Thursday, March 10, 2016


I was a bit puzzled to read about The Museum of Broken Relationships, which evidently will be moving its permanent incarnation from Croatia to Los Angeles in the near future. Why do people keep things to remind them of a heartbreaker, and why would other people want to look at them on display? After being dumped without warning, I packed up every single thing my heartbreaker had ever given me and sent them UPS back to him (which was also intensely satisfying as a symbolic last word on the break-up.)

While I was congratulating myself on my superior tactics, I thought of the boxes of rejection letters I've kept since I began submitting to publishers back in 1974. I still take some of those letters out and read them on occasion, and remembering that bucked me off my high horse. That also made me wonder what it would be like to visit a museum of rejected publisher submissions:

The Museum of Writer Rejectopia Announces new Exhibits!

Come join us as we begin our spring season with a whimper, not a bang, and all-new exhibits for other-writer rejection lovers.

The Hall of Terse Commentary

See the finest of examples of quick, insensitive rejections such as "No Thx" scribbled on notepaper, "Not for Us" scrawled on the submission title page, and examples of now-rare checkbox postcards.

Back Gallery of the Battered

Prepare to be horrified as you view the once-pristine manuscript returned trashed by indifferent editors. Speculate on why pages were crumpled (used for trash can basketball, perhaps?); see evidence of editor addiction via countless coffee cup ring stains and a shockingly large wine splash.

Special Exhibit -- Outrageous Revision Requests

Did you know Melville was asked to change the whale from Moby Dick into a man-eating shark? Neither did we, but we can assume Stephen Spielberg got wind of it. Come and find out what other classic writers refused to fiddle with their stories to cater to meddling editor egos . . .

I'd probably have to donate the e-mail from an editor who loved and stayed up all night reading my submission of Night of the Chameleon, and told me that, right before she said there was no way in hell they could publish it. That one really hurt.

What do you think should be in the Museum of Writer Rejectopia? Offer your donations in comments.


  1. I got the 'No Thx' one, too! Oh, and you should definitely have a section filled with the pre-printed rejection postcards agents used to send. I got a rejection once that said my story was improbible - their spelling, not mine - then went on to ask if I'd ever considered writing non-fiction. I still have all my rejections around here somewhere - not because I want them anymore, but because I'm horrible at throwing things out.

  2. I don't have a suggestion for your Museum of Writer Rejectopia, but I do have a comment. I started following a Tumbler blog started by a then fifteen year old which contains last messages. Whether text (most of them are) or email or verbal, it's message after message of the last thing someone said to the person who submitted it. The ones that actually infuriate me most are the ones where the person being messaged says how much they still love someone and the person they're talking about is horribly abusive in the last message sent. It's like a train wreck I can't seem to look away from. Oh, there are poignant ones as well, but still...

    My rejections so far have just been, no, not right for me or no answer at all. :/

  3. One of my most prized possessions is a typed rejection from Dr. Stanley Schmidt pointing out my high school level science errors in a submission...but I'm not donating it, it STAYS ;).

    I'm not going to name and shame but my most blood boiling rejection was from a comic company that told me not only did they not publish any stories containing any LGBT+ characters ever but nobody else should do so either because it's supporting an "agenda." I kept that one too to remind me to have nothing to do with them...

  4. I might manage a donation...
    Somewhere here I've kept a three-chapter submission I sent to an agent (NOT editor--agent!), who not only tersely rejected the historical, but proceeded to "X" out
    in the submission. In bright red ink. Without telling me why.
    Somebody'd had a bad day/month/year.

  5. I have two. My harshest said my genre would never sell to anyone, ever. I'm not sure if he even read the pages. The other one was for a paranormal romance where a woman said she loved everything about it, had no suggestions on how to improve it, but still didn't want to represent it. That one was baffling

  6. the one that went from "this pitch and 15 pages hits all my high points!" to "we loved it but we won't rep it."

    I don't even know how you go from 120 to zero in a week but okay. I asked if they could maybe clarify what turned them away. no reply. Fickle beasts.:D


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.