This is me, yesterday, after receiving an email about a short story I subbed a few weeks ago. I didn’t respond to the email straight away, because I knew I’d say something breathless and idiotic and completely unprofessional. Instead, I went out and bought a bottle of something with bubbles, because this would be my first sale outside the token market.
When I got home, I checked out the website for the publication and saw the names of some of the other contributors. There were names on that list I recognised. I have their books on my shelves. They’ve won serious awards. I spent about 2 seconds completely flipping out.
Then came the crash. Do they really want my story? I re-checked the email. Yep. The phrase ‘loved it’ appears three times. Really? Instead of going back into happy baby goat mode, my traitor brain started throwing up scenarios where the editors ask for changes and I completely fail to come up with the goods, instead becoming mired in an inescapable swamp of trite cliches and substandard prose. Or where they re-read it in the sober light of day and realise, actually, just…no. Instead of feeling empowered and validated, I started picturing myself as a wide-eyed, amateurish wannabe, lost in a wilderness of unrealistic expectations and about to walk unsuspectingly over the precipice of crushing disappointment.
And I think that’s the thing. The disappointment of a standard rejection letter is one thing to deal with. Every writer pretty much steels themselves for that each and every time they send out a story or a query letter. But to be rejected from something like this opportunity, after having success dangled so tantalisingly in front of me… That would be disappointment levelled up some.
We’re writers. We have big imaginations. We gird our loins against rejection, but we can’t help ourselves imagining the success. I saw the names on the contributors list, and for a small, flashing moment, I saw my name in a TOC alongside them. Then my imagination did a total reverse, and started constructing a scenario where I wind up looking at an email saying “We appreciate all your effort, but we’ve decided it’s not going to work out.” After I’ve invested all this energy imagining that awesome TOC.
So I’m giving myself a stern pep-talk. They loved my story. That’s a good thing. They want it for this project, alongside a bunch of certified, genuine, awesome authors. They think it will stand up OK against their work. That’s a good thing. And if, for some reason, it doesn’t work out? That’s actually OK too, because I will still have a solid story I can sub elsewhere. And let’s face it, when I subbed this one, I’d pretty much set my top expectation (wild imaginings aside) at maybe a nice rejection saying, “Not this time, but we’d like to see more.”
Deep breath. I can do this. Time to release my inner super-happy baby goat.