Judson Merrill Responds to his Rejections

My literary career is young but it’s never too early to begin dusting the hard-to-reach shelves of posterity. For the benefit of scholars and fans alike, I will use this space on The Outlet, on a semi-regular basis, to release a selection of my correspondence and other papers. Enjoy. (Universities interested in acquiring the complete Judson Merrill archive should contact me through my web site.)

Dear Mid-American Review,

Thank you for your recent rejection. I appreciate your taking the time to read my story. I understand how careful you must be in selecting a cohesive body of work to present in the MAR.

Your communiqué, however, did leave me with a few concerns. You write, “We have decided your submission is not a match for us at this time.” I assume this means I should submit my story again at a more convenient time. I don’t want to be a pest, though, so please provide a concrete timeline. Would you like to review the story again for your next issue or next year? Anything’s fine, just let me know.

Also, confusingly, you close that same paragraph with, “We wish you the best of luck placing your story elsewhere.” Typo?

Judson Merrill

Dear Baltimore Review,

Thank you for your recent email informing me of your decision not to publish my submission. It’s good to know where we stand.

Your communiqué, however, did leave me with a few concerns. You write, “We appreciate the opportunity to read your work.” If you were that excited about my submission, I’m concerned you may have read it with unfair expectations. I’ve found that if I read the story expecting it to be awful, I’m pleasantly surprised. Indeed, my relief often morphs into a powerful urge to publish said story. I’ve reattached my submission under the new title “Eight Pages of Tripe” in case you want to try this fun experiment.


Dear Strange Horizons,

Thank you so much for your recent rejection letter. How heartwarming to get an individual response, with actual human handwriting!

Your communiqué, however, did leave me with a few concerns. You mention that the story struck you as too predictable. That’s easily changed! What is the last thing you expected to happen in the story? Or maybe that’s too obvious. What’s the second to last thing you expected to happen? Maybe, just list five things you did not expect to happen at all and I’ll choose one of them for the new ending. Or not. You won’t know until you read the new draft.

Talk soon,

Dear Beeswax,

Thanks for your recent email. I know that there is a special pleasure to be had in rejecting my work and you probably couldn’t resist. I hope you enjoyed it as much as the scores of editors who have gone before you.

Your communiqué, however, did leave me with a few concerns. You write, “While we greatly enjoyed your piece, we cannot find a place for it at this time.” I’m afraid there might be some misunderstanding. I wasn’t asking you to place my story with another magazine. I wanted you to publish it in yours. Out of curiosity, though, where did you submit it? Hopefully not to the Mid-American Review. I think we should wait a few weeks before sending it back to them.

Write back,
J. Merrill

Dear Pebble Lake Review,

Congratulations on not accepting my story. In a way, I’m jealous. I bet it’s satisfying to grind out a man’s carefully kindled dignity.

Your communiqué, however, did leave me with a few concerns. You write, “We hope you will submit again in the future.” Many thanks! Since the story I submitted is my strongest, I will certainly send it again in the future. In fact, just this morning I found an embarrassing use of “than” when I meant “then.” In case that error is the reason you initially passed on the story, please find the corrected version attached. The future is now!

Look forward to hearing from you,

Dear Rambler,

Thanks for your email. I understand that there is a shadowy cabal of magazine editors bent on keeping me out of print to satisfy their own unknowable and sinister ends. I see now that you number among this hateful faction. Good to know.

Your communiqué, however, did leave me with a few concerns. You write, “We regret that your story does not meet our editorial needs at this time.” I’m not trying to be self-serving, but I truly believe life is too short for regrets. Perhaps you should change your needs and publish my story? Or die at 41 of a stress-induced coronary. Whichever you think is best.


Dear Mid-American Review,

Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful note.

You write, “We have seen this story before and have passed on it before. Please do not submit this story again.” However, please see the attached track changes document for proof that the last three submissions, though similar, have all been different drafts with different word counts and, in one case, a new title. Also please see the attached newest draft of my story. Trust me, it’s very different from anything you’ve seen before. I recently got five very good and surprising ideas for a new ending. Can you guess which one I chose? No. You can’t. It’s too surprising for guesses.


* * *

The full Judson Merrill archives can be found here.

-Judson Merrill lives and writes in Brooklyn. Some of his work, including his e-novella The Pool, can be found at judsonmerrill.com.

Image courtesy of http://jasonbrockert.com/

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