Fiction — June 2, 2014 11:47 — 0 Comments

I Reject Your Rejection – Ryan Shoemaker

Fiction Editor
The West Coast Review
460 Geary Street, Suite 119
San Francisco, CA 94102

November 5, 2013

Dear Fiction Editor,

I was dismayed yesterday to receive your photocopied, unevenly cut, off-center form letter rejecting my short story “Mountains of Blood,” which I sent to your journal on September 15th.  The purpose of this letter is to inform you that I reject your rejection.

Perhaps I was too modest in my submission letter, but I’m actually kind of a big deal in the greater Elko, Nevada literary scene.  The box in my mom’s front yard marked “Kevin’s Stories—Free” is nearly always empty by the end of the week.  Mrs. Turner, who often takes a story when she passes our house on her morning walk, has told me that my writing is “colorful” and “descriptive.”  Once she even used the word “poignant.”  A homeless man everyone knows as Red Beard Willie is also a big fan, grabbing at least half the stories each Wednesday, and though I know he’s using them as bedding, or so my friend Chip with the Parks Department tells me, I have no doubt Willie does so to have my sharp prose close by when he wants something to read at night.

You should also know that my fan base extends far beyond Elko.  Once, I received an encouraging email from a Nigerian banker named Mr. Buhari, who’d read my story “The Practical Psycho” online at Literary Gravy and suggested I self-publish a collection of short fiction with an abandoned sum of ten million dollars from a United Bank of Africa client who died in a horrific plane crash over the French Alps.  Unfortunately, since I’d recently been fired from my janitorial position at Home Depot (writing on the job—yes, that’s how dedicated I am!), I didn’t have the thousand dollars to start a joint bank account with Mr. Buhari so we could access the ten million dollars.  My mom wouldn’t loan me the money because she thought the whole thing sounded stupid (Really, I think she was resistant because she resents all the overbearing, emasculating mothers many of my protagonists must nobly fight against in their quest for freedom).  Another time, a Ukrainian woman emailed me to say how she’d absolutely loved a short piece I’d placed online at Rabid Monkey Slush.  She’d loved the piece so much, in fact, that she was on her way to Elko to discuss the story’s dark symbolism and Oedipal themes when a pack of gypsies mugged her in a Munich city park.  Hysterical, she emailed me twenty times in two hours to say she needed money to sort out her hotel bill and buy a plane ticket to continue her trip to Elko.  Unmoved by this dedicated fan’s plight, my mom again refused to loan me the money.

I understand, however, that an artist can’t always lean on reputation and past laurels.  The work in hand must speak for itself.  That’s why I encourage you to reread “Mountains of Blood.”  What about the story’s beginning?  Opaque shadows creep toward me through the dishwater light.  The fire has burned low.  Outside, the sky glows red, and the mountains are blood.  Isn’t it clear from these well-wrought lines that Steven, my henpecked protagonist, has just recently bludgeoned his domineering mother to death with a work boot and is now held up in an isolated cabin while the police, or so he suspects, close in on him?  And what about the building suspense in these lines?  Frozen with fear, my heart rate picks up.  I glance around.  The clown painting on the wall has fallen to the ground and cracked.  Can’t you see that Steven is actually going insane and that it’s not the police who are closing in but the vindictive spirit of the dead mother come to kill him with fear?  And what about the superb ending when Steven topples from the balcony while fleeing his mother’s ghost and impels himself on the patio umbrella below?  How could “Mountains of Blood” not be a perfect fit for your storied, prestigious journal?

I’ve also considered that perhaps you weren’t adequately prepared to appreciate my dark, probing prose.  Maybe a writerly habit I’ve developed to prime the creative pump might be of use to you in your editorial process.  In the box accompanying this letter, find a bottle of Poco Loco Especial XXX Tequila.  I recommend not eating anything for eight hours and then drinking the whole bottle as quickly as possible.  You’ll see:  in no time the prose will sing and the characters will leap from the page.

Also in the box, please find a photograph of me.  It will go nicely with my contributor bio when you publish “Mountains of Blood” in your winter issue.  The green tweed jacket, Dunhill pipe, Salvador Dali mustache, and my relaxed pose with one elbow resting on a fire-lit hearth, convey, I believe, the image of a writer dedicated to his craft.  I’ve also included an autographed copy for you to hang in your office.

Please understand this letter is written in the spirit of genuine concern for you as the respected editor of an esteemed literary journal.  The last thing I’d want is for you to experience the kind of debilitating regret that comes from accidentally rejecting a world-renowned writer like myself.

I look forward to receiving your acceptance letter in the following days.



Kevin Herbst


Ryan Shoemaker's fiction has appeared in Booth, Silk Road Review, and Gulf Stream, among others.  He's a recent graduate of the University of Southern California. Find him at

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney