Thanks for submitting your work to The Cabal. Unfortunately, “Hands Bereft” is not a good fit for us at this time, or ever.
In some cases, we encourage writers to send more of their work if the initial submission contained at least a few small harbingers of talent. This is not one of those cases. Your work is shit. There were no harbingers. We never want to see any piece of paper with your name on it ever again—neither in digital nor printed format.
Your story, “Hands Bereft,” was so gratuitously dense and sickeningly sentimental that we actually didn’t have the energy to discuss it at length, or finish reading it. In our editorial meeting, I held up your manuscript and could only manage a resigned, “I mean . . .”
Others in the room said: “It doesn’t even . . .” “Nope.” “Is this serious?” And “WTF. So bad.”
Part of the problem was that every sentence you wrote made us want to vomit. Personally, when I finished reading your submission (and by finished, I mean gave up after page three), I felt like Abraham walking away from a burning Sodom and Gomorrah after failing to identify a single, redeemable soul—except in your case, I couldn’t identify a single, redeemable description or turn of phrase. The way you carelessly string sentences together is a disgrace to the English language. You are like a man who parades a chain gang of prostitutes through a synagogue. What’s even more remarkable, despite having heaped up a 9,000-word steaming mountain of excrement, is that you found the audacity to give it a melodramatic title like “Hands Bereft.” It’s never a good idea to use the word bereft unless you are John Donne, or maybe Ian McEwan, and you will never be anything like these men.
“I can’t believe it,” you might say. “Another rejection,” you might say. “What could I have done differently?”
Where to begin? “Hands Bereft” committed nearly every sin writers are taught to avoid on day one of their first workshop. It opened with an alarm clock. It closed with the main character awakening from a dream. The setting was over-described. The characters were flat. The lovemaking was pornographic. You used fanciful dialogue tags—the worst of them, ejaculated. You explained instead of depicted emotion. And we found 38 mentions of the phrase, he thought to himself. It’s almost as if you were trying to torture us.
Why have you done this? We hate you.
We can picture you now, the oblivious idiot squatting in the corner of Starbucks week after week, pounding the chiclet keys of your MacBook and enjoying the curious looks you receive. Savor those mornings at Starbucks, because they’re as close as you’ll ever get to the spotlight. We wager you’re the kind of person who enjoys feeling and acting like a writer more than he actually enjoys doing it, more than reading and learning and honing his craft. You could take a thousand online writing courses and still be clueless. You are the reason all of us here at The Cabal have to constantly defend the value of our industry to society.
“I guess I’ll just keep trying,” you might tell yourself. “Joyce’s Dubliners was rejected 22 times before it got published,” you might counter. “I am an undiscovered genius, and The Cabal doesn’t understand me.”
It is true that we don’t understand you. We don’t understand the severity of your delusion, and how you can see your own reflection in a mirror and not want to punch it. Our advice? Think of this story—and your writing career—as a kidney stone which needs to be passed out of your system. Fine, catch it in a glass and examine it for a moment. Marvel at its grotesque size and texture, but then flush it down the toilet, and for God’s sake, don’t mail it to anyone else.
Our chintzy, online journal may fail before next Christmas, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have integrity today. Your writing is so bad that publishing it would compromise our integrity.
At any rate, thanks for considering us. We really do wish you the best of luck in finding a home for “Hands Bereft”—preferably a home beneath the grinding motor and mincing blades of your shredder.
P.S. When you get a chance, be sure to “heart” us on Medium!