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Friday, August 14, 2020

Friday Speak Out!: Why Heartburn and Rejection Go Hand in Hand

by Theresa Boedeker 

My first short story I submitted was accepted. 

My second story ended that winning streak. 

By graduate school, my friend and I talked about papering our bathroom walls with all the rejection letters we received. 

Reality is that writing is full of rejections. Even well-known writers get their work rejected for various reasons. 

Why one piece gets accepted here and rejected over there is as mysterious as trying to figure out when in the day a family of six will spontaneously arrive in the living room at exactly the same time. 

You may have your theory about why your work is rejected, but this is mine. 

I like to think that the reason my writing is rejected is because my work was read shortly after lunch. At about the same exact time that the editor develops heartburn from having greedily eaten an insane number of hot tacos. 

Who says yes to a practically perfected piece of writing when smack in the middle of experiencing heartburn? 

No one. 

Like I said, that's my theory. So, when I receive a rejection letter, I just think heartburn and to many hot tacos. This way I don't take it so personally. 

This theory helps me take a step back and question if this was the best place to submit the piece. If the piece needs to be reworked. And address how I can strengthen it before sending it out again. 

Sure, there may be another way to look at this heartburn issue. 

In grad school I worked on the school literary magazine as an editor. Suddenly I was the one deciding if the piece should be considered. Or promptly sent back with no other reads. 

Talk about power. 

Talk about heartburn. 

The first several times I rejected a piece it was hard. 

I didn't want to hurt their feelings. I didn't want to discourage them from writing. I didn't want to paper their bathroom walls with another generic rejection form. 

But really, some of the submissions were pretty bad. Some were brilliant. And some were okay. 

And while I am not a person prone to heartburn, some of the submissions I read were so bad I felt like I was experiencing heartburn. 

After enough of these, it became easier to identify the icky sensations overtaking my chest and reject them on the basis of almost causing me heartburn. 

So yes, I know there are two ways an editor can experience heartburn. One from the writing itself. And one from the food they recently ate. 

I like to think my writing being rejected, falls only in the last category. 

Question: What is your theory you have developed for why your work gets rejected? And how does it help you not take it so personally?
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Despite having given a few editors heartburn, Theresa has been published in numerous print and online publications. She dreams in words and would keep writing even if no one read her work. She writes online at
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



    Yeah it's so weird. Like I had a story the week before get accepted, when the day prior, it had been almost immediately rejected by a totally separate magazine. I feel like someone's mood or mindframe or even worldview can impact whether or not a story appeals to them. Also tastes have an impact too!

    I do a round of rewrites if a story gets rejected a few times, though, which is probably good.

    1. Yes, so often it does seem like someone's mood, mindframe, or worldview can influence their decision.

  2. Theresa--Your theory has a "cherry on top" plus: that editor who rejects your work is experiencing great digestive pain--deservedly so--for saying no to your writing.

    When I don't hear for a while, I imagine the editors at a press are fighting over how large my advance should be. Or several presses are battling over who will get the privilege of publishing my manuscript.

    However, after it's been months--or years--I want to tell them, "Stop fighting and make me an offer!"

    Good luck with your future writing, and thanks for this post. (You've written posts for WOW before, right? I recall the name and face ;) Thanks. We need a nice lift-up at the end of the week.)

    1. I love your idea of the editors fighting over how much to pay you or who gets to publish your work. Thanks for your encouraging words. First time published here, but comment sometimes.

  3. Theresa I love your heartburn theory when it comes to rejections. And yes, I've most likely given a few editors heartburn too. My theory on why I get rejected, I think it's because I sometimes don't do enough rewriting because I'm in such a hurry to submit, but I'm working on that. Continued success Theresa.

  4. Not doing enough rewriting can be one of my faults, especially if there is a deadline and I am rushing to meet it. Happy writing.


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