Earlier this fall I entered a local writing contest and tonight I received my first official rejection letter. With the reception scheduled for this weekend, I had begun to suspect that if I hadn’t heard by now, I wasn’t a finalist. There was, however, a small secret against-the-odds optimistic part of me that was still hoping. (That’s probably the same part of me that created gauzy-edged visions of me reading to my adoring audience at the reception, graciously accepting praise, signing the associated publication with a flourish, etc. All of this, of course, accompanied by a wonderful, inspiring soundtrack.)
The rejection letter was very nice, but direct. “Today we have notified the winners of the competition so if you haven’t heard from us then we are very sorry and we encourage you to submit again next year.” (My inspiring soundtrack screeched to a sudden, jerking halt.) The letter went on to say that judges had a very difficult time deciding on winners and would like to contact some non-winning entrants directly to give them feedback. So, now I’m wondering if there’s a second rejection in store–the one when no one calls to give me feedback. And I’m kind of laughing at myself, but kind of serious as well.
When I submitted my entry, I had a long talk with myself about the fact that, for me, merely entering the contest was a winning step. Winning the contest would be delightful, but it wasn’t the point. The point was about taking another new step with my writing. While that remains true, the knowledge of rejection does carry a bit of a sting, and I have to say, a little adoration and praise wouldn’t have come amiss!
For now I’m going to print out my rejection e-mail and tuck it in my writer’s notebook. It’s a rite of passage, right? It’s also a testament to the fact that I tried. And come Saturday I plan to dress up and head to the reception. I will listen to the winners read and celebrate the wonder of writing. For all of us took that step, wrote our words, and sent them winging out into the world in all their vulnerability. And to my mind, that is certainly worthy of some applause.