Last week, a rejection email showed up in my inbox. “Although I don’t find your essay right for our needs, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to consider it,” the editor wrote.

Nice Try but no Trophy.

Submitting a piece for publication is like auditioning, say for American Idol. “Will the judge like the genre, style, my voice?” you wonder. Given the volume of submissions that first, second, and third tier publications receive—hundreds even thousands—getting published can seem as likely as winning that spot on national TV.

With these odds, why do writers keep writing? Why do singers, dancers, and actors keep auditioning? Why do undrafted athletes show up for walk-on tryouts?

Just that. The Try. Even if you win the Trophy, that coveted spot, all that means is: more Try.


Several months ago, I shared news of another rejected piece with my son David. “I hope you are having fun with the ‘try’ even without the ‘trophy,’” he said. “Now that you have gotten a rejection, is it freeing in a way?”

Freeing, yes, because I have another crack at the Try. That’s where the fun is. Fun, every day, just like it was when I was teaching.


In a recent issue of Writer’s Digest, author Roxane Gay advised new writers to submit short pieces to online magazines. “There’s no limit to how many people might read your work in an online magazine if your work gets traction. Shorter pieces also give you experience, build credits and build stronger work.”

Essay. Assay. Try.

PurpleConeFlowerBeeThis week, I’m attending the Virginia Quarterly Review Conference in Charlottesville. Since participants had to apply for acceptance, the VQR Conference was a try then a trophy, which will be followed by more trying. Like this bumblebee on a purple coneflower in the meadow in front of our house, I’ll get up every morning, collect nectar, and return home.

I’ll work on my craft then submit for the trophy.

“What do you have to lose?” my son asked.


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