Rejection and Courage

ferrrisBy Danielle Anctil, Managing Editor

As a senior undergraduate student, I’ve been spending a portion of this semester filling out applications to law schools. I’ve suddenly found myself thrown back into high school, when I had to write college application essays that would tell an admissions committee what they should know about me that they wouldn’t from reading the rest of my application.

This is an incredibly daunting task. How do you limit defining yourself to a single two-page essay? How do you express in a few hundred words the lifetime of moments that make you the person that you are? No matter how well articulated I might manage to be, what I type in that essay will never accurately capture all of me.

Admissions committees aren’t expecting that they are going to get to know the entirety of who I am through an essay. I know they’ll be looking to see my aspirations, or maybe a little bit of about my background, or perhaps a major personal challenge I’ve faced that shows my strengths and perseverant spirit, but they will also be focusing primarily on my ability to express myself. Still, it’s difficult for me not to feel that what the reader takes from my essay is going to be more of a judgment of me as a person than it will be as me as a writer or potential law student.

Here at Dogwood, we have recently started one of our favorite duties as editors: reading through submissions. We are so excited to have so many great pieces to consider this year, and as we’ve been reading each piece, we realize how difficult it is to select which ones to publish.

Let’s be honest. Rejections suck. There’s nothing comforting about the name “rejection letter.” Whether it’s for a literary submission or for a law school application, it hurts to have your work be rejected. Rejection. It’s such a harsh word, isn’t it? It’s like the name itself is saying we’re supposed to feel terrible, seeking pity from a pint of Half-Baked (or maybe a drink of choice if you’re more of a Hemingway type). A scene worse than a bad rom-com breakup.

As writers, we take pride in our work, taking hours, days, years to craft our words so carefully that they express our thoughts clearly and meaningfully. Whether we write a nonfiction essay or a science-fiction novel, there is always an intimate, vulnerable piece of us that is intrinsically tied to our work simply because we’ve authored it, we’ve dedicated ourselves to it. And I think that this is part of the reason it can be so difficult to receive a rejection letter. It doesn’t feel so much like a rejection of an essay as it does a rejection of you.

There is so much more to an author than one of his or her stories, and at Dogwood, we are incredibly sensitive to that. It may sound cliché to say that it’s difficult to read through submissions and make decisions, but it’s true. As editors we have endless discussions about how to critique a piece of writing, what makes one piece “better” than another, defining what we are looking for in potential pieces. It’s not always an easy task. We truly want to encourage all the authors who submit to us to keep writing, keep developing your stories, and to keep submitting, whether it’s to us or to other publications.

I’d really like to thank and congratulate all of you for sharing with us something so intimate. Thank you for submitting your writing. We are honored to be able to share in reading your work, and especially to be able to consider it for Dogwood. And if you do receive a “Sorry, not this time, try again, keep writing, we love you” letter from us… well, we actually mean it. We’re sorry we couldn’t publish you this time, but try again, keep writing, and we love you! Good luck!

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