The Deafening Silence of Unacknowledged Submissions

In 2010 I sent out my first poetry submission to an online literary journal. It was The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, a journal I identified with as a Southerner and a Southern writer,and read regularly. I was thrilled that my very first submission had been accepted and I still have a special place in my heart for The Mule. In the years since, I’ve submitted to a variety of print and online journals. I rarely send out simultaneous submissions and I only submit to ones I actually read and that I think match my aesthetic. For me, sending out my work to a gazillion zines is a waste of time and doesn’t make sense. I carefully consider if I want to be a part of the journals I choose, if I will be proud and happy to get accepted or  just ho-hum about it. I’ve been lucky to have been accepted more than rejected and I think it’s because I’m thoughtful about where I submit. I’ve also been lucky to receive advice on tweaking particular pieces that the editor felt was almost right but needed a little more expanding. In both of the cases, I felt they were right and I appreciated their POV and that they took the time to work with me on those pieces. So, thank you Mike Joyce and Meg Tuite, for your support and time and for sharing the wisdom of your experience. It was greatly appreciated.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????So it was with some consternation that I finally realized more than three months after submission that a certain journal has ignored me. I submitted several poems to a journal back in early May that I read and really like. It has published some of my favorite writers and I like that it has a strong bent toward women writers. I was excited when I received an acknowledgement of my submission and settled down for a 90 day wait for a decision, as noted might be the case in the guidelines. About 10 days ago I went on the journal website and saw that a new issue had been published six days previously. What? But I haven’t heard from them, not a word. I immediately sent an email inquiring as to the status of my submission. It’s been over a week and they have not replied. Now I’m pissed. And I’m pissed that I’m in a position that pisses me off. I know this happens to writers on occasion but it’s never happened to me. Obviously, they didn’t want my work and that’s O.K. I don’t get bent out of shape when I get a rejection. People have differing opinions, differing aesthetics. I don’t take it personally, my stuff just wasn’t a fit for whatever reason. What pisses me off is the feeling that I didn’t even rate a form letter rejection. That’s just not right. It’s rude. It’s not good P.R. nor good business. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth and makes me not want to read this journal ever again. But, you know what? I will read it again because it’s a fine journal that publishes some fine women (and men) writers and I won’t deprive myself of reading their words. In fact, I recommend you read Stone Highway Review yourself and see if I’m not right.

Just don’t submit to it unless you’re OK with being ignored if you’re not accepted.

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4 thoughts on “The Deafening Silence of Unacknowledged Submissions

  1. I’ve had a couple of those ‘have no idea if they even received my submission or if they’ve already chosen all the poems they need for the next 10 years’ moments. The most interesting one was when I had sent the same poem (the only one in a bunch of 3-4) to two different journals and I sent an email to the first journal to let them know that the 2nd journal would be publishing it (because they always tell you to do that if you have multiple submissions). That’s when they finally remembered – about 4-5 months after the fact, and sent an email back saying: ‘Actually, we’re not having any of yours, thank you very much.’

    • See, that tells me a lot about the people behind the journal. That kind of crassness will turn me off to the journal completely, as a reader and a writer.
      I don’t think it can be that hard to send out a form letter rejection. Some people hate them but at least you know where you stand. If the people behind the journal are so busy and overwhelmed they can’t respond to a writer then they need to take a hard look at themselves and either scale back or get more help. JMO. 🙂

  2. I don’t write poetry, but I do write news stories, and I pitch a lot to national publications. I’ve found that the bigger publications rarely respond to a pitch unless they’re interested, which is fine, but like you, I find it disconcerting and somewhat rude that they can’t bother to write, “Not interested. Thanks for the query.” Or something.

    Maybe it’s because I’m a Southerner, but even when I turn down a telemarketer, I usually end up finding out how his “mama ‘n ’em” are doing before I hang up the phone. Then again, I always have an icebox cake in the fridge, I always send thank you notes, and no one ever sneezes that they don’t get blessed. it’s just how I was raised.

    Enjoying looking through the site. Nice to see strong Southern women making their voices heard. Keep up the good work.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Carmen. You may have a point that it’s because we were raised with Southern manners that we find this practice so abhorrent. After all, there’d be no journals without writers.
    I hope you visit us again!

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