Songs for the Struggling Artist


Rejections in the Time of Corona

So – the rejections stopped for a little over a month after we went into lockdown but it would seem a month was as long as folks were prepared to wait to send out rejections. I’m guessing, at first, everyone thought this was so temporary, we should just wait on completing this submission process for stuff that probably won’t happen anyway.

Anyway – I was rejected from a short play festival in Canada, which I barely remember even applying for – and a something called Seven Devils, which I’d only recently found out about. It’s supposed to be pretty cool. This was my first rejection from them. It’s a curious one because it has this line: “You should know that our readers felt your work to be of particular merit.” I find a line like this curious because I want it to mean that I am very special. I want it to be something their readers really did feel. But I’m also aware that this is something that could be said to anyone. So – I find myself unable to really take it on board. I mean, I too find my work to be of particular merit but I’m not sure that does me much good.


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The Maurice Prize was a super specific Fiction writing contest for graduates of UC Davis. I have some complicated feelings about my time at UC Davis. Actually, they’re not that complicated, I had a miserable time. But I did make a few good friends there so I can’t throw the whole experience into the bottom of the ocean the way I’m tempted to. And if they gave me a bunch of money for my book, maybe I could turn my feelings about the place around!

They asked for a bound physical copy of the manuscript – which required me to print out, for the very first time, my novel. It was actually cool to see it as a solid object and even cooler once I’d paid Fed Ex to bind it for me. It was one of my last in-person errands before all this shut down. Oh for the days when I did not hesitate to go to Fed Ex or the post office!

Anyway – these days it is super unusual for anyone to ask for a printed manuscript but my grad school alma mater did and so I did it.

Two months later, they didn’t bother to send rejection letters. They just announced the winner and runner up in an email to all the alumni, instead!

So much for UCD working its way into my good graces one day!

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I have to say I was super impressed by how Jeremy O Harris did his playwriting grant through the Bushwick Starr. It was a straight up lottery, as I’m always asking for. I entered, right at the opening of it, and I did not win the lottery but that does not stop me from admiring how the whole thing went down. I’m sure it’s because Harris is a playwright who has been through this dance as many times as the rest of us.

This is the best kind of rejection. Just straight up numbers.


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And I guess it’s been long enough between Rejections that I can have been rejected TWICE by the Millay foundation this year. Remarkable. I’m not applying to any residencies right now because I am not leaving this state until the rest of the country gets on board with their covid plans.This weekend was the first time since March that NYC had no covid deaths so things are looking up here and looking a lot less good elsewhere in the country. And most other countries won’t have us anymore. So…no residency applications for me for a while. 

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Three Months Worth of Rejections
March 25, 2020, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Rejections, theatre, writing | Tags: , , , , ,

Let’s pretend we’re not in a global pandemic and just get back to some regular routines, shall we? It’s not as if my hot takes on the arts in the pandemic are really getting a lot of traction. Also, I’ve been racking up the rejections and it’s probably time to go ahead and get them on out of here so I don’t end up with the world’s longest rejection post. (This MAY be the world’s longest rejection post.) The rejections don’t stop, even when the rest of the world does. So here they are.

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Bay Area Playwrights Festival said, in their rejection, not to say anything about our “status” until May but I think once someone’s rejected my work, they lose the ability to control how I talk about it. If it’s an acceptance and they don’t want folks bragging about it, fine – but if I’ve been rejected, our relationship is over. It’s my timetable now.

Anyway – it was super weird rejection and you can tell they felt super weird about sending out rejections in the middle of a global crisis. I get it.

But one of the things that was super weird about this rejection was how there were sections that were clearly form letter that seemed to be doing double duty for both acceptances and rejections. (Hence, the “don’t tell anyone your status.”) There was a whole list of instructions for going back to find previous communications to clarify their process. (Hot tip. I don’t care about any administrative process. I assume it’s a variant on “We read plays and then choose the ones we like” and that is sufficient for me.)

Anyway – there was this line about finding my play “inspiring and challenging” – which, if that was really their response, is very nice – but in an otherwise form letter, it feels like they say that to all the girls and therefore has no meaning, actually.

The whole thing was a fascinating lengthy mess. I’m guessing they’re a bit floored by the living room-pocalypse and so aren’t quite up to their usual game? I don’t know. This is only the second time I’ve applied to this thing. And the second rejection.

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Orlando Shakespeare Festival does not want my Comedy of Errors prequel for their new play festival. Alas.

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To no one’s surprise, I did not receive a residency with Guild Hall. I do admire their alacrity in responding to their applications, though. I applied in December and heard from them in January.

Unlike Play Penn to which I applied in September and heard from in January. I swear, the longer I’m in this game, the more I long for all these places to just do a lottery. To just throw all the names in a hat and pull out a few to get the goodies they’re offering. All these elaborate evaluating methods they use tend to only yield the same old results – with the same familiar faces getting the treats. A straight lottery would be so much more democratic. Would there be some stinkers? Sure. But there are stinkers now. Big deal. Lottery lottery lottery!

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I’ve received the rejection from the O’Neill that I’ve known was coming since December. I find that I’m feeling a fair amount of rage around it. Not that I’ve been rejected – lord knows that has happened before – but by a little rumor I read in a playwrights group on-line. The rumor was that the O’Neill puts a little PS at the end of the rejection letter if they particularly like a play. The PS is a kind of extra encouragement, I suppose. One writer said she didn’t get one the year before but did get one this year so she felt the quality of her work must be improving. So, of course, I had to check to see if I had a P.S. on my most recent letter. I did not. So I guess they hated this play.

I’ll have to check what happened in previous years, but this whole proposition makes me furious. Really? There’s a little code within the rejection letters to indicate extra approval? As if this whole process weren’t infantilizing enough, there’s also a middle school code to find out if the place likes us or really really likes us?! (But still not enough to produce us.)

I don’t know if this rumor is true but the possibility that it is is enough to infuriate me.

Look, I’m in a two rejection household this year. Everyone in my apartment received a rejection notice from the O’Neill this week and the letters are practically identical despite being from two different programs. The letters were already ridiculous. There’s a line about the O’Neill not being the home for this show. It has the flavor of
“We’re rejecting you for your own good. The O’Neill just isn’t right for you or your play. We want a better home for you.”

Mmmm – hmmmm. It’s best for ME not to receive the goodies you have to offer. Sure. Yeah. And I’m also better off not winning the lottery. The jackpot won’t feel at home in my apartment so they decided to send it somewhere else.

It’s all so…icky. Like. You don’t want to give me your goodies – don’t give them to me. It’s not that difficult. We’re not inviting you. We didn’t select you. Your play didn’t make the cut. There are a million straightforward ways to handle these rejections that do the job without suggesting it’s not you, it’s me.

And if this PS rumor is really a thing? Oh boy. What a dick move that is. Especially for rejection letters to writers. I mean, if there is a population more inclined to look for hidden meaning on a page full of words, I don’t know who it would be. It feels diabolical to me that there might be hidden messages in these rejection letters.

What do they think the P.S. will do? Oh, they extra like a play and so they add a P.S. to the boilerplate rejection? Does the playwright then feel extra encouraged and thereby write a better play next time? The net result is the same. The extra line of encouragement only makes the writer who got the PS last time feel bad when they don’t get it the next. That writer in the group felt her work must have improved because she got the P.S. this year. Two years ago, my Medusa play made it to the semi-finals. The last two got nothing. Is my work getting worse? I don’t think so. Taking this stuff to heart is an exercise in heartbreak and will be bound to shake one’s self-esteem. The fact that the organization, which already has a lot of power over theatre writers, may be indulging in games with its rejection letter makes me never want to apply again.

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I was on a wait list for the Millay Colony – but I went ahead and applied for the next round as it seemed like the chances were slim that I’d get the wait list call. It’s a lighter experience applying for something when you’ve had a small yes from them.

But that yes (or maybe) did not come a second time. I was rejected from the last round at the Millay. The deadline comes around again now. I guess I better give it another shot.

I tried applying for some playwriting stuff that’s apparently a big deal but I never heard of before. They took a while to get back to me but like everyone else the Great Plains Theatre Conference and Ashland New Plays said no.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

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New Dramatists?
Of course they said no.
But they said it on paper, so that’s a nice change of pace!

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me navigate the relentless waters of rejection?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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2019 – The Year in Rejections
December 29, 2019, 6:34 pm
Filed under: Rejections | Tags: , , , , , ,

As 2019 draws to a close, I have been reflecting on the submitting and rejectioning that has played a bigger part in my life than ever before. I didn’t reach my goal of 100 submissions/rejections – but I doubled my submissions from the previous year.
There were some months in which I submitted like mad (October) and others in which I submitted nothing (January).

Submitting to literary agents definitely helped increase my numbers. I think, if I’d kept up my fever pace of submitting, I’d have hit my 100 but I a) got weary of the rejections and b) realized that I wanted to re-write the opening chapter of my novel again. As every single agent wants their sample from the opening, I figured I ought to call the submitting to a halt while I overhauled the beginning. Again.

In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten quite a few rejections from literary agents I submitted to months ago. I’m guessing they’re all trying to clear their submission boxes before the end of the year. Sure feels great to be someone’s inbox clearance, doesn’t it?

Anyway – I was an applying maniac this year. I applied to some stuff even if I didn’t particularly want it. I have not yet decided if I’ll go at it quite as hard this coming year. I think I might take some time off in applying to residencies next year. It’s just so relentless to apply and pay another fee and get another rejection, year after year. The Omi residency (which I recently got a rejection for) I’ve applied to so many times and….nothing.

Speaking of residencies, I also received rejections from Tulsa and Dora Maar in mid December. I imagine they’re both pretty competitive as they’re both pretty desirable. Tulsa is an actual salary to go live in Tulsa for year to make art (downside? Living in Oklahoma?) and Dora Maar is to go make art in France (downside? No salary.)

Anyway – they both said no. Tulsa took three months to decide and Dora Maar took two months. I also got a rejection from Writing Between the Vines again and they only took two weeks to get that rejection done. I applaud their highly efficient rejecting service.

I tell you what, though, all I need is ONE of these places to say yes ONE TIME and I suspect it would up my chances to go to any of the rest of them exponentially. No one wants to take a chance on someone no one else has taken a chance on. I need to find the residency that’s the starter residency, the one where they take a chance on you and then open your doors for other places. I mean, I’ve had residencies but, it’s like, it needs to be a residency other residencies have heard of for them to see it as supportive of their chance taking.

But mostly, almost all these residencies charge substantial fees to apply. Between residencies and contests, I spent $672 on submission fees this year. If it weren’t for these rejection posts on Patreon, I would not have made that investment in application fees. It’s not a good or fruitful investment. At least it doesn’t seem like it from this angle. I’ll reapply to those residencies that waitlisted me – otherwise? I’m not sure it’s worth it.

But – you know, I didn’t hear from everything I applied to this year. So I suppose it’s possible I could still catch a break from one of these submissions. Here’s a list of all the places I still haven’t heard from as the year closes: an editor, Baltic Residency, Relentless Award, Berlin Writing Prize, Playwrights Horizons, New Dramatists, Bay Area Playwrights Foundation, Neo-Political Cowgirls, six literary agents, Great Plains Theatre Conference, Hodder Fellowship, PlayPenn, Millay Colony, O’Neill Playwrights Conference, Seven Devils, Buffalo Quickies, Ashland New Plays and Guild Hall. Sometimes no news is bad news, though. Many places just never tell you.

Anyway – if you’re still reading this account of the year in rejection – thank you! It’s continually a surprise to me how many people are on board for this part. I used to try and spare the people around me the pain of these things and I have been surprised at how up for going on this rejection ride some people can be. I look forward to it shifting one day – but meanwhile, thank you for going through it with me.

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me through the sea of rejection?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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The Magic of Pushing the Submit Button and Some Rejections

As soon as I hit submit, I realized there was more to the story than I’d submitted. The act of submitting the thing as a short story somehow made me realize that it was not so short. It was more like part one of a longer thing. Is it a novella? A play? It’s not clear to me yet. But it is the thing I’ve been most excited about for a few months now. It’s a piece of fiction/drama based on my dragon blog from a year ago and I have been enjoying working on it rather thoroughly. Probably by the time I type this, I will have finished it in its current form – which is, at around 30,000 words, quite a bit longer than a short story. So I guess it’s good I got that rejection notice for it from The Masters Review because it is no longer a short story and it has already changed forms dramatically and may change more as I continue to work on it. I’m going to do a reading as if it were a play and we’ll see if it is one.

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The other day, I found myself thinking, “Hurry up and send me some rejections already!” This is not because I’ve gotten so accustomed to rejections that I actually LIKE them now – it’s because I had that paragraph of a rejection all typed up and it was cluttering up my open documents. I was looking forward to clearing it but I didn’t want to post it without some rejection friends.

Well, my wishes came true and, in one day, I received a rejection from another literary agent (based on a 5 Page writing sample) and a rejection from Hedgebrook. Oh, Hedgebrook! I had such high hopes for you once! I dreamed that, as a residency for women, I might be more welcome there with my obviously feminist content. But – alas – I have applied and applied and applied and applied and not even a waiting list have I been placed upon.

I do, though, sometimes get random view on the blog of my previous Hedgebrook rejection posts. So I suppose it gives in mysterious ways. Even if it does cost me $30 every time I apply. Again.

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I applied for a residency in Tehran. I wasn’t 100% sure that made sense to do but I’ve got goals to meet this year so I did it. What’s hilarious, though, is that it was a specifically Performing Arts residency – a fact I’m sure I saw originally but then was nowhere further mentioned within the application. So I forgot it was a performing arts residency (since most of them aren’t) and applied with fiction – because sometimes fiction is more residency friendly.

I realized right after I submitted that I ought to have applied with a play instead of a novel, and I wrote to them to request access to my application to fix it – but they never responded. Until they wrote to reject me a couple months later. That is one rejection that was more expected than most.

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me through the sea of rejection?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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A Visit from The Rejection Fairy and The Missing Legitimacy Fairy

As I am, apparently, a glutton for punishment, I wrote another play for this Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries contest like I did last time. This new play is an interstitial Jane Austen style All’s Well that Ends Well. I think it’s pretty good. The people I read it with a few months ago thought so, too. One of the actors even called me a genius, which, you know, I liked very much.

So this play made it to the semi-finals – which is a nice mile marker on the submission marathon – and then this month, was rejected. When the rejection arrived I didn’t feel anything. When I get some rejections, I have an immediate heart-sinking sensation – a sudden wave of disappointment. This one felt like nothing at first. I just went, “Yeah. That’s logical. This play wasn’t really right for them. They probably couldn’t really do the style and it features way too many women for their company make-up.” And I moved on.

But as the day went on, I sank deeper and deeper into a funk. I was sometimes angry, sometimes hopelessly sad and sometimes self-flagellating. (“You should not have gotten your hopes up on this one. You knew it was foolish to imagine this would break you through. You’ve been burnt before. Don’t get too close to that fire of hope. Stop. Stop.”)

And it’s not about this particular no. This is the No that is triggering all this because I was pinning a hope or two on it. Whereas with other opportunities, I sort of apply and forget about them – this one, I’d set a little candle by it, metaphorically speaking. The candle got lit, I think, because the stakes of it are so life-alteringly high and because I have some ties to the organization. It’s a bit different from other things I apply for and so, of course, the rejection feels a bit different as well.

This particular opportunity, if one wins it, provides a production of the play and gives the writer more money than I’ve ever made in a year. Additionally, for me, it would also reunite me with my first theatrical employer and bring me back to my homeland. There’s a lot to be desired in there. But even more than the money and the homecoming and the production, winning a prize like that would offer the kind of legitimacy as a writer that I have never known. You win a thing a like that and no one can deny that you are an actual playwright.

Despite the fact that I’ve been writing plays for over twenty years, there is somehow no stamp of legitimacy on that aspect of my identity. Because I produced and directed my work myself, my plays are often seen as vanity instead of art.

So – what I think I am really mourning here through this loss, this latest rejection, is the hopelessness I feel at ever achieving legitimacy.

Now – what is legitimacy? Oh boy. Who knows?

If my MFA had been in Playwriting instead of Directing, would I be legitimate? I don’t really direct anymore – am I a legitimate director just because I have a master’s degree? I write plays constantly. Am I not a legitimate playwright just because few people want to produce my work but me?

I don’t know where the Legitimacy Fairy lives but I sure would like her to come visit and wave her wand over me. I know her magic doesn’t last for very long, even when she visits, but still – a visit would be nice.

Also, I must have really pissed off the Rejection Fairy because she’s over here almost every day, kicking up dust and making me cry.

If anyone knows the Legitimacy Fairy, would you make sure she has my address? In the case of this recent opportunity – I didn’t need the prize money (though of course I could use it) and I didn’t need the homecoming (though that would have been sweet) but I needed some legitimacy like nobody’s business and I’m running out of ways to imagine getting it.

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In my attempts to up my submissions/rejections, I applied for a lot of residencies this year. Two were almosts, which was nice but the Nos have been rolling in. I don’t have anything to really say about any of them. You reject me in the wrong season, you don’t even merit your own separate rejection post. Sorry. We received a record number of rejections this year we regret we cannot take on all of them. But farewell to Oak Springs Garden Foundation, Jan Michalski Foundation, Bloedel Reserve Creative Residency, Siena Art Institute and New Harmony.

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I got a rejection notice that did not state who it was from. It was signed The Submission team and the body of the letter/email was so generic, it really could have come from anyone. For a while there, I was submitting query letters almost every day so there was a long list of possible senders.

For a minute I thought I was going to have to reply to ask who it was – but then I noticed a legal notice at the bottom of their email and buried in at it was the name of the agency. Boy, they really make you work for those rejections, don’t they?

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Applying to More Stuff Means More Rejections, Natch.
October 31, 2019, 12:41 am
Filed under: Rejections | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Because they don’t have deadlines, I’d gotten a little bit lax about submitting my book to literary agents. (Also, my fire for it kind of went out.) But I had a good chat with a fellow querying writer and it inspired me to get back to querying. Lately, I have been querying a new literary agent practically every day. I have found that habitualizing things is the only way to get stuff like this done.

I write everyday because I write every day. There are many other things that I do every day because I have set up that I do them every day. Querying literary agents can be one of those things.

If I can keep this up, I expect to reach my goal of 100 rejection notices this year before the year is out. But the question is CAN I keep this up?

The problem with this new habit is that it yields me a whole lot more rejections. Round about the fifth or sixth rejection, I sort of lost the will to keep doing this every day. I’m going to have to figure out a way to keep at it in bursts, I think.

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In other rejection news:

The Willapa Air rejection sent an email declaring some email trouble as the reason they were attaching their rejection rather than just sending it.

Just what I wanted – a two step rejection revealing process.

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I appreciate that the UCross rejection notice has the rejection right in the first line so I don’t even have to open the email to know it is a rejection. “We regret to inform you” is all I needed to know what was in there.

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I wrote a story about a circus because this contest wanted stories about circuses and it seemed like something I could do. So I did. Months after I submitted it, I still hadn’t heard anything so I went ahead and submitted that circus story to a publication with a ghost theme. (My circus story featured a lot of ghosts.) Still haven’t heard from the circus contest but the ghost publication has already sent their rejection notice.

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I entered a couple of writing contests for fiction. The Santa Fe Writers Project and Craft both sent their rejections recently. I had no expectation that I would win them but sometimes all the No can be a little bit relentless.

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*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

 

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me celebrate the small victories? Whensoever they might come again?

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Small Victories

I am so used to rejections that when I saw the email in my inbox, I thought, “I don’t think I can handle that rejection today.” So it took me a little minute to open it and read it and see that was actually an acknowledgement that the play is moving on to the semi-finals and woot!

Now – semi-finals are not particularly meaningful. It feels a little like I’m running a marathon and someone near the beginning of the route is cheering “You made it” but it’s only mile 5 of a 26 mile race. I haven’t quite MADE it but I am grateful for the acknowledgement and the support and the cheers. Usually when I get to mile 5, someone disqualifies me and I get pulled from the course. More than anything, it’s just so nice to receive good news rather than bad. And in a world with so much rejection, I have learned that I have to really celebrate the small victories as, generally, the big ones never come.

In other words, despite having run multiple marathons, I’ve never made it to the last mile. I get all the sweat, all the strain, all the effort but I never get the medal. And I don’t need a medal but I would like to get to the end of a race one of these days.

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In more actual not bad news, I am now an alternate for the Djerassi Residency. It falls into the category of a small victory – not as good as an actual acceptance, of course – but an encouraging bit of progress. I particularly appreciate where this encouragement is coming from because I did not think I stood a snowball’s chance in hell of getting this residency since it’s a fairly high prestige one. AND – and I did not know this when I applied – it was started (and named for) the guy who invented the birth control pill. I’m pretty tickled by that legacy. It would be pretty cool to go write some feminist theatre in a place created by a guy who did so much to help liberate women.

This is my second wait list this year. The first was for the Millay Colony which I’ve been applying to for years. So a Maybe there felt like a big win as well. I suppose I still MIGHT be able to go – it was for this winter – but I think that ship has probably sailed by now. Anyway – since this year has been a couple of Maybe/Almost, I’m hopeful that next year might become the Year of Yes.

But meanwhile, here are some more rejections:

Bemis and Newtown Rejections

I applied for so many residencies this year – and a lot of them were new ones – so I have ZERO memory of what this Bemis one is. I didn’t get it, of course. But if I had, I’d have had a much clearer idea of what the heck I’d applied for.

My rejection from Newtown Literary is a first in that I don’t think I had every submitted a short story to anything before and literary magazines are pretty far out of my wheelhouse. Submitting short stories has a sort of different flavor than submitting plays and novels. You know that they probably at least read the whole thing. That is, at least, the saving grace. You were rejected on the whole thing not an excerpt or selection.

I have been starting to write more short fiction – not for strategic reasons – just because stories are emerging more often. But it is smart strategically, too. I’m given to understand.

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The Julie Harris Playwriting Award is one of the few remaining paper submissions. And they ask for a full printed play, which no one asks for anymore. Every play I submit to stuff has a collection of files of varying lengths – the 10 page, the 15 page, the 20 page, the 30 page. I don’t really know why digital submissions can’t just ask for the whole play. If they only want to read 15 pages, that’s their business. It would save me a whole lot of trouble to not have to make multiple files for all the plays. But I digress.

The Julie Harris asks for a full printed play. Which is a whole different animal. And, in the end, rather expensive to mail. On top of the submission fee, it ended up costing as much to submit to them as some of the more fee heavy residencies.

But the rejection letter was actual paper, which I always appreciate. I like having an object I can crumble or tear if I want to. I didn’t. I will just file it in the rejection file. But I like knowing I COULD crumble it if I wanted to. And when I get enough of them, maybe I’ll do some rejection papier mache.

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

 

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How Blind Are Blind Submissions?

There was a booklet of the winners. It featured their credits and productions. The winners seemed to share a commonality of relative success. They had – more or less – won the same awards, been given the same grants, been produced by the same theatres. I realized as soon as I read through this booklet that I did not stand a chance of being accepted there.

Then I saw that the application asked for blind submissions – that is – the plays submitted would be read without their author’s names attached. I thought, “Well – in a blind process I might stand a chance” and went ahead and applied, just because it’s always best to take a shot, even if it’s a wild one.

But I kept thinking about the Blind Submission process and who ends up selected. How is it that something that seems to be structured to focus only on quality yield a group of winners who seem to be chosen on their credits?

You could assume that the system is entirely meritocratic and that all of the best plays are chosen by the award committees and theatres and such – that there is a direct match up between quality of work and opportunities. But I have seen too many amazing unrecognized writers’ work and too many terrible plays in fancy theatres to ever believe this, however.

So…this blind submission process is somehow still yielding the same sorts of plays that unblind submissions do. Why? How?

In this particular case – only the first part of the selection process was blind – the rest of it involved looking at resume/bio and a statement. So it’s possible that all the amazing people without fancy credits are weeded out at that stage.

But even in more strictly blind situations, there is a sameyness that runs through the winners. It could, I imagine, reflect the sameyness of tastes of the people who make these decisions – that is, they like what they like and when they see more of the same, they reward it.

Or they like something because it is sort of familiar – the way current pop songs are designed to remind you of other pop songs you liked before so you have a happy resonance of familiarity when you hear it the first time.

Of course, it is a question of who is reading and what they are reading for. Are they choosing plays they like or plays they feel they should like or that they’d like to be seen liking?

Possibly, given that the winners have all achieved a good measure of success, the readers are already familiar with many of the plays they read – making them impossible to be truly blind and also get the boost of familiarity. If the readers have seen productions of those plays, they will have had the benefit of being able to vividly picture what is on the page.

I think, in the end, that very few blind submission processes are truly blind. Depending on the circumstances, there is a lot of information hanging off a play that does not require a name on it to glean.

The spirit of a blind submission process is probably well intentioned. The blindness idea is to be like the screens that hide musicians auditioning for orchestras. That process has helped orchestras radically transform the gender bias that had previously prevented gender parity. But, as I recently learned, there is still a great deal a trained ear can hear when listening to a classical musician auditioning. It will likely be clear, to the trained ear, with whom the musician trained and therefore also their age and location. Even these famous “blind” screen auditions are full of information.

Which is not to say we shouldn’t do them. The implementation of the screens for orchestras was incredibly successful at evening out a gender gap – but of course it doesn’t address any gaps that happened on their way to that audition. By the time you’re auditioning for a major orchestra, you are already in the top echelon of musicianship. Everyone playing is capable of doing the job. But along the way, I’m sure there are major gaps in accessibility – be they economic, racial, ableist or geographical.

So what does this mean for all these blind submissions I do? Not much, probably. I was sort of temporarily comforted and lulled into applying for something I am unlikely to get because of the illusion of a blind submission. I think that is why we continue to have them. They make people on both sides of a submission process feel like a meritocracy is at work. It isn’t. Meritocracy doesn’t work. (See this lecture.) But…perhaps we need to pretend it does. And pretending didn’t do anything but encourage me to apply for something I am unlikely to get. That’s fine. I collect rejections like stamps. Keep ‘em coming. I can take it.

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Two Rejections Named for Ladies

Jane Chambers Feminist Playwriting Award

They didn’t actually send me a rejection. What they did was send me the list of winners, twice, and I guess just assumed I’d realize I wasn’t on the winner’s list. It’s not the BEST way to be rejected. It feels a little like they just didn’t feel like bothering to grapple with the difficulties of framing a rejection letter. I almost just deleted the email because it was titled Announcing the 2019 Jane Chambers Winners! and I knew a friend of mine had been told she was a finalist and then had the status revoked due to some technicalities. So I knew I wasn’t among the finalists – but at the last minute, I decided to actually read the email and while I’d thought it was a sort of spammy we’ve-added-you-to-our-mailing-list style of email, it turned out to be TO playwrights. They thanked us for our support of the award with “annual submissions of new and innovative work.”
So it was seemingly standing in for a rejection letter. And therefore kind of a first.

Princess Grace Rejection

I went to a New Dramatist reading and so I got a copy of their program, which lists all the current New Dramatist writers. Last on the list is the Princess Grace writer – since this award is administered by New Dramatists now. (At least I THINK that’s the relationship between the two.) I read through the program from start to finish and by the time I got to the Princess Grace awardee, I not only knew it would be YEARS before I ever stood a chance at New Dramatists but also that I stood no chance at that Princess Grace award, like, ever.

I’ve been going about things all the wrong way for these kinds of opportunities to be within my reach. I’m not sure I have it in me to go about things the right way, though. I’ll probably keep applying – because you have to, right? Anyway – I got the Princess Grace rejection recently – along with almost every other playwright in America.

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

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Some Summer Rejections
July 5, 2019, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Rejections | Tags: , ,

Just a handful of some of the latest rejections*. I’ve got a couple more but I haven’t written them up yet. Rejections are for all seasons!

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

Bethany Arts Center

I have a feeling that the folks at Bethany Arts Center had been happily kicking along with their program until this year when they put out a national call for their artist residency and then the flood gates opened.

Every message I received from them since I applied a few months ago has suggested an organization drowning in applications and utterly flummoxed about what to do about it.
I can imagine.
Like – if you’re just happily providing space for local artists and you think, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to open this up to a wider pool of artists?” And then you do and you are suddenly neck deep in the words and work of every artist in the country just looking for a break – which is most of us – and probably also the sometimes palpable need and desperation that cannot help but make its way into such things.

I can imagine that a well meaning arts organization might find itself a little overwhelmed.
Probably they were so overwhelmed, they couldn’t recognize how awesome I am. Which is surely why they rejected me.

Ox Bow Residency

I applied to so many new residencies, I can barely remember which one is which. This is one that I had never applied to before. So this is my first rejection from them. I don’t really have a relationship with applying to them yet. I don’t even recall where this one is. I think it was meant to be reputable.

Dramatists Guild Fellowship

Here’s one I was very confident I would not get. I joined the Guild last year when I started to get to the semi-finals in some serious situations. I thought – well, just in case any of these actually happens, I better have the Guild to turn to when I get a contract. Turns out, that wasn’t a concern. No contracts have been forthcoming. I don’t regret joining the Guild, though. It is as close to a Union as anything I’m involved in and I believe in that collective power. The readiness to respond to group issues is as important to me as having a resource to turn to when negotiating an artistic contract.

Anyway – I’m a member. I applied to be a fellow with them but I did not expect to receive it. Not at all. Got the word in the email box – no fellowship for me this year! It would have been great to get, for sure – but would have also wholly unexpected.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me weather the rejections no matter the season?

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Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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