Monday, February 1, 2016

How To Submit

February is many things besides Black History Month, the home of President’s Day and Valentine’s Day, and the longest four weeks of the year.  

But for playwrights, it’s only one thing: National Rejection Letter Month.  

The month when playwrights around the country breathe a sigh of relief when their e-mail inbox and their letter mailbox is overflowing with discount offers and flyers for other people’s plays which aren’t half as clever or moving as theirs are. Or bills. Or IRS audit notifications. Or anything except letters from theatres they sent a play to six months ago. 

The month when they dread opening e-mails or letters and see the words “we received nearly a million applications,” “our selection process was extremely difficult,” “we appreciate your interest,” “we read your play with great interest,” “we wish you the best of luck,” and those three killer words which show up in every single one of them, “unfortunately,” and “we regret.”

A few weeks ago, I was reading the January issue of Poetry Magazine, in which Vidyan Ravinthiran, in reviewing Jon Silkin’s Collected Poems, talks about the “all-important Stamped Addressed Envelope” as part of the submission process. 

The SAE has always been, I suppose, a gesture of status-confirming humility—you provide the editor with all necessary postage, then your spurned works return in an envelope on which you’ve written your own name, almost as if you’ve rejected yourself; nowadays, of course, there’s often a website telling you “How to Submit.” 

"Almost as if you’ve rejected yourself." Oh man, did that get under my armor.

So I pulled out my notebook and wrote a sonnet, which I read to my writer’s group, after which I squirreled it away to be posted and shared today. Because it’s National Rejection letter Month. And it’s all about submission, baby.

                How To Submit

Send out a self-addressed stamped envelope
   So that you may be spurned on your own dime.
Believe that no response means there’s still hope!
   (Acceptance is not instant—it takes time.)
Present yourself at each swipe of the whip
   Of a pro forma form rejection letter;
And when you read the word “relationship,”
   Bite on your ballgag and try to do better.
Accept that it’s a system built to screw you
   And push you to the limit till you blow.
And yes, it's hell when no one wants to do you—
   Masochists say “Hurt me!” Sadists say “No!”—
      But don’t forget, they’re all your competition—
      To beat them soundly takes constant submission. 


Copyright 2016 Matthew J Wells

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