One of the secrets to becoming a good writer is to be a good reader: to read widely, deeply, and constantly. Although it can work both ways, in general the nonfiction that I read informs the content of what I write, while the fiction and poetry informs my craft. Sometimes, however, simple functional texts can influence my writing.
This past fall, I went on a major submitting spree, which meant I was reading lots of writers' guidelines, so many, in fact, that the format inspired imitation and I coughed up my own (mock) writers' guidelines and got them published in Defenestration.
Submitting work feels goooood. I get a rush every time I hit "send" to e-mail work, click on "submit" to an online submission manager, or mail a stack of yellow 9 x 12 envelopes from the post office. Unfortunately, most of what goes out comes back in: a few months after my submitting spree, the rejections started pouring in. I read and save every single one.
Some rejections are short, but personal and thoughtful. Some are longer form letters, but are thoughtful and encouraging, nevertheless. The next tier down are form letters also, but are shorter--direct but diplomatic. My least favorite come printed on post-it size pieces of paper that are wrapped in 8 x 11 sized offers to purchase subscriptions to the rejecting publication at a "special writers' " rate. (Ooooooo! I get the special writers' rate! I'm in!) The kicker is that they are mailed in the same SASE I provide for a response, so not only am I paying for the transport of my own pithy rejection, I am paying to receive a solicitation, as well. This is kind of like telemarketers charging callees for the phone calls. I understand that these publications are desperate to stay afloat and that the world of literature and ideas needs them, and I want to support them (most of the time I purchase or read at least one issue before I submit), but that's just plain tacky. Anyhoo, after reading so many rejections, I felt moved to compose a (mock) rejection letter of my own, published recently in swink magazine.