So my submission notebook finally gave out.
All the pages are filled.
I know what you’re thinking. Who cares, right? Get a new notebook.
Thing is I bought that notebook back in 2000. Thirteen years ago at the Pitt campus bookstore I snatched that notebook off the shelf and decided that while it was great to write my little heart out, if I didn’t have the chutzpah to put it out in the world then what was the point?
I was 23 years old. Christ.
The first entry was from August 19th 2000. I submitted poems to Alembic – a now defunct press in Philadelphia. They took two, Little Love Poem and An Apology in November. I don’t even have those poems anymore. They were written on a word processor. It looked like this:
And then saved on one of these
which I used to keep wrapped in a plastic baggie – just in case it rained – in the pouch of my backpack.
Blind Dumb Walking Space was rejected. With a title like that, I can’t really blame them.
This was back when you mailed things. No email attachments, no submishmash, no paste in the body of the email. You printed it out, folded your SASE (Bonus points if you still know what that even means) into the envelope – DON’T FORGET THE STAMP – and the dropped it in the box with an extra stamp cause those five sheets of paper felt a little bulky. Then you waited two months for an answer.
Man, you could go broke mailing out to the little rags.
Aside from this book being a cool little record of everything I got accepted and rejected over the last 13 years, it’s also a reminder of how you grow a skin. I used to keep the rejections in a little folder. Little slips of paper that said, “I’m sorry your work does not fit our needs” or just a handwritten note that said “sorry, not for us.” I kept all of them. In the beginning they crushed me. Eventually they barely elicited a shrug. They’re all lost now. In the successive moves from apartment to apartment from Pittsburgh to Brooklyn to Buffalo and back to Brooklyn I lost them. But not this book.
Inside is a record of every poem accepted. Ever story rejected. A huge list of agents – all of which also rejected me.
It’s humbling. I’m not saying I have anything to be particularly boastful about – that’s not what I mean – but it’s humbling in the sense that you really get a scope of how much work goes into each small accomplishment. Each poem accepted came off of rejections. Each story. Each novel.
It’s like a little written history of How Ally Grew Her Skin and Put Her Writing Out There.