100 Rejections Project

Current status (as of 10/21/20)

# submissions: 19

# rejections: 18

accepted writing: still waiting

The plan: I am setting out to collect 100 rejections.

Timeline: We have to be flexible in life but I’m thinking four years which equals about two submissions per month.

Rationale: A focus on collecting rejections encourages me to seek situations outside of what is known and comfortable, to reach a little further than feels probable, to try what seems unlikely and grow into it. By celebrating each rejection, it makes it easier to try, it adds a fun element to the trying, there is victory in defeat, which isn’t even really defeat but a stepping stone to the next thing, a way of learning, and so much better than just sitting here wishing.

Parameters: I have to submit the best work that I can, the objective is to have my work accepted.¬†With respect to the best work I can, I can’t just sit on something for three years because maybe I can make it better someday. I have to finish a piece to the best of my ability and send it off. Not all of the perfectionism(ing).

Types of submissions: I have written pieces in mind. But I will be flexible. Anything that I am willing to put myself out there for and risk being rejected can count as a rejection. So if I go to a local bookstore and ask them if I can do a reading and they say no, that’s one rejection. It is feasible that I could get to 100 a lot faster than four years.

When will I start? Well, truth be told I’ve already started. I submitted my first piece, a poem, to The New Yorker in October. I sent it off and felt excited, immediately, about getting my very first rejection, and the first one being from The New Yorker. I am looking forward to printing the rejection email and putting it into the empty spot on my wall where right now there are no rejections because I have never submitted my writing to anyone for publication.

Well, I had one poem published in junior high. I also had a few poems published in high school. The junior high poem, about cats, was cute. The high school poems were embarrassing, not because they were bad (they were) but because they were thoughtless, insensitive, just flexing my clever muscles and nothing else. I have had other writing published, but always because I was employed by a company to write something for their in-house publication.

How will I track it? You know that I already have a spreadsheet.

What will change between now and the one hundredth rejection? I don’t know. I’m excited to find out.

Can I submit the same rejected piece to a new place?¬†Seems like I could get to 100 pretty quickly in that case. I was thinking I’d have to write at least 100 different things but of course that isn’t true. If I wrote just one mediocre thing and submitted it to 100 places that would do the trick. Well, let’s stick with 100. It’s a nice-sounding number. If I get to 100 and haven’t learned something interesting then we can make it the 1,000 rejections project. Okay, I just googled E.B. White’s birthday, July 11. So if 100 turns out to be a cinch then maybe we’ll go for 711. But perhaps I should just get started.

Most publications don’t accept submissions that have been previously posted so I can’t share my submissions here. But any published work I will certainly celebrate and will of course share with my devoted readers as soon as they are available to share.

I think that covers it.


List of submissions/dates/rejections

  1. poem to The New Yorker 10/21/18 (What I don’t remember) – Rejection #2 8/2/19
  2. essay to The Sun 12/10/18 (Boo who) – Rejection #1 3/13/19
  3. two poems to Poetry magazine 1/23/19 (Settled, Housekeeping) – Rejection #3-4 8/16/19
  4. four poems to Into the Void 3/2/20 (Housekeeping, Typography, Crazing, Illumination) – Rejections #5-8 3/22/20 **
  5. essay to Cobblestone Creative 3/5/20 (Baby steps)
  6. five poems to The Minnesota Review 3/26/20 (Housekeeping, Crazing, Other, Free Time, I dew) – Rejections #9-13 4/17/20
  7. four poems to Poet Lore 5/7/20 – Rejections #14-17 10/7/20
  8. one video audition (invited to apply) to perform a song at the Real Skills conference 10/9/20 – Rejection #18 10/12/20

Other “asks” where rejection is possible

  1. applied for membership to The Author’s Guild – ACCEPTED
  2. requested permission to reprint from literary estate of E.B. White
  3. emailed stranger with detailed reasons, based on her online 2-sentence bio, of why we should become friends – ACCEPTED


“I just wanted to let you know that your submission made it to the final round of decision-making and this decline letter has nothing at all to do with the quality of your writing. In fact, all of your work was fantastic. So, I urge you to please submit again during our next reading period because I would love to read more of your work.”