Anatomy of an Acceptance Letter

In the not so distant past, I received my first rejection letter.  Oh my, it hurt.  This piece was one of those ‘open a vein and write’ kinds of pieces.  It was about a particularly wrenching time in my teaching career, about a child who created a safe place for himself.  His story broke my heart and writing about it crushed me all over again.  I was sure this piece would resonate with other teachers who’d walked in my very shoes.

I submitted it.  And was rejected.  I submitted it again.  And was rejected again.  Time and time again, I sent this piece out and it returned void.

I was just about to tuck this piece away and give it a rest when a friend of mine sent me a call for submissions for an anthology about what it means to teach.  I dug my brave face out of the drawer and sent in my piece again, steeling myself for another rejection.  I didn’t think about it much.  Let’s face it, after receiving so many rejections, I wasn’t holding my breath.

And then one day my inbox flashed a message from the editors.

My heart began to pound.  My palms dampened with sweat.  I swallowed my nerves and opened the message.

Here it is, with my inner dialogue in italics.

Dear Alicia,

Well, at least my name is spelled right.  There’s nothing worse than receiving a rejection letter for Alisa or Alisha or Alice.  Seriously, I don’t even sound remotely like an Alice.

It is my pleasure to notify you that we would like to publish your essay, “The Escape Artist,” in the Spring 2012 Rogue Faculty Press publication, What Teaching Means: Stories from America’s Classrooms.

Wait, what?  I think they said something about pleasure in relation to my piece.  Just a sec, let me read that part again.  

Well, would you look at that, they want to publish something I wrote.  

I might pass out.  Is it lie down to prevent fainting or put your head between your knees?  I’ll just try both for good measure.

To help us during this stage of the process, please send an email, as soon as possible, that includes:

1. Informal confirmation that you will allow us to publish your work. Contract will follow. 

Um, yes, and-wow a contract sounds very official.  I think I need to breathe into a paper bag.

2. Your current mailing address for sending a contract packet and, eventually, your copy of the book.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to fully appreciate this e-mail while laying on my back with my head between my knees as I breathe into a paper bag.

3. A short professional biography (150 words) that will accompany your piece in the book. There is one below as an example. We are including these because we want to give our readers a sense of the people behind these stories.

150 words for a professional biography?  How on earth am I going to come up with 150 words for a professional biography when I haven’t done anything yet?  I teach.  That’s 2 words.  Wait, I teach writing.  Phew, only 147 to go.  I’m pretty sure noodling around with poetry and stuff doesn’t count.  I’m 100% sure that practicing staying upright on my bicycle doesn’t count as ‘professional’ in any arena.  I’d better get off this couch and actually DO some professional sort of stuff so that I have something to write down.

We want to let you know that we will copy edit all the pieces for punctuation and grammar.

o thank God

Oh thank God.

Oh, thank God!

Once we near the publication date in April, we will be developing a promotion and publicity plan for this book. We are already extremely proud of the collection, and we will be doing everything we can to get these stories to the people that we believe should read them. 

Wait, people are actually going to read this?  Is it hot in here?  I don’t feel so well.  I didn’t know armpits could sweat this much in an air-conditioned room on a temperate day.  That phrase “dying of shock” is taking on a whole new meaning right this second.

Congratulations and thanks again for sharing your story with us. We look forward to working with you. 

That’s because you haven’t met me yet.  Should we ever have the pleasure, I will be the tall girl with sweat cascading down my brow and a huge grin on my face.


__________ and __________*

Editors, What Teaching Means

Wait, editors-as in more than one-decided my piece was good enough?  Well, I guess I’d better clear my schedule for the book tour.

*Names were omitted to protect the innocent.  I also didn’t want you googling them and letting them in on the secret that I’m just a regular girl who dreams about being a writer someday.

10 thoughts on “Anatomy of an Acceptance Letter

  1. First, congratulations! Second, based on what I read here, you do not give yourself enough credit. You are a great writer, and obviously a wonderful teacher! That being said, I would be extremely nervous, too 🙂


  2. As a writer working to be published I was ready to rejoice with you, but you had me laughing so hard while reading I almost forgot to! Congratulations! If you keep writing like this I have no doubt that this will be only the first of many acceptance letters you receive.


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