Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Wordcraft -- Embrace rejection & other writing insights

Is it weird that a writer whose stories were selected for The Best Small Fiction 2015 Anthology wanted to talk about how often his pieces have been rejected? Not at all, insisted much published Texas author Blake Kimzey, in his guest appearance at the recent meeting of the Writers' Guild of Texas. "Embrace rejection!" he proclaimed, as a sign that writers are putting their work out there as often as possible. “What I want to focus on is demystifying the process of publication and offering practical steps in the face of the (apparent) insurmountability of rejection.”

And although he insisted on the need to research the publications and editors that best suit an author’s work, his mantra is “read diversely, write regularly. The work is done by the time you start thinking about publication.”

His personal journey to publication began more than a decade ago with a 93-page novel fragment entitled (although he may have been speaking tongue in cheek) Forever Undergraduate. His endless revision of this fragment lead to his first realization: “must finish the story.” Trying to get beyond this impasse, he enrolled in a screen writing course “but I didn’t know how to end the story, so it remained incomplete.” After extensive reading of “how-to write” books and articles, he gained the second realization, “read more novels, fewer how-to’s” and found deadlines at a semester-long creative writing course a spur to learning how to finish a story. (Do it, or fail the course!)

More classes, more writing, more discovery of writing communities, and at last his first story was published. It took nine years, but he was on his way, first as a prolific writer of short fiction, then the winner of a chapbook contest (Families Among Us, published by Black Lawrence Press in September 2014) and now as he looks for an agent for his novel in progress, described as "a drug deal comedy set in the Midwest." Definitely, he's not still an undergraduate.

So back to embracing those rejections: how to start collecting them?

His suggestions, after the reading and writing parts, are the research, in places like New PagesThe Review ReviewDuotrope’s DigestPublishersMarketplace and the Poets & Writers agent database.

“As the New York Times reviews novels, New Pages reviews literary journals,” as does The Review Review, which also includes interviews with the people who run the literary journals.” Kimzey also subscribes to Duotrope’s Digest (“the Google of all things literary”). “Use these things and use them often!” 

His totals include 727 story submissions. “That’s relentlessness.” And then, OK, there were 487 rejections, which leaves a lot of room in between for what we're all looking for, acceptances. Even the rejections are targeted submissions, arrived at by researching publications looking for stories like the ones he writes. 

Along the way to publication, he add another insight: find a community. “There’s lots going on in Dallas, but you’ve got to seek it out. Be a good literary citizen (by) going to readings (like the ones at The Wild Detectives bookstore in Oak Cliff), to conferences, and by creating, developing or joining a community like this (the Writers’ Guild).”

He also recommends that authors make themselves findable: on a website, Twitter, Facebook, and the Poets and Writers Directory. "Find an author to follow and emulate. Insert yourself into the stream.”

“Be relentless, do research, be OK with rejection. It’s a part of the process.”


In the interest of snatching acceptances from those relentlessly courted rejections, I’ll mention that my own latest short story, “Planet, Paper, Space” is now up at Lunar Station Quarterly. Read it and works by other writers online for free. Or be a good literary citizen and buy a copy, which will get you the snazzy pink cover art.


  1. Congrats on the publication of “Planet, Paper, Space," Melissa! And thank you for this great re-cap of the evening. I had a great time. Happy writing! -Blake

  2. Thanks, Blake! Very much enjoyed your talk at Writers' Guild.