On January 11, 2005, I submitted a short story via snail mail to a literary magazine I will call Famous Indiana University (Whose Fight Song Everybody Knows) Review. I enclosed a stamped, self-addressed envelope for the reply.
Ten months later, having heard nothing, I followed up with a status query, again enclosing an SASE.
The next week I received an email saying that their database showed my submission had been received in January and had been “forwarded to our editor for final consideration.”
On April 21, 2006, I received a form rejection in one of my SASEs, which I duly filed.
So I was astounded yesterday when an SASE showed up in the mailbox bearing a 37¢ flag stamp and an additional 7¢ postage-metered on it. Inside was a form rejection from Famous Indiana University (etc.) Review, apologizing “for the protracted review of your piece. We had hoped to use it, but find that the work simply does not meet our needs at this time.”
This probably means the 2004-2005 staff misplaced the story and the next year’s staff, which would have been the one I status queried, sent me a rejection letter when the story hadn’t turned up by the end of the semester.
And then this year, someone cleaned out a closet and found a box of old submissions just before they crumbled to dust.
These things happen. University literary magazines are staffed by students, usually grad students, all of whom have heavy academic workloads and many of whom have family concerns as well. The slush piles are overwhelming, and the staff turns over completely every couple of semesters. I’m just grateful someone on the current staff was thoughtful enough to follow up.
As for my short story, it was subsequently accepted for publication by Fifth Wednesday Journal. I was invited to do a reading at the launch party in 2008. I nailed the reading, if I do say so myself, and I have a cool T-shirt FWJ T-shirt that I wear every chance I get. No matter how many times Famous Indiana University (etc.) Review rejects this piece, they can’t take that away from me!
© 2010 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go