Keep the Faith

klee-345135_1920As we speak, page seventeen is digesting the submissions that have come its way between April and June. Hundreds of meaty short stories. Scores of spicy poems.

The reading process for the general submissions is still ongoing, but in the coming weeks the content list will be drafted and a lucky few will hear from us to confirm that they will be included in Issue 11 of page seventeen.

This means that many more will not be included. This is the unfortunate truth – we can’t publish everybody. Page seventeen is fortunate in that it has developed as a versatile platform for publishing a wide variety of content, but every ongoing project has to define its limits and not everybody can be lucky all the time.

All I can propose at this moment is to not let the possibility of rejection weigh on your mind. I say this especially to the writers just starting out, and perhaps haven’t built up a veteran’s resistance to emails beginning with cursory politeness followed by the inevitable ‘Unfortunately …’. No one is immune to the feeling of disappointment – of the risk in turning on oneself to draw out a reason why it wasn’t accepted. Was the story not good enough? Was it shot down because I left too many typos in the text? Did I play it too safe/risky for the magazine’s tastes?

Rejections are inevitable. Refining your work to improve its quality will improve your chances of publication, and knowing the tastes of the institutions you’re sending your work to is a must when it comes to sending out the right content – but nothing will eliminate the prospect of rejection completely.

This is the part where scores of examples can be sent your way – about how many times J K Rowling was knocked back by publishers before Bloomsbury finally took a punt on her quaint little book about some kid with a funny-looking scar. About the scathing rejections for titles now considered as classics. About how those writers never gave up hope.

Well, that’s the point right there. In spite of all the for and against for being resilient, what matters more than the evidence is the simple fact that hope is at the crux of it. If you stop hoping – if you stop believing in the possibility that there’s a home for your writing somewhere out there – then it’s all over.

We live in an age of cynicism and discussing ‘hope’ is often downplayed. But it defines those in the creative field – because it is usually little more than hope, and a genuine love for the craft, that keeps them going. Work can be thin and hard to come by. Opportunities can be vaporous. A network of supportive and like-minded friends can be heartening and inspiring, but often well-meaning support can be practically ineffectual. It’s a tough gig and a highly emotional way to spend one’s time.

Established writers need to learn to develop a thick skin. But I also believe that a standard among established writers, more than hard-boiled resilience, is the ability to maintain hope. It is the hope that that there will always be opportunities and there will always be a way to reach out to an audience that will engage with their work.

That’s a lot harder than it sounds. And for emerging writers unprepared for rejection and disappointment, that hope can quickly evaporate.

I want to try something. Some of you reading this may have submitted to page seventeen in 2014. Which means that there is a likelihood that you will receive a rejection notice from page seventeen.

Let’s say that happens. At that point, I want you to post, either in the comments on this post or on one of our social media platforms (Facebook or Twitter) the following message:

I’m not in page seventeen this year. But I’m a (writer/poet/etc) and my work will find its audience.

Making a simple statement like that can have a powerful effect.

And who knows? Maybe in a few months time, you can email us back with a sentiment such as ‘Ha! That piece you rejected is now going to be published in [insert reputable magazine/journal/website here], shows what you know!’

It would be our loss, but it would still be awesome.

Beau Hillier | Editor, page seventeen

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