To mercifully end this sob story, I’ll tell you that the first promising, although fruitless, response by Simon & Schuster was followed by twenty-two straight rejections. I tell anyone who wants to hear this story that the rejection letters contained words worthy of a bookjacket blurb. I keep saying this, like it matters how nice the work was rejected, like I’m not some amateur who can’t accept reality, and like I’m not some self-conscious and insecure man who has reached the end of his potential as a writer.
This all happened two or three years ago. It exhausts me to reach for the exact number. I don’t want to remember, anyway, when I graduated with my MFA. There’s a number associated with that, too: it takes an MFA approximately five years to publish after graduation. When you believe you’re better than average, your confidence can fizzle, and the years will meet you halfway if you can’t manage to work without a stopwatch.
I wrote to Barbara a few months ago and asked her for help. “Yes, I remember you,” she had to assure me, “Of course I do.” Another way to feel like a desperate 19 year old in love all over again. I sent Barbara my manuscript again. She didn’t want to see any of the rejections, despite their obvious bookjacket quality. “The work will tell me what to do next,” she said. I sent it last Thursday, May 25: my parents’ 38th wedding anniversary. The package cost five dollars to send Priority Mail. I’m not feeling any better.