We of the 3 P's have pledged to relate our post MFA travails in uncensored glory. In the interest of keeping this promise I will not wait until I’m published to post, but shall reveal the soft white underbelly of rejection.
The second fiction story I ever wrote I naively submitted to The Mid-American Review contest. A few months later, I got a note! (They are kind about that there). The note told me I made the top eight. Eight was underscored to emphasize this achievement. Not bad for a fledgling attempt. I was pretty excited and figured my submission life was on its way. Fire a story off. Send it out. With a few more tries, get published.
You see what's coming. You’re smart.
In the past year I have managed to make lit mag submissions/rejection a part of my routine. Every so often I sit down, pick a story or essay and shove a few copies in brown envelopes. This is the Post MFA life — generate new work, revise old work, send out work. Pray that someday editors and agents will enter the mix.
I fly to the mailbox everyday dreading (yet strangely hoping, why?) for an envelope with my handwriting on the front. Experience has taught me people email when they want you. I personally have never received an acceptance in the mail. Still I check that box like a mother waiting for news from her son at war. Even if he's dead I have to know.
Many of us Montana MFAs have racked up pubs in top lit mags this past year, which is encouraging. It’s nice to think we didn’t spend two years in a deluded la la land, playing artist, which sometimes (quite honestly) is exactly what the MFA feels like. An MFA acceptance is this happy/dizzy/hurrah! moment. You have been noticed as possessing Talent. But in the end, sharing cocktails with published writers you admire is not same as being one of those writers yourself. Graduation looms. The sinking pit of dread creeps. Nobody wants to be the girl who cried writer.
I still enter The Mid-American Review contest every year for sentimental reasons (plus it’s one of my favorite lit mags), but haven’t received a note since. Sniff. Someday TMR you will embrace me. Maybe I’m that girl you made out with once and years later she’s driving by your house, but often crumbs are exactly what we subsist upon.