Dear Haiku Maven, Let’s talk for a second about the words and tone an editor uses when rejecting a submission. A rejection can be an ego-bruising event for any artist, no matter the number of previous acceptances. Those who can shrug it off have my admiration, but for many of us it takes a toll. The difference between a split-second and several-hours’ toll is how the editor conveys the turndown. Here is a recent example of a respectful editor’s rejection, “Thank you for sending your work to us. I am sorry we cannot take your haiku for our current issue but look forward to hearing from you in our next reading period.” And a tactless one, “I will pass on your haiku. There were many other good haiku. Keep working on them.” While it is true many editors receive hundreds of submissions, it seems to me that the burden of that workload and consequently, the tone and words of the acceptance or rejection should not fall on the submitter, should they?
Signed, Haiku Submitter
Dear Haiku Submitter, Haiku Maven read your letter with keen interest and not only because it raises interesting issues. Most haiku editors would be surprised to learn that their rejection of work had the power to cause hours of turmoil to the submitter. As in other fields of endeavor, some editors are skilled at rejections and others never mastered the “plays nicely with others” part of kindergarten. In the two examples in your query, Haiku Maven surmises that the first is a “canned response” while the second is an actual response, although rather inelegantly phrased. Haiku Maven also knows of instances in which more than a few well-mannered haiku editors received rude responses to their own politely phrased rejections. At a minimum, rather than worry about whose burden it is when it comes to rejection responses, Haiku Maven suggests you heed these words of Eleanor Roosevelt (which today can be found on exorbitantly priced paperweights), “No one can ever make you feel inferior without your consent.” The next time you receive a harsh rejection letter, press the “permanent delete” key or if it is a letter, do what Stephen King used to do and nail it to the wall. Then, if you truly believe it is your best work, submit the rejected haiku to another top publication or well-known haiku contest. Finally Haiku Maven suggests if you have the opportunity to attend haiku conferences, do so. There are more editors at these conferences than Haiku Maven can shake a stick at. Once you meet these editors in person, you may discover that their array of superpowers is somewhat limited.
The Haiku Maven posts each Friday to The Haiku Foundation blog. Haiku Maven offers advice about awkward situations involving haiku poets. The word maven comes from the Yiddish meyvn, meaning “one who understands.” Please use our Contact page to send a question. Haiku Maven will select a pseudonym for you based on your question. Click this link to see the Haiku Maven archive. Feel free to leave comments.