Join us for an exciting writing workshop, “Form in Fiction: How to Use Form to Your Advantage,” which focuses on the ways we can use form to help generate new works of fiction with our own Katherine Bell. This workshop will run from 1PM to 4PM on Saturday, September 9th, 2017 at Firefly Farms, the home of the Sundress Academy for the Arts.
In this workshop, participants will look at a variety of formal short stories, including epistolary stories, fragmented or braided stories, and “unusual” point-of-view-driven stories, to see how the authors work within and beyond their chosen forms to craft successful and impactful short stories. Workshop participants will generate their own short stories inspired by the formal work we’ll encounter and share their work in a creative environment. We will use this workshop to create new work and celebrate the joy of creating while under constraint.
Katherine Bell is the current Writer-in-Residence at the Sundress Academy for the Arts in Knoxville, Tennessee. Originally from Frederick, Maryland, she earned her MFA from Eastern Washington University in 2017 and has been published in The Fem, Welter Literary Journal, Connotation Press, and others.
Tickets are $25 or $15 for students, and include instruction, snacks, and drinks.
Sending rejection letters is one of the most difficult parts of editing a literary magazine. As co-fiction editor of Willow Springs Magazine, along with Andrew Moreno, I’ll agonize over sending a rejection. I know that you, as a writer, have lovingly crafted every word, every image in your story, and I know that a rejection letter can sometimes hurt and feel incredibly personal. At Willow Springs, we stick to the basics. “Thank you for submitting “[Title]” to Willow Springs for consideration. We have decided against publishing your submission, but we wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere,” reads our standard rejection letter. It is short and sweet, without platitudes or frills. We subtly note that the onus is on us, as editors, for rejecting the piece—it’s not the quality of your writing (we have so many amazing pieces to consider)—and we encourage you to keep sending the submission to other journals. While I hope that our rejection letter doesn’t break hearts or hurt feelings, I still hate sending them out.
Although we at Willow Springs keep our rejection letters short and simple, there are other journals that attempt to soften the blow. Literary Orphans tells submitters to “never take rejection personally, at this level it becomes very subjective.” After Happy Hour Review notes that, “As writers, we’ve received many rejections ourselves; we know it’s never easy,” in their rejection letter. Cease, Cows writes “we’re writers, too, and we hate rejection.” It’s a lot easier to take a rejection when the journal notes that they don’t like the process any more than the writer does.
Most writers are happy to receive these reminders; these empathetic rejection letters show writers that editors understand a writer’s mind. These are good rejections to receive—a writer is often encouraged with the news that the piece sent to a journal is not sub-par, that there are other factors at play in choosing pieces to publish. These are the types of rejection letters journals should strive to write, but often, letters can miss the mark entirely. So, fellow journal editors, what makes a good literary rejection? What separates a good rejection letter from a bad one?
First, the bad. If an editor encourages a writer who was just rejected to subscribe to their journal in a rejection letter—that’s a major misstep on the part of the editor. It’s insensitive; it says, “We don’t want your writing, but we’ll definitely take your money.” Also, rejection letters that begin “Dear Writer,” and do not address a person by name are letters that persuade writers to turn their backs on a journal. Or, worse, a “Your status has changed on Submittable,” note tells the writer never to bother with the journal again. If the editor hadn’t taken the time to send a simple rejection, why should the writer spend her time sending to the journal again?
One of the worst things an editor can do is send a rejection that patronizes the writer. A journal (that will remain unnamed) writes “we encourage all of our contributors to utilize peer workshops and local writing groups to expand on their work. You may wish to submit again after working with one of these groups, and we look forward to seeing what you have to offer in the future,” in its rejection letters. The level of condescension in the rejection letter is entirely uncalled for; this letter stings like a wasp. Luckily, these rejection letters are few and far between.
Writers prefer rejection letters that are clear, crisp, and encouraging at the same time. Letters that state clearly whether a journal would like more work from the writer are often those that help, rather than hurt, a writer when he or she decides whether or not to send to a journal again. Katie Manning, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Whale Road Review makes it a priority to thank writers for their submissions. “My journal couldn’t function if writers didn’t trust us enough to send work in the first place. It’s an honor that anyone sends us writing at all,” she says about sending rejection letters. A good literary journal is good because they are excited to share the writing they have found with the world. A good rejection letter strives to respect a writer as an individual and a human being.
A simple litmus test: “Is this letter respectful?” separates the good rejection letters from the bad ones. When a writer is treated like a contributor, even in a rejection letter, a journal is helping the literary community at large.
Katherine Bell is a second-year MFA candidate at Eastern Washington University’s Inland Northwest Center for Writers where she serves as a fiction editor for Willow Springs Magazine. Her fiction can be found in The Blue Lyra Review, Welter Literary Journal, and The Fem.
This fall, I will begin an MFA program at Eastern Washington University. I’m very excited to work with Willow Springs and experience the literary community thriving in Spokane. For two years, I’ll focus solely on my writing and the workshop process. I am incredibly happy and grateful to have this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to joining the students at EWU.
The first time I applied to an MFA program was throughout the 2009/2010 school year, my last year as an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee. I was twenty-one years old and had just gotten married in November of 2009. I only applied to ten schools and was accepted to five of them. I chose to attend the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire.
It was great to be able to work with many amazing writers and professors at UNH. I took a fantastic novel writing course and learned a lot in my semester there. I later left the program after the first week of the spring semester because I was going through a divorce. I couldn’t handle the emotional fallout and craft good stories at the same time.
Even though I left the program, I never stopped writing, and I never stopped wishing for a community of writers with which to share work. After I left New Hampshire, I bounced around the country. First I went back to Tennessee, lived there for a year, and then I moved back to Maryland in 2012 where I’ve been ever since.
In 2011 and 2012, I applied for MFA programs because I missed the camaraderie and community; the workshopping and writing, the drafting and development. Both times I applied I received acceptances, but there wasn’t any funding to go with those acceptances. I turned down my offers.
I met my boyfriend, Justin, at the Frederick Writer’s Salon. We’d both applied for MFA programs in the fall of 2012, and we’d both declined our offers because they weren’t fully funded. By the spring of 2013, when we started dating, we were working on writing projects together. We based our relationship on our shared desire to be writers. But we also had to find a way to live, so we both began “careers.” He works in communications for a local nonprofit. I joined AmeriCorps and worked for a year at the national nonprofit, Operation Homefront.
Since August, I’ve been working as a Communications and Marketing Coordinator for a local nonprofit. It has not been as fulfilling as I thought it would be. As much as I hate to say that, I’m glad to be leaving my current job for an opportunity at Eastern Washington. I plan to use my time in Spokane wisely, to connect with other writers, and to work with skilled faculty members on a variety of projects.
Now I just have to figure out how to move one boyfriend and two cats all the way from Rockville, Maryland to Spokane, Washington. I’m ready to begin the next chapter of my life.
Katherine Bell blogs with her boyfriend, Justin Eisenstadt at WeWriteTogether.net where they discuss a variety of movies, television shows, books and other pop-culture interests. You can find her fiction in the Blue Lyra Review, the East Coast Literary Review, and Connotation Press.