Wednesday, April 12, 2006

eating crow

I have just mailed an envelope that contains a bit of crow*. Here’s the story about it.

A few weeks ago, March 23rd to be exact, I got one of my SASEs** back. When I opened it, I was pleasantly surprised. Because instead of the expected rejection letter, it contained an acceptance note and a contract-on-a-postcard for a little article I’d written and bulked up with a crossword puzzle. This was welcome news indeed, seeing as how they’d had my piece for over a year!

In order to get payment I needed to fill out and send back the postcard contract. I promptly did after which I highlighted that entry in my submission log – and grinned for the rest of the day.

However, I wasn’t grinning when on a Friday morning about a week later I got another postcard from the same outfit. This one said: “Thank you for allowing us to hold “Name of same article as above.” Unfortunately we are unable to place this piece in the January / February 2007 issue. Please feel free to submit it elsewhere. We look forward to receiving more of your work...”

What!? Look forward to receiving more of my work after accepting my story one week, then taking back that acceptance the next? They’ve got to be kidding!

In a fit of pique I searched my market guide for another place to send that manuscript, found one, typed the cover letter offering first rights to my duo and packed it up. I did, though, hear a little voice saying I really should find out what this was all about. So I sent an email asking for an explanation. However when, after waiting through the whole weekend the email came back undeliverable, I decided that it really was perfectly evident they’d had a change of heart about my piece. Besides, by hounding them about it, I might seem like a whiner. And so instead of pursuing it I popped the manuscript in the mail for its second go-round feeling even a bit smug that I was learning to handle rejection so well - particularly one dealt in this give-then-take-back-again manner.

Then I forgot all about it until this Monday when, lo and behold, there was the promised cheque.

Now I was thoroughly confused!

This time I picked up the phone. The person who had signed all the correspondence with me answered. He told me they had indeed rejected the article, but bought the puzzle. (To be fair to me, that fact was in no way spelled out in any of their letters.)

This was wonderful news. Yet there was a problem. The contract I’d signed stated I’d agreed not to republish what they’d bought for one year after first publication. Now I’d just sent it out again.

So yesterday I wrote my eat-crow letter, withdrawing the puzzle from consideration of magazine number 2, all the while wishing I’d listened to that inner voice that said, more than once, ‘Shouldn’t you be sure about the state of things first before sending this out again?’ Oh well, like Anne Shirley in Green Gables, I apologize really well (I’ve had enough practice)! Hopefully, though, one of these days I’ll learn to listen so that the taste of crow will become only a memory.


*origin of eating crow (to admit you have been wrong; apologize.) According to my Collins Pocket Idioms Dictionary:

This expression is said to relate to an incident during the Anglo-American war of 1812-14. An American soldier who had accidentally entered an area occupied by the British was tricked into handing over his gun. He was then forced by a British officer to take a bite out of a crow which he had shot down. When his gun was returned to him, he forced the British officer to eat the rest of the bird.

**SASE - Self-addressed stamped envelope


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