I knew that, according to contest guidelines, one of the judges might offer written comments on my manuscript. Being in an MFA program, I've become accustomed to receiving feedback on my work. The praise always boosters confidence, but hearing from readers about what isn't working helps me see where the work needs to go. Affecting our audience is, after all, a big part of the reason we're writing.
As the editor, Susan Bono, writes on the Tiny Lights website: "You never know what an editor really thinks about your work." In this case, I did! And it was awfully sweet.
I wasn't a prize winner, a finalist or an honorable mention. I didn't even make the lengthy list of "entries of note." But I did receive the kindest rejection (form) letter possible, along with some great personal feedback from Bono herself:
"Even though I would rather consider first person, I really liked this one! I noted the few places I stumbled a bit in my enjoyment. You could and should try other flash venues with this one--it's really good!"Then, within the text, she noted a couple of things:
1) where I'd switched points of view (something not at all obvious to me until pointed to)
2) where it "isn't clear what's going on here. There seems to be no reaction [from the narrator/character]." Since that's something I keep hearing in my workshops--where is the narrator's (i.e. my) emotional/intellectual response to events?--I know it's something to pay attention to in my writing.
I'm thankful to Bono for the encouragement, as well as such helpful remarks for consideration in revising the piece. And, yes, I will consider other flash venues to submit it to. As she says in her Thoughts on Rejection, "good writing comes from your willingness to be vulnerable, to peel back the layers of resistance, to offer up your heart, pulsing and defenseless, on a silver platter."
Usually I prefer online submissions, especially with longer manuscripts. But I was quite happy to send my 2-page snail mail to this cool little local literary journal, for I was also quite taken with Bono's justification of a paper trail:
"Until we learn to enjoy scrolling through hundreds of essays on computer screens, you'll just have to put up with us sprawling on couches and beds, sitting at the kitchen table or in a sunny window or a rocking chair or a dentist's waiting room, reading every single word you send us. We're old-fashioned enough to believe that's important."Being a non-techie old-fashioned gal myself, I appreciate the tangibility of paper, pencils and pens.
A final note on rejection, from the green page before me:
"Challenges always present themselves in any creative undertaking, but you'll never get far if you let doubt rule you... the extra effort you put into your work still shines forth. You are a writer."
P.S. The (revised) piece I submitted, "Shasta in Stanzas," is published in Impact: An Anthology of Short Memoirs, by Telling Our Stories Press. Available July 1, 2012 as e-book or paperback.