, as to the rejection. Yes, of course you need give no reason, but, alas, you have. As I have sought this rejection most ardently, I am loathe to explain your error, but integrity demands I do so.

The monkey is not in our world, but in a virtual reality, and thus not speaking at all. Indeed, the illusion of monkey-speak in this story is a postmodernist reflection on the collective cultural delineation of "speech" in contrast to the abstract notion of "silence" highlighted by appearing within artificial quotes in a story with no true dialog. It is a literary device representing man's struggle to be heard.

From a scientific viewpoint, the monkey's actions move no air molecules and thus fail to change the physical world in any fashion whatsoever. The monkey is, for all intents and purposes, both literarily and literally, mute.

I trust you see the profound symbolism here.

I must therefore with great disappointment reject your rejection as standing on no solid ground. While I long for the rejection I have worked so hard to obtain, I cannot, alas, accept it under false pretenses.

YOS, etc.,

Sonia Lyris

P.S. Thank you, but Mr. Landis is a better writer than I am, so that's hardly a fair comparison. 

P.P.S. Should these subtleties be unclear in any way, you may wish to consult your wife, as she has shown uncommon good judgment on these matters in the past. 

P.P.P.S. Blogging appears to be the done thing, good sir; if you wish my consent, you certainly have it.

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