The Insecure Writer’s Support Group ~ No#47

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time.

The co-hosts for today are Stephen Tremp, Karen Walker, Denise Covey, and Tyrean Martinson!

Don’t forget to visit them and thank them for co-hosting!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG.

I stumbled across this article about the “dreaded rejection letter” and had a HEARTY CHUCKLE! I had to share it with my fellow IWSGers…

The dreaded rejection letter is, more often than not, an entirely miserable experience for all concerned. To receive one is to instantly and all at once have one’s hopes dashed, confidence thinned, and mood dampened; to send one is to knowingly rain misery down upon a stranger whose happiness will soon melt away thanks to a decision you had no choice but to make. Even worse than the rejection letter is the standard form rejection letter, a lifeless kick to the guts aimed en masse at a pool of unsuitables who are, it would seem, undeserving of a personal shove–a pre-printed shake of the head for one’s troubles. To find a standard form rejection letter of note, then, is quite a task, but not impossible, and here is the finest of examples, written and sometimes sent by Brian Doyle, current editor of the University of Portland’s Portland Magazine.

An extract of the letter below which can be found in the More Letters of Note book–more info here. Photo by Erik Freeland/Corbis SABA.

Thank you for your lovely and thoughtful submission to the magazine, which we are afraid we are going to have to decline, for all sorts of reasons. The weather is dreary, our backs hurt, we have seen too many cats today and as you know cats are why God invented handguns, there is a sweet incoherence and self-absorption in your piece that we find alluring but we have published far too many of same in recent years mostly authored by the undersigned, did we mention the moist melancholy of the weather, our marriages are unkempt and disgruntled, our children surly and crammed to the gills with a sense of entitlement that you wonder how they will ever make their way in the world, we spent far too much money recently on silly graphic design and now must slash the storytelling budget, our insurance bills have gone up precipitously, the women’s basketball team has no rebounders, an aunt of ours needs a seventh new hip, the shimmer of hope that was the national zeitgeist looks to be nursing a whopper of a black eye, and someone left the toilet roll thing empty again, without the slightest consideration for who pays for things like that. And there were wet towels on the floor. And the parakeet has a goiter. And the dog barfed up crayons. Please feel free to send us anything you think would fit these pages, and thank you for considering our magazine for your work. It’s an honor.

Have you ever received a standard form rejection letter? I haven’t. This one is priceless. After reading the above, I’m sure it helped to lift the spirits of the various recipients. What do you think?



  1. Loni Townsend on November 4, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    *giggle* I’ve never queried or submitted anything, so I haven’t been rejected, but that letter is delightful.

  2. Diane Burton on November 4, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    LOL. I’ve gotten a few form rejection letters and some really good ones. But never anything like that. Sort of takes the sting out of rejection. Sort of.

    Best wishes,
    Diane IWSG #92

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:03 pm

      It sort of minimizes the disappointment by distracting the recipient… smart.

  3. Michael Di Gesu on November 4, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    That one is hysterical!!!!!!

    Yes, I received many form rejections and they infuriate me! Only because they could at least type our name…. We take many painstaking hours getting our queries right and to address them properly…. The least THEY could do is address them to us instead of “dear author”…

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:06 pm

      Hysterical is the correct word! 😀

      So authors are expected to do it right, but “they” can get away with the generic form of address. Not fair.

  4. Alex J. Cavanaugh on November 4, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    I’ve received form one and personalized ones, but never one like that. Priceless!

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:07 pm

      At least you’re past the “rejection” stage, Alex.

  5. ChemistKen on November 4, 2015 at 5:47 pm


    Hey, it looks like Alex already said that!

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      Yes, he did.
      But it IS priceless! That’s the perfect description.

  6. Shah Wharton on November 4, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    So sorry, but I can’t actually read your post. My Bipolar means processing some things can be difficult, and your background and font is giving me serious eye-strain. I tried. 🙁 I got that you’re talking about rejection letters though, and I’ve only had one. One which surprised me because it came after that publisher actually contacted me about a book Id already published. Odd ? 🙂

    Shah X

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:10 pm

      Sorry about the problem with the visuals, Shah. 🙁
      The publisher contacted you about a book already published? That is quite strange. Maybe a delayed response?

  7. L. Diane Wolfe on November 4, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    That letter would be more truthful than 99% of them. It really does depend on an editor or agent’s mood that day. Especially if they have to clean up technicolor dog barf.

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:12 pm

      So subjectivity plays a big role?
      I’m imagining technicolor dog barf… should be quite a kaleidoscopic experience… 🙂

  8. Carol Kilgore on November 4, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Now that rejection letter is frame worthy!

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:15 pm

      That it is.
      It’s quite therapeutic too… well, if it can make you laugh and forget about rejection for a while, then it’s not ALL doom and gloom

  9. Nadine Feldman on November 4, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    Gotta love Brian Doyle! I heard him speak at a writers conference this last summer, and his whole talk sort of sounded like that. Funny, touching, offbeat, and alive.

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:17 pm

      He sounds like a speaker that’s appealing to listen to… 🙂

  10. Crystal Collier on November 4, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Bwahahaha! Blame it on the toilet paper. *snort*

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:18 pm

      The one that got me was, “an aunt of ours needs a seventh new hip” *snort*

      • Crystal Collier on November 11, 2015 at 8:18 pm

        Rejection is SO subjective. We need to make that a thing in the writing community, like a giant flashing plaque we all hang above our computers.

  11. Lynda R Young on November 4, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    lol, so funny. I wouldn’t mind a rejection like that 😛

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:20 pm

      Agreed. It would be more than welcome, especially when compared to the “bland” rejection letters that authors are receiving.
      This one is super-creative. 🙂

  12. Southpaw HR Sinclair on November 5, 2015 at 12:54 am


  13. Samantha Redstreake Geary on November 5, 2015 at 1:00 am

    The empty toilet paper roll is a legit reason, trumped only by an empty coffee jar.

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      Somehow I knew you’d go in that direction……. 🙂

  14. joylene on November 5, 2015 at 1:58 am

    This is one mean and suspicious editor. Shooting a poor, defenceless cat just for being a cat. Really! Would you want them publishing your work!?!

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      I get it.
      It’s all about the kitties, isn’t it? 🙂

  15. krystal jane on November 5, 2015 at 2:47 am

    That’s funny. I could build a hut with my form rejections, but if I got that it would have a special place over the fireplace.

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      I think it’s fabulous.
      How many editors bother about being entertaining AND creative?

  16. Yolanda Renee on November 5, 2015 at 4:14 am

    I find it amusing now, but, if I’d received it. I’d have probably seen it as them calling me stupid. This is what I would have focused on: “sweet incoherence and self-absorption in your piece”
    And I’d wonder why, if they could write that, they couldn’t give me more detail as the real reason.
    I don’t take rejection well – never have, never will. It’s a curse! 🙂
    Negativity even with humor – I’d have still been crushed. But that’s me.

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:30 pm

      But doesn’t the mention of “sweet” incoherence soften and somehow cancel out the ‘perception’ of them calling you stupid? Or are you just not buying into the creative mumbo-jumbo? 😀
      I think lots of us don’t take it too well, but we just put on a brave face, and on we go. 🙂

  17. Hilary on November 5, 2015 at 8:41 am

    Hi Michelle – I think that’s great … adding in the humour makes it totally acceptable and the organisation will inadvertently get lots of extra marketing as the tale is told for ever more – except perhaps by Yolanda I see! and now Joylene as I read up!

    Brian Doyle from Nadine’s comment obviously has a great style as a reminder about life and rejection … it does become funny at some stage!

    Cheers Hilary

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:35 pm

      The humour makes all the difference. You’re right in saying that it makes things more “acceptable” in that it places the focus elsewhere.
      I suppose rejection IS rejection, no matter how it’s “dressed up” and presented to us. 🙂

  18. Anna on November 5, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    I’m received form, personalized and invitations to try again. The last felt the best. 🙂

    Anna from Elements of Writing

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:36 pm

      An invitation to try again is definitely a boost to the spirit! 🙂

  19. Lori L. MacLaughlin on November 5, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Hee, hee! Thanks for my laugh of the day. 🙂

  20. Angela Wooldridge on November 5, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    Thank you for making me smile, that’s a rejection letter to aspire to!

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      Definitely one to aspire to… in the positive sense… 😀

  21. Susan Gourley on November 5, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    I have received some standard form rejection letters with no real signature on it. The worst rejection I ever received was a ‘no thanks’ stamped on my query letter.

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      A ‘no thanks’ stamp sounds harsh… really cold. 🙁

  22. Patricia Lynne on November 6, 2015 at 12:28 am

    I got a standard rejection when emailing agents asking about foreign rights deals. Still not sure if they even read my email because it politely thanked me for submitting a paranormal romance––which my book isn’t. It made me laugh and feel a little proud. I could claim that traditional publishing milestone.

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      Makes you wonder if anybody read it?
      Probably not.
      At least you had a laugh. 🙂

  23. Christine Rains on November 6, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    *LOL* That’s hilarious! I’ve received tons of standard form rejections. I’ve developed a thick skin in relation to them now. It’s the more personalized rejections that hurt more.

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      I’m sure the personalized ones hurt more.
      However, you’re doing really well so it’s their loss.

  24. Cherie Reich on November 6, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    I can’t say I’ve received any rejection like that. Hehe! I’d say most of the rejections I’ve received were form ones–even the ones that said they’d like to see something else of mine or that it was a good story but not right for the anthology/magazine/etc. There were a few personal ones with specific information about the story. Sometimes the advice was right. Sometimes it wasn’t. It’s all subjective in the end.

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:44 pm

      The fact that it’s subjective, and that the piece/story may not be the right fit for that particular publication/company does provide a bit of comfort.

  25. S. Katherine Anthony on November 6, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    Hahahah that’s AWESOME! It totally makes up for not being personalized lol

  26. Cathrina on November 7, 2015 at 4:13 am

    Yep, got both and all types of rejections!!! But that made me chuckle. Thank You Michelle!!!!

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      You’re welcome, Cathrina!
      Congrats on the new release.

  27. Yvette Carol on November 7, 2015 at 4:55 am

    That was absolutely wonderful. I loved the turn of phrase in the letter, too. It was thoughtfully done.

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      It was really well constructed and did a good job of softening the blow. Lots of wonderful phrases… 🙂

  28. LX Cain on November 7, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Oh how I wish that among the hundreds of rejections I’ve gotten over the years had been one like this. The laughs are the only possible thing that could make receiving a rejection less depressing. Thanks so much for sharing!! 🙂

    • Michelle Wallace on November 7, 2015 at 12:48 pm

      … and there are PLENTY of laughs in this one. Really a gem! 🙂

  29. J.H. Moncrieff on November 10, 2015 at 12:03 am

    That’s an awesome letter! It would be great to receive one that made me laugh like that.

    I’m proud to say I’ve received quite a few rejection letters, both standard form and personalized. “Proud” because it means I’m submitting my work and giving it a chance in the world.

    I used to hate rejection letters, but they’re so much better than the silence you get these days. I’d much rather someone say “no thanks” than nothing at all. At least then I know they got my submission.

    Sorry it took me so long to read your post. This month has been crazy!

    • Michelle Wallace on November 11, 2015 at 7:59 am

      The letter also made me laugh, so I agree! 🙂
      Thanks for popping in, J.H.

  30. Tess Julia on November 10, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    Yes! It’s me! You’ve been an awesome support always, and I’m trying this blog thing again. BTW- your post was just what I needed today, thanks for the laugh 🙂

    • Michelle Wallace on November 11, 2015 at 8:00 am

      Hey Tess!
      It’s lovely of you to swing by!
      Don’t be a stranger, you hear? 🙂

  31. Leslie S. Rose on November 11, 2015 at 5:51 am

    I’m in the middle of query hell right now so that letter hit the spot! The best rejection I ever got was back in the days of snail mail. It was a half sheet of paper addressed to Sir Madame.

    • Michelle Wallace on November 11, 2015 at 8:03 am

      Sir Madame?? That’s SO unprofessional!!
      Yet ‘they’ expect a certain level of professionalism from authors…

  32. Chrys Fey on November 11, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    That is a pretty entertaining rejection letter. But…”cats are why God invented handguns.” WHAAA? My cats are hiding from those editors. 😛

    • Michelle Wallace on November 21, 2015 at 12:10 pm

      I know cat lovers are not too happy about that section of the letter… 🙁

  33. Tyrean on November 11, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    I’ve gotten a few standard rejection letters from magazine editors, but that one is hilarious!!! 🙂

  34. Mary Pax on November 11, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    I’ve gotten all sorts of rejections. The best ones contained notes from the editor. Of course, it’s from people in Portland. That doesn’t surprise me in the least. It does rain a lot there. They have to find something to do.

  35. Annalisa Crawford on November 12, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    I’ve been getting rejected from the wrong calibre of magazine. I shall endeavour to do better 🙂

    • Michelle Wallace on November 21, 2015 at 12:12 pm

      Good one, Annalisa!
      (But you’re right… I wouldn’t mind a rejection letter like the one above…)

  36. Guilie Castillo on November 12, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    This is brilliant! Oh, yeah, form rejections, personalized rejections—but never one like this. I’ll have to drum up something to submit to the UP Magazine… If I get one of these, it’ll be better than publication. Okay, almost better 😀

    Thanks for the chuckle, Michelle! (And for the great support on the MIRACLE tour! Much, much appreciated 🙂 )
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

    • Michelle Wallace on November 21, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      I tend to agree… ALMOST better than rejection! 🙂

      I’m looking forward to reading your book!!! 🙂

  37. Damyanti on November 14, 2015 at 6:42 am

    Haha if I received a rejection letter like this one, I’d resubmit to them immediately in order to find out if that was their standard rejection letter or not 😉

    • Michelle Wallace on November 21, 2015 at 12:15 pm

      You mean that you’d be checking to see if they send another rejection letter of similar calibre? 🙂

  38. Jemi Fraser on November 15, 2015 at 12:37 am

    Love it! That’s a person I would enjoy working with! 🙂

  39. Mary Aalgaard on November 18, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    I, too, have been rejected. That letter is hilarious. I haven’t submitted anything in a long time, though. At one children’s writer’s conference, one editor said, “It could be what we had for breakfast that day.” The editor said, “It IS what we had for breakfast that day,” that determines acceptance or rejection. It is so subjective. They say, “Don’t take it personally.” But, whatever, it’s personal.

    (Sorry it took so long to read your IWSG post. I lead a FULL life!)

    • Michelle Wallace on November 21, 2015 at 12:17 pm

      So the bottom line is – it IS personal?!
      Thanks for making some time in your hectic schedule to stop by, Mary! Much appreciated.

  40. Silvia Villalobos on November 18, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Miserable experience indeed, Michelle. Writers are tolerant people, I think, because they receive and accept so much rejection. Not that we have a choice, but it sure toughens us in the long run. 🙂
    Great post, and I laughed out loud reading that letter.

    • Michelle Wallace on November 21, 2015 at 12:18 pm

      I also had a goooooood laugh!
      Thanks Silvia! Nice to see you here. 🙂

  41. Medeia Sharif on November 19, 2015 at 7:48 am

    Too funny. I can imagine all of this is behind certain rejections. 🙂

  42. Nilanjana Bose on November 30, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    That’s just beyond hilarious! almost a rejection to aspire to 🙂 I’ll bet it has more than a grain of truth in it though..

  43. Misha on December 1, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Hahaha that’s a keeper. 😀

    • Michelle Wallace on December 2, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      Yep! For sure! 🙂 If I received the above, I’d frame it.

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