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I entered a contest in February. My goal was more to write a short story I was proud of and meet my mini goals of rewriting and developing up the story before the competition deadline. I entered not expecting to win. It may be a self fulfilling prophecy, but I’m aware my story has room for improvement. Fine. Dandy.

The competition said regardless of placing or not they would contact you with the results. I thought this would be a great way to practice handling rejection. I’d receive the email, talk my way through it (it’s not a validation you’re a bad writer, not end of the world, this is one of many, this is proof you’re a working writer, etc), and initiate my response plan of sending the (new and improved) story out again. I also had a plan of collecting the rejection letters. They are proof you’re a working writer. All writers hear “No, not at this time”, but rejection letters show you’re sending things out, you’re sharing your work, and you’re putting yourself out there.

I’m on the magazine’s email list and this morning I received the next newsletter. Their newest competition opens today and they’d like to congratulate the winners and people who placed in the February competition. I was a little irritated. I had already started bracing for the impact of no, but I didn’t even receive a “Dear John” email, a form letter letting people down gently sent to thousands. I had to find out through the newsletter.

There were thousands of entries, I’m sure. There were only 3 winners so you single those emails out easy enough and then you blast the form email. A simple “Dear Writer, We enjoyed reading your work. We received hundreds of entries. It was a tough call but we regret to inform you we did not select your work.” Most writers when they see “We received hundreds of entries…” stop reading because we know what comes next. We know by then we didn’t make it. Heck, by the opening “Dear Generic Writer” we know what follows will not be what we want to hear.

I was just irritated they didn’t contact me like they said they would. I held up my end of the bargain: sending in my best (at the time) work. Because I know there was room for improvement I see how they could think I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain, but… I initiated my response plan anyway. And I wrote my own “Dear Writer” note. This one’s going to count.

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