Archives for category: Rejections


In 1949, Kurt Vonnegut sent three writing samples to Atlantic Monthly — hoping for publication or a writing assignment. Instead, he received the following letter:

Dear Mr. Vonnegut,

We have been carrying out our usual summer house-cleaning of the manuscripts on our anxious bench and in the file, and among them I find the three papers which you have shown me as samples of your work. I am sincerely sorry that no one of them seems to us well adapted for our purpose. Both the account of the bombing of Dresden and your article, “What’s a Fair Price for Golden Eggs?” have drawn commendation although neither one is quite compelling enough for final acceptance.

Our staff continues fully manned so I cannot hold out the hope of an editorial assignment, but I shall be glad to know that you have found a promising opening elsewhere.

Faithfully yours,
Edward Weeks

From one of the rejected writing samples (‘account of the bombing in Dresden”), Vonnegut developed his masterwork Slaughterhouse-Five. Toiling away at a variety of jobs (newspaper bureau, General Electric public relations department, Saab dealership) to support his large (and extended) family (six children), 20 years transpired between the Atlantic Monthly rejection and the publication of Slaughterhouse-Five (Delacorte, 1969). Modern Library has ranked the book as the 18th greatest novel of the 20th century.

Trivia Tidbit: In 1970, Slaughterhouse-Five was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards — losing out in both competitions to Ursula K. Le Guin‘s The Left Hand of Darkness.

Photo: A first edition of Slaughterhouse-Five issued in 1969, when Vonnegut was still using “Jr.” Signed first editions of the novel currently sell for around $8,000. See this link.


Silver Birch Musings: I’ve come to believe that the most important thing for any writer — and what keeps you writing — is belief in your work, despite what others may say about it. Sometimes, other people don’t understand what you’re trying to do — or your style and subject matter is just too different from what people have seen before. I’ll admit I’ve been on both sides of this fence — I’ve  misunderstood other people’s work and have had readers dismiss mine. The main thing is to keep writing — and never let anyone else’s opinion discourage you.

To make my point, here is a rejection letter Ursula K. Le Guin‘s agent received in 1968 from an editor regarding Le Guin’s novel The Left Hand of Darkness:

Dear Miss Kidd,

Ursula K. Le Guin writes extremely well, but I’m sorry to have to say that on the basis of that one highly distinguishing quality alone I cannot make you an offer for the novel. The book is so endlessly complicated by details of reference and information, the interim legends become so much of a nuisance despite their relevance, that the very action of the story seems to be to become hopelessly bogged down and the book, eventually, unreadable. The whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace, that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time, to be extraneous material. My thanks nonetheless for having thought of us. The manuscript of  The Left Hand of Darkness is returned herewith.

Yours sincerely,

The Editor
21 June, 1968

The following year (1969), Walker and Company published The Left Hand of Darkness to overwhelming critical acclaim. The novel also won the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards. Here are some of the reviews Le Guin  has received for the book:

“[A] science fiction masterpiece.”Newsweek

“A jewel of a story.”Frank Herbert

“As profuse and original in invention as The Lord of the Rings.”Michael Moorcock

“An instant classic.”Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Like all great writers of fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin creates imaginary worlds that restore us, hearts eased, to our own.”The Boston Globe

“Stellar…Le Guin is a superb stylist with a knack for creating characters who are both wise and deeply humane. A major event in fantasy literature.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Find The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin at

Trivia Tidbit: Ursula K. Le Guin and Philip K. Dick were in the same high school graduating class — Berkeley (California) High School Class of 1947