They spent long periods of time tapping away at a keyboard in isolation and were ballsy enough to tell someone, perhaps a less-than-flattering editor somewhere, only to receive a rejection slip in return. Now, they have an audience.
The literary series Rejected: Stories Unsold debuted at Wild Detectives bookstore last month with the theme The Darkness Within, which seemed appropriate near Halloween, says Cam Kirkpatrick, who pitched the idea for the series.
“And because personal demons occur within a lot of writings,” he says. The next Rejected reading Dec. 20 will likely have an interactive holiday theme.
Wild Detectives programming director Lauren Smart says that when Kirkpatrick presented the idea, everyone saw it as a brilliant way to celebrate one of the most common experiences of being a writer — rejection.
“I love the idea that this series will bring together highly successful writers and newbies and in some ways encourages people to submit more work and get rejected to be part of this new little family,” she says.
Kirkpatrick, who has a background in theater, grew up in Fort Worth and attended Southern Methodist University before moving to New York then to Los Angeles to study screenwriting. The 30-year-old has shopped around a few of his writings to no avail, he says, including a piece he sent to Modern Love at The New York Times.
“Honestly, when I was sending it off, I didn’t have any delusions that it would be printed,” he says. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been accepted — maybe something small online.”
After moving back to Dallas, Kirkpatrick realized that Wild Detectives would be the perfect place for a community of rejected writers.
“They were, like, ‘Great, we love it,’” he says. Since then, he’s built a website and encouraged local writers to submit their works. He says writers often spend lots of time fine-tuning essays or pieces of fiction they worked on in grad school before submitting them to a publisher, only to have their writing land on the desk of an intern or in the hands of a junior associate.
“If they don’t really get it or don’t really jibe with it, they just sort of immediately shut it down,” Kirkpatrick says.
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He says the idea of finally letting go of one’s writing can be frightening, and many people never drum up the courage to actually send it somewhere. Because of this, when Rejected first began, organizers discovered lots of people who had written a lot but not many who had been formally rejected. Smart says the first event brought together friends, acquaintances and strangers for a fun, supportive evening during which nobody took anything or anyone too seriously.
The series embraces the fact that many of the world’s great books, such as Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl and Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls, because it offers hope, Kirkpatrick says. And famous failure statistics and rejection letters are shared between readings. Kirkpatrick says Rejected aims for about 1,500 words, so people can read an essay, poets can pull together several pieces from a collection or novelists can reads excerpt from their books. The group isn't judging the writing, he says.
“The big goal is to encourage people to keep submitting their work, to be brave enough to submit their work, to keep writing, even if they think no one [is] ever going to read it or see it or hear it,” he says. “We’re not really rejecting anybody from Rejected.”
For more information on Rejected, visit storiesunsold.com.