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Intern Ellie blogs about handwritten rejection slips.

After reading a recent blog telling a tale of ice cream and rejection, my editor-in-chief, fellow interns, and I felt the need to inform our readers of some of the behind-the-scenes action in literary magazines.

I have been an intern for the Potomac Review for about nine weeks now, and I have seen more rejected stories than I am able to count. Just as many of those rejections were sent back to the author with the plain, cardboard cut-out rejection slip: “Sorry, not here, good luck to you.” For every fifty of those sent out, however, there is one rejection slip sent out with a personal, handwritten note from the staff of the magazine.

To earn one of these handwritten notes is quite an accomplishment. It means that someone in the ever-busy office of the magazine took their time to write that note, and even more, it meant that they felt the story warranted a personal touch rather than the default impersonal rejection. Most likely, to have a handwritten note means that multiple people looked at the piece of literature – an associate editor first, then another, then yet another, three tiers of editors in total – and was accepted by all of them. The story is then brought to the editor-in-chief and her interns, who debate on the story and whether it matches the current content already decided for the current issue. If it does not fit with our magazine, then we will tell the writer why. Too many stories told from the perspective of children, for instance. After being enjoyed by so much of the staff, the author at least deserves to know why he is still being rejected.

So, to all hopeful authors out there, count your blessings if you get a handwritten rejection slip. Because, honestly, if you have ever seen my lovely editor-in-chief’s handwriting, then you’ll know just how lucky you were to be able to read the word “children.”

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