On Rejection

Nobody likes to be rejected. Not by a friend, not by a job, and certainly not by a literary journal. The good writing gods know I’ve received my fair share of rejections to stories I wrote and loved and believed in. But as the fiction editor here, it’s also my responsibility to dole out rejections–a lot of them. It gives some credence to that old saying, ‘you get what you give.’

So what goes into deciding what stories to reject, and how to reject them? Here at IR, we get about a hundred fiction submissions a week. At our fiction meetings every two weeks, we discuss an average of eight stories. But in our upcoming issue, there is about one story for each month’s worth of submissions. That means that for each story published in Indiana Review about four hundred were declined.

“The road is long; the struggle must go on.”

Sadly, many of these rejections are sent to really fabulous writers. Many a story we don’t take is truly compelling. But maybe it’s about a subject we’re not familiar with, and we’re just not the right editors to judge it. Or maybe our reading committee gets to talking about it, and for whatever reason–an inconclusive ending, a passive protagonist, the members of the group–we all decide that it just doesn’t seem quite right for publication. I’d like to say the selection of work for our journal was an airtight scientific process that allowed all the best cream to rise to the top, but the truth is it’s messy, inconsistent and difficult. Howard Junker at ZYZZYVA pretty much summed it up in this 2007 rejection letter, where he wrote, “I must return almost everything–99%–of what’s sent to me, including a lot that interests me and even some pieces I admire. …I make mistakes; my taste is erratic, my judgement flawed.”

I know from experience how harrowing the process of allowing your story to be read by a stranger’s critical eyes can be. I’d love to be able to write an encouraging, thoughtful note to every fiction writer who’s brave enough to send us his or her work–and I do try to include a personal note whenever possible. Whatever I say, though, it’s up to the writer to decide to persevere in the long, brave, solitary battle that is the practice of writing, and to take each rejection as a “momentary setback.” As Howard Junker writer, “The road is long; the struggle must go on.”

Inside IR: Meet the Editors

Welcome back to “Meet the Editors!”  This week, Jen Luebbers, our intrepid and trendsetting Associate Editor, answers a few questions for us and fills our shopping carts with new books.

Where are you from?

Columbus, Ohio.

Favorite issue of IR?

Oh no, do I really have to pick just one? Well, I guess if I have to choose, I’ll say 33.2, because a) it is filled with amazing poems and stories, and b) it is the first issue I’ve seen in each stage of production, from start to finish.

Favorite non-IR journals?

Wow, you ask hard questions. There are so many wonderful literary journals out there.  I especially love Gulf Coast, Hayden’s Ferry, Kenyon Review, Missouri Review, Ninth Letter.  For online journals, I love BlackbirdDiagram, and KR Online. But really, I feel like I could go on and on.


What/who is on your reading wishlist right now?



(1) Litany for the City by Ryan Teitman; (2) Self-Portrait with Crayon by Alison Benis White; (3) Among the Missing Dan Chaon; (4)  The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston (This has been my favorite Christmas story since I was young); (5) My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams edited by Margaret A. Hogan and C. James Taylor; (6)  Space, in Chains by Laura Kasischke; (7) Mule by Shane McCrae; (8) Nine Acres by Nathaniel Perry


And two things you’re looking forward to right now?


This winter break? Gingerbread houses, fires in the fireplace, spending time with my family, reading books (see above), watching old movies (An Affair to Remember), and hopefully writing some poems!


Next year, at AWP, I am most looking forward to our joint Gulf Coast/IR Reading–it is going to be the event of the year!

The Best Holiday Present Ever

As the first snow hits, the radio stations turn to Mitch Miller’s “Must Be Santa” on repeat, and peppermint descends on all things edible, I begin to panic. Not because I don’t love Advent, Christmas, the whole holiday season, but because along with good cheer and tidings of comfort and joy we must find something to give those who bring us so much of it.

Personally, I don’t need much this holiday season–maybe some warm socks, a bar of dark chocolate, the time to take long silken naps–but books always come to mind. There is nothing quite like curling up with a shimmering set of poems or a riveting novel to make a winter day merry and bright. As I day-dreamed of my favorite afternoons (I’ve loved these days since I was oh-so little) it struck me–the perfect present–subscriptions to Indiana Review!

Jam-packed with positively stunning poems, short fiction, creative non-fiction, book reviews, even, that inspire, what better gift to give the loved ones? You’ll support what we do (which brings us cheer) and spread the literary bounty throughout the year. To order, click here. A single issue is $9, and a year-long subscription, $17. Shopping: done. So easy! Now you have time for a square of chocolate and the pre-Christmas nap…

It’s a Major Award!

Image: Falkenblog

Congratulations are in order for the recipients of creative writing grants (in prose) from the National Endowment of the Arts in 2012. Several recipients also happen to be past IR contributors, and we’d like to give them a shout out:

Katherine Leonard Czepiel “Wendy as Elsa,” Issue 33.1 (Summer 2011)

Carolina De Robertis “42 Poorly Kept Secrets About Montevideo,”  Issue 28.1 (Summer 2006)

Richard Holeton “Thanks for Covering Your Lane,” Issue 28.2 (Winter 2006)

Benjamin Percy “Refresh,” Issue 30.2 (Winter 2008)

Ted Sanders “Obit,” Issue 30.2 (Winter 2008)


Well done!