I once worked as a temp typist in a midtown Manhattan publishing house. My assignment was typing rejection letters for a youngish trade editor. By typing, I mean on a typewriter. These were mostly run-of-the-mill “Sorry, this isn’t quite right for our list, best wishes in placing it elsewhere” kind of letters–nothing so colorful as the examples shown here.

Anyway, one such letter seemed unnecessarily harsh to me; and having been on the receiving end of these dismissive missives, I walked into the editor’s office. I saw manuscripts in neat stacks all around the office, on the radiator and carpet–maybe a thousand, possibly more. Clearly, the editor was under stress dealing with that load. She looked up, and I pointed out the especially punishing phrases and returned to my seat.

Shortly, she came out with a new, less painful version, and I rolled a fresh sheet of letterhead into the IBM Selectric and punched it out. I counted that moment as a minor victory in a week of sorrow and defeat.

Comment posted by Hudson Owen on the article Famous Authors’ Harshest Rejection Letters, by Romy Oltuski, on The Atlantic, November 18, 2011.

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