Kia ora Emma,
How are you?
I've been thinking a bit about how this all began and I can't remember. I remember we were caught up in the rush of Pen Pal coming out - optimism and joy - and I think we had an exchange, it was probably online, and one of us mentioned wouldn't it be interesting to have an outlet for work which had been previously rejected by other publications.
I think it appealed to me because I feel like rejection is a big part of my job as a writer and I am always trying to find ways to work through it, because for me that's been the key: continuing to work even when no one wants what I'm writing. I was wondering about where rejection stands in my development of me as a writer. I wonder if it has changed my writing. Did I become more savvy after a few rejections? Did I temper my work? I wonder these things but then I remember the ways I was rejected - by form letter, citing a 'high standard of submissions' or that my work didn't 'find a place' in the publication. I very rarely got rejected with comments, unlike some of the letters in Rejectamenta. And then there were the publications that didn't write at all, where I found out I'd been rejected when the publication came out. So I became really interested in the rejection letter as a form.
What are you thinking about as we get ready to make Rejectamenta a living thing?
I’m doing good!
It is interesting what you say about rejection shaping you as a writer. I know that from about 2010 onwards it has definitely shaped me quite intensely. I think in actually a very helpful way. I had what I felt was a very catastrophic rejection around then and it sort of ended up shutting me down as a writer. I feel I rebuilt myself after that and it ended up with me finding a project that I was really passionate about and invested myself in for over a year. So yes. Rejection is a powerful force in a writer's life.
The more editing I do the more I realise that it's such a strange and fragile process this whole writing/sending submissions/publishing lark. It is such a crapshoot that the one or two or three people reading your work will like it. I like such different things on different days and sometimes I have to read something a lot before I love it. Like albums, I think that some of my most beloved poems are ones that I didn't immediately click with. They are the ones that I considered deeply and pursued. And so I don't know what that says about the editorial process. I feel like my process wasn't fast, but also wasn't slow. But would I have liked different things if I was at a different place in my life? Most definitely.
And then as a writer, the baffling silence. Maybe what we should have done is given more commentary on why a piece was rejected. But then if it's just I didn't feel it, or it didn't grab me is that actually useful feedback? And imagine if it was normal to receive substantive feedback from editors on your work? How strange would that be? It might be even more alienating than a straight rejection. One rejection I vividly remember was an editor telling me a poem wasn't ready yet. I strongly felt that was the call of me, as the writer. They could take it or not? It's readiness for the world and publication was up to me.
I am also really excited by the playfulness of pitting poems against their rejection letters. I feel like it is a face off I'm really into. Especially because every piece of work we chose for Rejectamenta is one I wanted in there. I don't think we made compromises or chose pieces we were ambivalent about. It is a small and well-formed thing!
Megan Clayton is a Christchurch writer and teacher whose work has appeared online and in print in New Zealand and abroad. Poems and essays by Megan have been rejected by Landfall, Turbine, Starch and JAAM.
Thank you for your submission to our journal. Your poems susurrated with their peers as leaves under the soft heel of a Canterbury gumboot. Your labour is a gate on the switchback of the South Island myth. You are a proper writer.
Unfortunately we will not be publishing any of your work in this issue. The words and phrases of friends and strangers found their way into the harbour of our aesthetic, more promptly, more nimbly and with an edge more contemporary than your humbler offerings. We are all in the same boat, so don't let it get awkward with your mates.
We do not wish you any harm and hope you will think of us again in future.
You call me and you
call me and I answer. I
answer with the baby on the breast
or when I'm sitting in the dark
beside the cot while she sleeps,
the laptop on my knees. My knees.
The cold glow of the LCD screen
spins a shimmering scroll of emails.
You have too many emails.
You call me to read aloud your emails,
to read aloud my replies.
You can't find your emails. You can't find
the conversation history. You say
the email never arrived. You
tell me to tell you the gist of the reply
you say is on your screen. You
haven't got time to read the message.
You haven't got time to do your emails.
You call me and you call me and you call me.
You sleep with one hand on the mattress
and one on your phone. You say
my phone is too old and too large.
You don't want to touch my phone. You keep
your phone close to your heart while we are
sitting on the station platform. You check it
all the time to see if your friends are
sending you messages. I am your friend,
I say. You say, you know that, but you
are still going to check your phone. Once
I send you a text message while we are
sitting on the station platform. I am beside
you but not close to your heart. The message
says hi and calls you the nickname I have
given you and which you say you do not
mind. I watch the interest in your eyes
disappear when you see the message is from me.
You say, this is just the way I am.
You keep your smartphone in your breast pocket
like a modern pocket book where you
account for us all. I see you slide it in
a single motion from where it rests to the
open palm of your hand. You hold your index finger
like a pen as you enter the information. The
information flies between our phones or
down the cable through this LAN that
regulates our relationship, our antagonism.
You are cheerful and polite and you have your
smartphone always. I see you in the corner of the room
at meetings, tapping with your pen-finger while
the announcements roll out, while hope rolls up
like a worn-out carpet. People say look, he is
playing with his phone again. Sometimes my phone,
silenced for the meeting, vibrates and I
see the message is from you, your phone, your
pocket book already slid back into the tailored
recess of your shirt.
You text me from the bar when the first drink
arrives and every drink thereafter till the last.
We are always together, even when you are in
your cups. You text me from the taxi or from
the bus. You tell me what stop you are at and
how many minutes between the stops. You say,
fuck Riccarton, it is still too far away from me.
You text me when you cannot sleep or when
you get up early to go to work. You text me
in the downtime on the late shift. I am never alone
because we are always together, even when
you are at work. When you move in, we look
at our battered phones, side by side beside
our bed and we miss their separation, their
flurry of words and our love on the downlow,
our love in the dive bar, our love from first drink
to last orders, please.
Chris Tse is a Wellington writer with a burgeoning bowtie collection. His first book is How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes (Auckland University Press, 2014). He has been kindly rejected by Deep South Journal, Hue & Cry, Cordite, Better, and Poetry Magazine.
RE: [Your Submission] Chris Tse
Thank you for submitting to XXXXXX! And thanks so much for your patience. We appreciate the chance to consider your work, but we're sorry to let you know that your submission isn't quite right for us at this time.
Thanks again, and good luck out there,
XXXXXX: XXXXXXX X XXX
When I was a young wolf undergoing transformation
that trickster moon, so rich with gravitational pull,
drew the buried beast out of me. Stalking the streets
with my sharpened howls seeking out the night
I set my sights on warm hearts whose keepers did not
believe in my kind or in fear. Something in their delusion
dragged at my thirst, which had no trouble finding
its way into their homes and shelters. I showed them fear.
Such were my nights for years as a fallow soul; I shed my
goatskin and terrorised. I licked their wounds with glee
until one chanced night the moon refused my skin.
The beast did not come. Confused and rejected, I ran until
I dipped headfirst into a solemn silver lake not knowing
if I was unraveling in a spent dream or simply drowning.
A Nice Story about Hitler
Carolyn DeCarlo is an American writer living in New Zealand. She has been rejected from lit mags in both countries, including DIAGRAM, Caketrain, PANK, Paper Darts, Bellevue Literary Review, ILK Journal, Potroast, Hue and Cry, and Deep South. This rejection comes from Shallow.
ok well ok i will pass but i think it is of a very good quality
there are things that i like things that i don't like
i'll type my thoughts a little
well i like the hitler thing, how the main character is hitler, like, i feel like the characters named after celebrities thing is just about over but i mean calling your character hitler that's like the caboose on the train that is leaving the station i think
i also think this is pretty well written, surprisingly so, compared to other things i receive, no i have no problem with the style of writing or whatever
i think at the beginning i felt pretty into it, like ok here is hitler and he's doing some things and nobody really knows where it is going right
i like the part uhh 'sound effects that made him want to play Sim Park' i liked that part and it perked me up like oh here's an interesting detail
i think then after a while it kinda got into this internet romance thing and i think that's kinda done like dinner, internet romance stories, gchat and webcam scenes and stuff. i mean, everyone is doing that these days, i mean tao lin did it and did it well but now everyone is doing it and only very few do it well.
however i will say that when i reached the end of the first page i thought that was the end of the story and i thought that as an ending 'Hitler had an anxiety dream last night that Jenny came to America for a basketball tournament.' was extremely good and exciting. i actually started to copy/paste but as i was dragging the mouse i realized there was the other half a page so i read that. so it kind of 'winds down' in a typical way, to a cathartic or something ending, which is not bad really, the writing is actually good. but i liked the first page just better.
and i guess that's it. uhh one thing i think a minor thing is like the 'some things hitler does' paragraph well it would read easier or something if it was 'grades papers' and so on instead of 'grade paper' but idk.
thanks for sending this carolyn. feel free to submit again in the future.
A Nice Story about Hitler
Hitler has been writing this story in his head. He goes to work, talks to students. One of them stands up in the middle of class, smiles, and tells him that her mother doesn't approve of his lesson plans. He goes home. Sometimes he goes to the store, sometimes he has office hours, sometimes he talks to his friends, or his professors, or his students. Sometimes he just goes home. At home, he talks to Jenny. Every night, Hitler talks to Jenny. Sometimes he forgets to talk to anyone else.
Today Hitler watched a movie with sound effects that made him want to play Sim Park. The movie he watched was an 80s coming-of-age film with Matt Dillon about a group of female campers who wanted to lose their virginity. He missed the beginning of it. Movies like that make Hitler wonder why he didn't want to cry or get depressed or lie to his friends about it after his first time since he wasn't in love. Hitler eats a piece of candied pineapple and when it ends, he switches to an action movie.
Hitler has become used to the way his face looks on his computer screen, in the little boxes. The angles of it. What makes his hair look good, what to do to avoid his face looking fat. He watches Jenny concentrating as she types to someone else, her lips parting. Her upper lip pushes out when she thinks. It would be easy for Hitler to write a page about her lip, so he doesn't. Jenny's face fills Hitler's whole screen. She glances at him and says, "What's up!" in a way that suggests Hitler should be doing something else and not staring at Jenny. He remembers when all Jenny did was stare at him.
It's odd for Hitler to think about having memories with Jenny, since they've never met. He remembers the time he lifted Jenny on his computer screen up through the hatch in his room to watch the sunrise as they sailed out of Annapolis. Jenny said he had seemed so excited to show her. Hitler thinks maybe he's always been the excited one, though he thought it had been Jenny, once. Jenny who would watch him while he slept. Hitler would wake with his computer screen on, the black square announcing "Connection Lost" in white, a report of his snoring in his inbox.
Now, Hitler thinks maybe he's remembering it all wrong. Now, Jenny reads to him and he falls asleep but his screen is blank when he wakes. "I've been turning you off to go for a run," Jenny says awkwardly. Jenny places her head on her pillow and Hitler watches her until she falls asleep.
Some things Hitler does: grade papers, talk to Jenny, read other people's fiction for workshop, talk to Jenny, buy cleaning supplies, talk to Jenny, go to a dinner party, talk to Jenny, read other people's fiction for independent study, talk to Jenny, make lesson plans, talk to Jenny, watch a movie, talk to Jenny, clean his bathroom, talk to Jenny, read other people's bullshit for teaching, talk to Jenny, clean his kitchen, talk to Jenny, go to a bar, talk to Jenny, communicate with students via e-mail, talk to Jenny, write his thesis, talk to Jenny, go to a show, talk to Jenny, do the dishes, talk to Jenny, read other people's criticism for independent study, talk to Jenny.
Hitler had an anxiety dream last night that Jenny came to America for a basketball tournament. He was living at home with his parents. His parents and he were making pizza for Jenny and her teammates. She kept leaving the house without him. Hitler would look for Jenny in his room. Jenny would text Hitler from the shopping center or the post office, places she found without his help. Hitler sat in his room and read while his parents finished making the pizza by themselves. When he called Jenny, his friend answered the phone. His friend said he'd run into Jenny at the mall and they were having a lot of fun together.
During the summer, Hitler had an anxiety dream about coming to visit Jenny. In the dream, Jenny kicked him out of her house because she thought he'd lied to her about doing drugs. When Hitler told Jenny about the dream, she said she would never kick him out of her house. She promised. Hitler is coming to visit Jenny now.
Hitler and Jenny talk about his visit, their faces pressed to their computer screens. Jenny says, "It sounds like you think something might happen before then." Hitler says, "It might."
When in Dracks
Jessica Hansell is a writer, musician and artist. Under the name Coco Solid she has toured internationally, charted on student radio and collaborated with artists and labels from all over the world. With a history in comics and zines, last year Hansell wrote the cult cartoon HOOK UPS, a webseries about musical Maori twins trying to socially survive in the suburbs. Hansell completed her MA in creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters in 2012, she currently writes for Mana Magazine, is writing a comic-poetry book 'Foodcore' and begins working on her debut film with Taika Waititi's company Piki Films this month.
Thank you for submitting to XXXXXX
Unfortunately we will not be publishing your submission in XXXXXX
We hope you will send us some of your work in the future, and keep an eye on our website for future calls for submissions.
We received an unprecedented number of submissions for this issue of XXXXX and there was a high standard overall. Please don't be put off by not being accepted for publication this time around. We'd like to hear from you again.
All the best with your writing,
The Editor, XXXXXX
When in Dracks
THE STEW INSIDE A HANDSHAKE.
I really should have lobbied harder for that town slogan but we don't even have a council let alone a council think tank.
"Where's that?" they always ask.
Once I answered and my accent silenced an entire car.
I should have run my second slogan idea past them.
WE SQUAWK LIKE THE TIN TUB WE WERE BORN IN! THAT'S THE DRACKLING AISLE WAY!
That would have shut them up for the whole ride. Turns out they were all from beautiful places and not mental.
Being back takes some adjusting. Only after it bully-grips my neck for about a month can I befriend 'Dracks' again. We fall back into something similar to love, but it's more like me fainting into a possum-trap. And even when I settle in and accept my fate, I stay poised for an imaginary tussle.
Nights in the Dracks are heavy. And it's night a lot.
The hill and I study each other's faces, locked for long stretches especially when we have been apart for a long time.
"Good to be home?"
The same question chugs and loops alongside the air-con, goodtobehomegoodtobehome.
Cicadas and their iti church services, never quite visible.
I just imagine them piled up somewhere, screaming from inside the green.
Maybe they are in that bush that obscures the washing-line (aka the washing line I'm not allowed to use it according to the ball head neighbours).
Clouds do their night-crawl from behind (ball head) socks and for the record Drackling Aisle clouds are terrifying. They don't warrant a wolf howl but you can always hear some cat conversation going sour. The conditions ensure a constant flow of boutique criminal activity. Round here mate we like our felons like our cicadas: loud, omnipresent and unfound.
Many evenings I watch 'the shadow'. Next door, they are always smoking something when it gets late. They have been there since my childhood, they never change. Nothing but a light bulb behind their head, a burning frost rising off him or her. In the summer we co-swelter outside, especially when the sky gets busy. Moon pounds the nightshade vegetables and I stand among the seeds barefoot in my jeans. The moon in Dracks is.... well let's just say you get blood on those jeans if you stay in the garden for too long.
Drackling Aisle residents don't really get into life beyond the car-yards. When I see a star that is apricot and is moving, I keep my upward notions to myself.
I don't know where gossip goes once it leaves a local mouth, but it will always arrive mangled in the post. No one speaks at parties anymore. It's just in the air I guess. Packed with the bitchy settler karmic junk. In this town no one stays friends for long. We just drink and eye-smile. It was established young that I was batshit crazy, so I need to eye smile hardest and keep especially mute.
Sometimes the air on my face is everything. A mix of ghost, apple and ice. One night my lungs loved it so much, that every exhale started to parallel-park the neighbour's van. I can still hear my heaves rattle the hedges. My fingers waxed each leaf as I headed back up to the house. Much like that apricot star, you keep it to yourself.
It's hard to say whether I live for these nights. I just know I both resented and grieved them when I was away.
Adventures with Depressives
Hannah Mettner is a Wellington writer who has been rejected from all major New Zealand literary journals and several international ones. Unfortunately it's usually her favourite poems that are rejected, feeding a crippling self-doubt.
Dear Bad Writer,
It is usual to send a standard response in cases of rejection, but your writing was so astonishingly inept that we felt it behoved a customised response. It seems as though what you've done here is just assemble strings of words without endeavouring to apply any sense to them. While this may be an intentional stylistic device, we prefer work that has been written with an audience in mind. Our professional advice is to study the form of the limerick, and work your way up.
Sincerely (please do not send us anything for at least five more years),
Adventures with Depressives
We went straight to the connecting door. That, too, was locked or bolted on the inside.1 The Devil pulls the strings which make us dance2 on a prayer3. We can allow satellites, planets, suns, universes to be governed by laws4 waiting to happen, but we're so used to them we call them ordinary things.5 When the stars threw down their spears6 the sisters swam in front of the vessel.7 Hold back the edges of your gown, ladies, we are going through hell8 full steam — Knowledge — Zzzzzp! Money — Zzzzzp! — Power!9 We are accidents waiting to happen,10 blame it or praise it, there is no denying the wild horse in us.11 We sit and talk quietly, with long lapses of silence.12 All the dazzling days, all the mystic nights with dreams,13 snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow which turns the corner always a pace or two ahead of us.14 We are the kids who never made it15— how else to explain the curious feeling like missing somebody we've never even met?16 We must be careful about what we pretend to be.17 Brown swarms of mosquitoes spray over old tombstones18— God has a brown voice, as soft and full as beer.19 We're just dancing in the dark20 in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain21— Ah, the descent of species! How interesting it is!22 When we hear the ancient bells growling on a Sunday morning we ask ourselves: is it really possible?23 And if a double-decker bus crashes in to us24…we thought it would be wonderfully constructive to at least25 have been killed — or worse, expelled.26 No, I think we shun the splendour,27 waking up to read a little, draft long28 letters — and nothing, nothing but blackberries, blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly.29 The food came out again just the same as when it went in.30 Oh I see Paris, I see France, I can see your underpants.31