playing with rejection

Many, many years ago –  before inkjet and laser printers, before even laptops and correcting-Selectric typewriters – that many years ago – when I was convinced that I was going to be a professional poet (professional poet,  ah, the naive, uninformed ambitions of youth). I found myself the unwilling possessor of a growing collection of what professional poets of the time classified as “rejection slips.”

In a moment of pre-self-immolation, I found myself at my nearest wall with a roll of tape, decorously affixing my rejection collection into a visually pleasing display. I discovered what some describe as a “grim satisfaction” as my personal wailing wall assembled itself before me. In fact, I found myself sending my poetry to more and more prestigious publications, harboring a deeply hidden hope that one of my poems might actually find acceptance, whilst gathering some of the most prestigious rejection slips known to the unknown poets of the world.

This proved mildly amusing – mild enough to keep me from laughing hysterically, amusing enough to provide incentive to keep me submitting my poetry to the gatekeepers of the literary world.

By the time my wailing wall had reached its aesthetic apotheosis, I decided it might be time for me to pursue an alternate strategy.

I wrote my own rejection slip. A rejection slip rejection.

It read:

“the author regrets that he is unable to accept the enclosed rejection slip. this in no way reflects on the quality of the rejection, but rather on the author’s needs at the present time.”

Signed, in print, of course:

“the author.”

I took my manuscript to a local press, and had 500 printed, on vellumish cardstock, with an embossed frame. From then on, for next 30 or so rejections, I returned the rejection slips to the publisher, with my rejection slip attached – with high-quality paper clips, even.

I actually heard back from a couple publishers – with hand-written apologies, no less.

I still have 468 rejection slip rejections somewhere. I decided to go into teaching, instead.


  1. Gary on January 14, 2013 at 7:41 am

    Great choice to reject rejection…

  2. Marie on January 14, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Brilliant, Bernie! I imagine your rejectors adding your rejection slip rejection to their walls. I find your writing delightul and your teachings inspiring.

    Thank you for being!

    Peace, blessings & many giggles,

  3. Bernie DeKoven on January 14, 2013 at 11:06 am

    see also (via Seb Paquet)

  4. Allen Klein on January 14, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I love this idea, Bernie. As an author, I have had my share of rejection slips. In fact, I’m working on a book right now that has gotten two of them but I’m still writing. Might even use your story in the book…if that is OK with you. Yes?

    • Bernie DeKoven on January 14, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      Quite significantly OK (with attribution, but of course)

      • Allen Klein on January 15, 2013 at 12:27 am

        Attribution of course… and a copy of the book when published.


  5. Lily on January 14, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    Love this! When life hands you lemons, just hand them back. Hee hee

    Love and laughter,

    • Bernie DeKoven on January 15, 2013 at 2:48 am

      you are so funny! “when life hands you lemons, just hand them back!” brill!

  6. Bernie DeKoven on January 15, 2013 at 2:36 am
  7. Leif Hansen on January 16, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Great article Bernie, and love your writing style.
    I’m tempted to give you a domain I’m sitting on “”
    3 cheers to fun’s never ending success. :)

  8. Shirley Hartman on January 17, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Hey, I remember those days in Philadelphia.

  9. Laura Grace Weldon on February 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Love this.

    I once threatened to paper my walls with rejection slips, although I would have soon run out of walls. I need those walls since I have publicly admitted to naked freelance writing….

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