Rejected by McSweeney’s

For the uninitiated, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency website is the holy grail for humor writers who crave having their work published in a public forum, without the crass formality of receiving actual payment for their work.  

Because having your piece published on McSweeney’s is payment enough, right? Any aspiring humor writer could die happy if this were to ever happen. Who needs their stinking money? Pffft!

McSweeney’s, I wish I could quit you.  

But I can’t help wondering if the McSweeney’s editor who rejected my piece about being rejected realized the delectable irony inherent in this situation.  

I’m going to go out on a limb and say: He did not.

Look, they can’t all be gems. 

Since this blog sometimes functions as a graveyard for rejected work, here’s another one for the boneyard:  








The Mature Way in Which I Handled

Said Rejection


Dear Editor Who Rejected My Story About Menopause: 

After reading your comments on my returned manuscript I can confidently state, “Wow. You are not feeling the love for my story.”  In fact, I’m pretty sure you hated it. 

Here is what gave me a hint: scrawled across the top margin, in bold red Sharpie, you wrote, and I quote, “Let’s leave this one out.” Of your book, I presume. 

I can only politely inquire: are you going through menopause?

I put it to you—if asked to submit an article on a specific topic, as I was (by you, remember?), doesn’t that arguably raise me to the level of expert on the subject?  I find this logic inescapable, no?  You have only yourself to blame, editor and co-writer of this book (let’s just call it Chicken Soup for the Ovaries, since I refuse to plug your dumb book for you), because you are the one who asked me to contribute a piece for this pathetic anthology of suffering.      

Let’s go through your comments point by point, shall we?  You explained there was a problem with the tone of my story.  That it seemed like I was “making fun” of menopause.  I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to insult menopause, but menopause is a big girl and should be able to deal.        

This book was described to me (by you) as being in the self-help category, ostensibly offering “advice,” “support,” and most importantly, according to its publisher—again, that would be you—“survival tips” to the “menopause-stricken” (quotes not mine; I have no idea where they came from). 

I, however, decided to take more of a tough-love approach to this wretched topic, madam editor, because unlike the rest of your writer-contributors, I am no menopause-coddler.

You said you wanted more of the story to come from my own “direct personal experience” which I now take to mean: describe in excruciating detail all the distressing symptoms of menopause you can think of.  The truth is, I am not yet a menopause-victim, so I cannot opine truthfully on this subject, but I will confess to being a woman, which is more than I can say for some of your other writers.   

To that point: WHO is this “Ken” person?  The one who appears to be an expert on noctural hot flashes?  (I’m only using her first name here, because I believe that’s enough to identify this author as non-female. No self-respecting woman would call herself “Ken.”)  

So to summarize: you accepted a story about menopause written by a man—from direct personal experience one assumes—and you have rejected one from a real live woman?  I have a hunch this may be ironic. 

Further criticism of my story indicated that I failed to “keep the focus on menopause,” and “distracted the reader with over-the-top descriptions of things that are not germane to the topic.”

I can only infer from this that you didn’t care for my creative use of metaphors.  Maybe you thought they were overblown, even amateurish.  Well.  I believe I can hammer out a metaphor with the best of your so-called experts.  At least as well as “Ken”—if that is her real name. 

It is my opinion that metaphors add flavor to a story, make them more savory, if you will.  Here’s another tasty metaphor for you to chew on, wherein I vividly describe the violence that was done to my story by your savage editing: 

‘It looked like someone took a giant melon-baller to this delicious story and scooped out the juicy flesh of each perfectly ripened paragraph, leaving behind only dry, random sentences that no longer bore any relationship to each other, let alone the title. 

Whereas your first revision was like minor surgery—in that the more quirky parts were removed like so many annoying seeds—alas, now the juicy pulp of my story has been surgically cut out, leaving only the flavorless, boring rind of this big watermelon.’

Now, how does that  taste? 

After digesting all this criticism, I feel it is only fair to call you out on some of your suggestions for improving my story.  Your insistence on inserting all those cloying “Survival Tips” referencing the healing powers of chocolate was just too precious.

You helpfully suggested—every third or fourth sentence or so—that chocolate alone is the panacea to all hormone-related ills.  Gahh!  I happen to know that many people are allergic to chocolate.  Advocating its unrestricted use is ill-advised.  Much potential litigation is headed your way if you persist in this.  Just because I suggested five to six glasses of wine and a fistful of Vicodins to alleviate menopausal symptoms, I’m irresponsible?  First rule of writing: know your audience. 

Finally, Editor Who Rejected My Story About Menopause—don’t come whining to me when your book falls short by a few pages and you need to pad it with an extra story or two, and in your desperation, you reconsider using my savagely butchered story.  You will beg me to rewrite it again, to reanimate this dead phoenix from the ashes of your editorial torching.

Listen, I can only give so much.  

Rewriting this story has become a touchy subject for me; it makes me feel all hot and irritable.  Just thinking about it makes me want to cry.  I don’t even want to talk about the bloating … 

God, I wish I had some chocolate. Doesn’t anybody have any fucking chocolate? 

Still ovulating, 

L. B. Soon

P.S.  Disregarding what I said earlier about you coming back begging for another story—if you find yourself really desperate for one—perhaps I could rework it a little.  Maybe something like this would be more to your liking:  A totally new concept.  How about:  “You, Yourself, and Hormones” (but you could substitute “Chocolate” for “Hormones” if you think it sells—you’re the editor.)

Let me know if any of these work for you.

9 thoughts on “Rejected by McSweeney’s

  1. Ah…send the editor my way…the men will surely pause when being double teamed! Keep the words flowing…..

  2. Love this one: “Just because I suggested five to six glasses of wine and a fistful of Vicodins to alleviate menopausal symptoms, I’m irresponsible? First rule of writing: know your audience.”

  3. And I knew you would love that, Anne! As I said: I DO know my audience. Even if only through the Internets.

  4. The piece was pretty good, but it clocked in at 963 words. McSweeney’s is pretty skittish about publishing pieces over about the 900 mark. Of course, there are exceptions. I assume this was submitted as an Open Letter. If you read through all the Open Letters on the site, you’ll find it’s rare for any of them to cross the 800 word mark. They really do center around 700 words. One piece, a Letter To The Guys Who Kicked The Soccer Ball Over The Fence…

    this one clocked in at over a thousand. This is the record holder for open letters, as far as I know. But it really is a fucking awesome open letter, which I used as inspiration for my most recent submission, though mine clocked in at 813.

    Hehe. Can you tell I’m on a McSweeney’s publication quest? Good luck with yours, friend.

  5. John, thanks for taking the time to comment here. Your point about the piece maybe being a little too long is well-taken and certainly a possibility (much better than the alternative and most obvious reason it was rejected—it sucked!)

    I thought if this piece were rejected, it would most likely be because the subject matter (the M-word) doesn’t fit in with the preferred McSweeney’s demographic: cool hipsters. But McSweeney’s editor, Mr. C. Monks is sharp. He recognized that the subject matter is not really menopause (menopause is the hilarious part), but rejection. And according to the editor, it was rejected because they were tired of “rejection-themed” pieces. And that, ladies and gentleman is Irony! Well-played, McSwy’s, well-played.

    I wish you the best of luck on your quest to be published on McSweeney’s. I hear the pay is good. Let me know in the comments here if they ever publish one of yours. Good luck.

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