The Art of Submission: When to be Thankful
Written by
Emily Lackey
December 2014
Written by
Emily Lackey
December 2014

My mother is the type of person who sends a thank-you card for every occasion. She sends one for every gift received, every letter sent, every event attended. Just a few weeks ago she sent me a thank-you note for inviting her to my thesis reading, something I should clearly be thanking her for.

I’m not quite as bad, but I do feel similarly overcome with gratitude at the smallest gesture. It’s difficult, for instance, to not send a note of thanks to every editor who sends a slightly less brutal rejection or even a line of commentary about my story specifically.

(Don’t do this, by the way. What you should do is send them new work and, in that cover letter, thank them for their encouragement of your work. Other times in this process when thank-yous are not only appropriate but highly suggested? When you are short-listed for publication or a contest. When your work is accepted for publication. And after you read the published journal in which your work has been printed.)

I’ve been thinking about gratitude a lot these days. I’ve tried writing about it a lot, too, but what inevitably comes out is a mess of past hurts and humiliations. For me, I guess, it is impossible to think about the praise without thinking about the panning. They go together. The criticism is the reason why the kindness feels so surprising, so good.

Maybe it’s because I just graduated and am feeling the pull of the real world. It’s making me reflective. It’s making me downright sentimental. It’s making me want to go through my life, Step Nine style, and thank everyone who has ever influenced me, everyone who has ever said a kind word. Because it is kind of incredible, isn’t it? How good we can be to each other? It overwhelms me sometimes. It turns me into my mother.

So, I’ve been sending thank-yous. Little missives of gratitude to journals that have accepted my work or contests that have dubbed me a finalist. Lately I’ve also been sending notes to other writers whose work I admire, because why not? Why not connect and be kind to each other? Why not make each other feel good?

Amidst the mess of this submission process—the rejection, the waiting, the increasing self-doubt—the smallest thread of kindness can hold us together. Thank the people who have been that for you. Thank your seventh grade English teacher and the friend you made in Prague and the cab driver who took you home after the worst night of your life. And, when you can, do your damnedest to be that for others. 

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  • Patricia Robertson

    "The smallest thread of kindness can hold us together" - like this! It's amazing how important a simple act of kindness can be in this world where kindness is in short supply.