It’s not often you get a rejection letter with an emoticon at the bottom, but here we are. The letter starts innocuously enough:
We regret that we are not able to place your work in our magazine.
So am I! But then, a heartfelt and candid apology–
We’re sorry to disappoint you, and we than you for submitting to EPOCH.
And now we get down to business:
EPOCH is published three times a year.
(So your chances of placing your work in the journal are about the same as being admitted to Cornell with a 2.9 GPA and a score of 28 on the ACT.)
Unsolicited submissions are reviewed from 15 September to 15 April of each year.
(So don’t get any funny ideas about sending us something in the dead zone of the summer months, dumbass.)
Sample issues are available from the above address at $5.00 per copy, postage paid.
A cool five bucks for sample copies. Postage is on the house.
And here we get to the real gem of this rejection letter, its personal flourish, the maraschino cherry swimming in our Manhattan, its raison d’etre.
Simple. Elegant. Wistful. Childlike, even.
The human who wrote this brief word of thanks is doubtless a first- or second-year comparative lit major who is looking, smartly, to ingratiate herself to the literary crowd at Cornell. She may be new at this publishing thing, but she understands (as you unfortunately don’t) that stories don’t miraculously appear in literary journals after having arrived from anonymous, forgotten towns like Tucson, Arizona and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; they come from the friends of editors, and the friends of friends of editors; and in the event that she one day makes the uncharacteristically piss-poor decision to try her hand at writing professionally, she wants to attach herself to that inside track. She is a prudent, punctilious, and pragmatic person, aware of the power of the female equivalent of the firm handshake–the handwritten thank-you note. She is not Charlotte Simmons but could pass as her cousin from the city. If necessary, she will destroy you with a withering smile. She is an expert on prepackaged microwavable snacks, celebrity culture, Victorian-era poetry, optimizing her Web presence through social media, and wearing jeans that just fit. She is frequently accused of “leading guys on,” though she herself is mystified by this distinction, and finds the reputation unfair. She sees herself, in five years, being engaged–or better yet, married!–to her high-school swim-jock sweetheart, Robbie Planter, an Olympic-caliber athlete who proposes to her in an elaborate display of beta-male supplication during an ice-skating event at the Rink at Rockefeller Center. She has been given the hallowed title of “slush reader” at Cornell’s flagship literary journal on the strength of her winning smile, can-do spirit, smart business-casual attire, and the fact that she is willing (and, thanks to her considerable dowry: able) to put 15 hours a week towards plodding through clueless cover letters and coffee-stained manuscripts for no pay; but she takes this position seriously, and makes it her business to respond personally to each rejection, even if it’s just a smiley face scribbled in pencil at the bottom of each blue card; she does this in the vain hope that if she ever finds herself in the unenviable position of one day submitting her own purple poetry to a middling academic journal such as EPOCH, the Christian God to whom she prays will reward her karmically and thusly, and her work will shine through the slush, like a grain of glass in a mountain of sand, and she will be spared the indignity of becoming one of Them.
I bet her pussy tastes like strawberry shortcake.