Oh, The Horror!

Thank You for Your Recent Submission

The Rejection Letters of Real Literary Editors Revealed

Walter Bowne
Mar 4 · 7 min read
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Thank you for sending us “Vampire Bitches Breed in My Basement.’’ We appreciated the chance to read it. Once again, the piece was not successful. Please send no further work, with exception of your obituary.

Best wishes,
Sincerely, The Editor

Thank you for your recent submission to the new publication “Cranky Pants Visionary Review.” I’m sorry to let you know that your creative nonfiction story, “If You Weren’t My Mother, I’d Set You on Fire” was not accepted for publication.

This is a particularly subjective business, especially in this case. May I suggest therapy? Serious, psychological therapy. And please, don’t kill me. I always appreciate the opportunity to read new work.

Please feel free to submit a revised memoir in the future, when you have worked through those Freudian issues. Thanks again for thinking of us.

Best wishes, (name withheld for safety)

Just no. The paranoid dishwasher is ‘meh.’ The plot lacks development & characterization. It was over by 20 words. Our flash fiction max = 100 words. More<less.

ty, B

Thanks so much for letting me read your work! Every submission is important!!! I do appreciate your interest in my honest publication!

May I meet you after work sometime? Are you close to Lexington and 2nd? From your story, you sound young, like 23. Is that true?

I know this fabulous Cuban restaurant that serves the best lechon asado in the city. Perhaps we could snuggle on the couch while you read your essay to me? I want to “get into” your voice.

And I like to get to know our future writers well. Can you please submit a photo of yourself in what you’ll be wearing?

Looking forward to later,

PS: Please arrive with no underwear.

We were rather overjoyed to reject your story! When our submission guidelines are not obeyed, our office joins hands as we shred manuscripts and then at the end of the week we have our Friday afternoon bonfire.

Then we urinate on the fire after tanking up on several craft IPAs. Please pay particular interest to our submission requirements. Your margins were .6., not .4. Your spacing was needlessly double spaced when it should have been 1.5 spaces. And Times New Roman? Are you still in high school?

Seriously, Times New Roman? We only take Garamond. We love Garamond. If you had Garamond, we would have happily published the story for it showed such depth and insight into the human spirit.

Cheers, Ava Eve Goodtree. MFA UCLA

Didn’t you read our submission guidelines? We don’t give a fuck about plot or characterization or Freytag’s stupid pyramid. To write for us, think John Cage for the literati, but more surreal.
Suggestion: cut up the manuscript word by word, throw it in the air, soak each word in rum, suck out the rum, and then, wildly drunk and naked, with Nine Inch Nails blasting, piece the story back together again and then submit.

Best of luck.
Best, Brink Bit’snak

We appreciate your patience. Do you realize we receive over 10,000 submissions per day? Are you aware we’ve already rejected stories from Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Franzen, and a recently unearthed Nick Adams “gem” by Ernest Hemingway that was found buried in a Captain Morgan bottle in his Havana garden?

Haven’t you scoped us out on Duotrope? Have you seen your chances of getting “selected” by “us”? We’re very smug about accepting only .000000001% of submissions.

While we do encourage submissions from unpublished authors, well, one, and that was my cousin, what makes you think a hack writer from the bowels of some God-forsaken region of the United States can break into the ranks of the Iowa City literati?

While your chutzpah is inspiring, your logic is deeply flawed.

May I suggest our month-long intensive and expensive writer’s workshop that runs from June 23-July 23rd? The tuition is 10K for the week, without room and board.

Cheers, Edie Sinclair Smith Von Schmidt
The Editor, MFA University of Iowa

We loved your piece, after processing the reader's fee. The setting was rich, the pacing lively, the imagery vivid, and the characterization was nothing short of, dare I say it, John ‘Man of the People’ Steinbeck. I’m thinking of the soft, sexual nuances of Elisa in “The Chrysanthemums.” Your dialogue is terse and you take risks we have never seen before.

Your use of the Greek rhetorical devices anacoluthon and aposiopesis was truly — You truly are a gifted writer and we wish you success, but sadly your story does not fit the editorial needs of our select group of friends. We’ll have to pass.

Sincerely, The Editor
Mz. F.Uue Pulsezah

PS: Would you be mind relocating and becoming a member of our select group of friends?

Have you even read the magazine? Would it hurt you to buy a copy to look over our very precise style requirements? We cater to a specialized and high-minded (but not high-browed) reader who simply can’t get enough of feline horror stories.

While your story was gripping at times with subtle hints of terror, your story did, in fact, feature a dog without any mention of a cat. Or blood. What do you have against abusing cats?

Respectfully yours,
Frisky “Whiskers” Waltershed

I’m sure you’re a respected member of the Salina, Kansas literary world with your recent publications in The Salina Journal, the Kansas Wesleyan University Alumni Newsletter, and the Salina Public Library online edition of “Hot Young Writers of Salina.”

That’s all quite admirable. But your Middle West voice just does not resonate with our international audience. Willa Cather may still work in Kansas, but I’m afraid you won’t stimulate an audience for anyone who still shucks corn and milks cows. Egads! One Jane Smiley is enough.

Sincerely, The Editor

Thank you so much for letting us read your work. I know how you spent many hours and sacrificed many relationships and ruined many careers in crafting your finely crafted story about the albino pygmy midget who gets lost in the wilds of Milwaukee.

Every submission is important and every submission goes through a rigorous cycle of rhetorical analysis by our trained staff of doctoral students, as well as a battery of test readings by a selected panel of trusted magazine readers who have been properly vetted.

We also appreciate your continued interest and support of our annual magazine, and we hope that this letter will not influence you to cancel your valued subscription of $39.99 which goes to help feed our office iguana and coffee and coke to our young, nubile, and sexually charged interns.

Unfortunately, your story was not chosen for publication. Given the number of submissions, we must decline many worthy stories, and select only the ones that suit our fetishes and neurosis.

Do you have any stories about transgendered toe-suckers?

Sincerely, The Editor
Pat “Denver Storm” Jordan

While knowing what Dolores in your writing group said about your story is interesting, I actually don’t care what the consensus of the Winslow Township Library said of your story about your crazy grandmother.

Do the members of your writing group hold a Master’s degree from Bennington College? Are they graduates from Yale? Have they won awards at Sugarloaf and Breadloaf and Motherloaf? Have they crossed the Sierra Nevada barefoot looking for an angry fix at dawn while on a vision quest with one of the noted figures from the 1960s counter-culture?

Have they been published in Prairie Schooner? The Iowa Review? The Paris Review? Or Zoetrope? Were they considered in the Top 20 Under 40 in the latest edition of The New Yorker?

Have they made sweet love on the dunes of Cape Ann with the likes of Paula McLain, Francine Prose, and Colm Toibin (not that I’m gay, but God, it was Colm Toibin, and sacre bleu, he’s not only a master of the word, let me tell you.)

Please do me a favor and delete Google Docs or Word or Pages from your computer, bury all of your pens and pencils, save the trees, and stick to masturbating from now on!

Leave literature to the literate.

A writer who you’ll never be

PS: Thank you for submitting your Submittable Readers Fee of $20. We will use the funds towards our Friday Thrill.

Your list of credentials is impressive. But I’m sorry to tell you that we only publish writers who live on the fringes of society. We want the raw lives of crack-addicted homeless veterans. We want the down and out of gay prison life from actual convicts. We want the alcohol-stained stories of New York advertising agents who have been downsized to White Plains.

Would you consider divorcing your wife, leaving your college professorship at Brandeis, and botching a lame attempt at suicide in pursuit of a true, gripping story full of angst?

If so, we encourage the pursuit, just make sure you do not write in such beautiful prose. It reeks of polish and art and style.

Best, The Editor
bb. ee. cassady


Bootleg Humor. Since 1720.

Thanks to Amy Sea

Walter Bowne

Written by

Walter Bowne writes humor and some serious stuff on family, education, gardening, literature, and craft beer. His work has appeared in over forty publications.



Bootleg Humor Since 1720

Walter Bowne

Written by

Walter Bowne writes humor and some serious stuff on family, education, gardening, literature, and craft beer. His work has appeared in over forty publications.



Bootleg Humor Since 1720

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