A Writer’s Interpretation of a “Maybe”

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12:31 pm: Dear Diary, Oh!  Mail’s here.  I’ll just have a quick look — a few  manuscripts circulating.

12:32 pm: Oh joy! Oh bliss!  My poem to the magazine I have desperately been trying to break into…was not immediately rejected!  I received a postcard with my name and address handwritten on the front and a note on the back saying, “We are considering your manuscript for publication, and we’ll be in contact soon.”  This part was pre-printed, but the title of my manuscript was written in blue ink.  Ink! An actual person taking their time with an actual pen.  It’s going to be published…maybe…

1:30 pm: Have called my husband, best friend, neighbor and old high school English teacher Mrs. C.  Must have had bad connection with Mrs. C. — line went dead after my greeting, “This is your favorite writing phenom.”  Hmmm?…

2:30pm: Finished re-reading poem and cover letter about five or ten times. OK, twenty-three times, to see if I can get a feel for what the editor is thinking by osmosis.  Feeling very confident…

3:45pm: Not so confident now.  Re-read poem approximately sixty more times, and noticed two commas that may be unnecessary.  Also, realized I used the word “so” three times on cover letter.  It will be rejected. I’m getting used to the idea.

On second thought–

6:30pm: Just got home from celebration dinner with husband.  Near-success feels euphoric!  Wonder how we’ll celebrate when actual acceptance arrives?

8:35pm: Trying to work on short story, but am staring at aforementioned glossy postcard.  The handwriting of my name is so neat and precise — a mini-masterpiece.  Their beautiful penmanship must directly equate with the strength of their love of my work.  It’s going to be published!


9:05pm: What if everyone gets these little postcards?  What if they just send them out automatically after a certain period of time to all of the lowly slush pile inhabitants to buy themselves another twelve weeks to shuffle envelopes?!  That’s it.  Not even a maybe. It’s hopeless.  Putting it out of my mind now.

9:06pm: However…it takes more time (and money) to write out the postcard than to just take a quick look at my manuscript and send it back rejected.  So they like it.  Maybe they love it!  Maybe they love it so much that they’ll recommend me to an agent, so I can pitch finally pitch my book.  And then if it won an award or two…the possibilities…the interviews….and, oh!  Note to self: Schedule eyebrow wax and start Pilates class. Must do battle with the television’s extra twenty pounds. Off to bed for beauty rest…

10:30pm: Trying to sleep but postcard keeps scratching my cheek…will stick it under pillow now.

2:30am: ZZZZZZ yes thank you, ZZZZZZ, Pulitzer was a surprise. Owe it all to the magazine that had so much faith…..ZZZZZZ

4:30am: ZZZZZZ…AAh! Nightmare! Too many adverbs…Delete! Delete! ZZZZZZ

8:00am: Ironing out postcard and putting it away now. Will not look at it anymore. Will not think about it anymore…too many things to do. I am, after all, a writer. I will go up to my computer, and just write.

10:30am: Gave up on writing, and went to the library to skim through four years of back issues of magazine. Could find no poem like mine.  Is that good or bad? Maybe my poem’s too different.  I wonder how soon, “we’ll contact you soon,” is? Maybe I should make a quick call to check.

12:30pm: Successfully stopped myself from calling magazine. Husband has confiscated little postcard, and is having whispered conversation on phone…thought I heard him say “Doctor?”

Will now get back to work on other projects.  No more distractions. Am completely focused on writing now.

12:31pm: Oh!  Mail’s here.  I’ll just have a quick look…

33 thoughts on “A Writer’s Interpretation of a “Maybe””

  1. This made me laugh out loud–loved it!

    I always wondered which I analyzed more: emails from interested soon-to-be boyfriends, or interested agents–I think I pored over them with equal excitement/anxiety/etc. (I can’t tell you how many times I woke up my husband at two am, or interrupted an intense conversation about global politics with a light-bulb moment of panic about an agent partial request: “But, honey, do you think I should have signed it Warmly instead of Sincerely????”)

    Revel in this news–Revel, celebrate, enjoy! And as much, enjoy the re-reading of the glorious postcard as much as you want–you’ve earned that! Looking forward to the updates!


  2. Ha…Thanks, Erika! Loved that “Warmly instead of Sincerely!” I should set things straight, though, and say that this post is based on a postcard I received several years ago (the poem did end up being published). However, I do have another “maybe” in the works right now, which made me remember the “slight” craziness from before. I’ll keep you posted~


  3. So funny and so true! There are times I have absolutely agonized over how many em dashes I have in the first 10 pages of my manuscript. Then again, I’ve been known to order chinese food after querying an agent just for the all-knowing fortune cookie…


  4. Oh, boy, I know exactly what it’s like. The joy, the despair, the euphoria, the heart-break, the joy again. It is an absolute gut-churning wait, and no amount of will-power will prevent the over-analysis of the letter/postcard/email.
    But, the brilliant news is that you are close. Yay!!
    Hang in there kiddo.
    You’re bound to get the good news soon. The definite “yes”.


    1. Thanks, Lisa. I’ve had “maybe’s” turn into sales, and I’ve had “maybe’s” turn into “thanks, but no thanks,” so we’ll see. Either way, it’s better than getting a flat-out rejection head-on. And, please note, this was “fiction based on reality.” I’m really not that nuts…really…???


  5. Oh I LOVED this Amanda! So original and very funny! I read it twice and laughed out loud 🙂 I especially loved your 4.30 nightmare- delete delete too many adverbs!!! 🙂


  6. How clever! This is EXACTLY what goes through a writers mind when it comes to responses – or pseudo responses – from magazines, agents, publishing houses etc. And such a clever way of showing it! I’m rooting for you 🙂


  7. After getting a rejection on a partial today, your post was a either a breath of fresh air or a slap in the face. We’re sticking with air.

    This Lisa LOL’d at 10:30pm & 4:30am in particular, and guffawed at the rest. Am fwding to TOL (The Other Lisa). Enjoy talking in shorthand.

    P.S. We advise not checking mail at all as a sure-fire way to avoid rejection. We rarely take our own advice.


  8. Loved this, made me laugh out loud! The second-third-forever re-thinking, the mail-wait; this all can apply to so many scenarios, and you described it perfectly. Best wishes regarding your recent “maybe”!


  9. It’s amazing how the process of your thinking is so similar to my own. I, too, after reading my first chapter a thousand times, hyperventilate when seeing errors, and become certain that I’ll be rejected. And then when you wonder whether every writer gets that postcard, I wonder if that agent treats every other writer as she did me, and so maybe I’m not so special after all.

    I think it’s a universal train of thought among writers. The assurance, self-doubt, going back and forth.


    1. Definitely — if a writer doesn’t have at least a little bit of this self-doubt, methinks they are a tad cocky 😉 And, they definitely won’t try to improve their work.


  10. Oh, you made me laugh :D. This is a great glimpse into the mind of a writer… I’ve never sent anything out to anything, but I can definitely agree with the dreams/nightmares/fantasies.


  11. Thank you, shylockbooks, and good luck with all of your goings-on as well!

    jpcabit — You are too kind, but I’m happy to amuse. Thanks for stopping by~


  12. Even if this is fictional, it is SO true!! I too have sat there rereading poems trying to guess how editors might be reading it & yes, seeing all my blithering mistakes.

    You’ve made me feel much less alone. Thank you!


  13. Alas, the life of a writer. I have a new hanging folder labeled “99 Rejections.” I am almost finished with my fiction manuscript, and then I will begin querying literary agents… and mentally preparing. If I hit 99 rejections, I will have to let go of the dream.

    Loved this piece.

    Come visit me at “Lessons From Teachers and Twits” where I frequently go off about the state of affairs in public education. http://rasjacobson.wordpress.com




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