It is not easy to get published in America. In fact, for every piece we print, three or four are rejected. Before being accepted for publication, every manuscript is screened, many by three or four associate editors, followed by the editor in chief. Sometimes even that is followed by a conversation with the editorial staff as a whole. Bottom line: getting published here is not easy!
And let me say, I know that from personal experience. Before I came to work at America, I was rejected 617 times for publication by the magazine. Now that might sound bad, but just to be clear, 330 of them were for revisions of the same manuscript (which I am now shopping around as my third written, first published book). Fifteen times, by three different editors in chief, I was invited not to submit again; the kidders! Twice the police informed me to stop calling, which I did. And 75 times (not including 327 of the 329 revisions) I never received any response whatsoever. Luckily, I still have the originals, and I am beginning to circulate them among the editors.
What really helped me to persist in the darkest days were the rejection letters I received from Br. Mortimer F. X. Snerd, S.J., longtime assistant to the editor. Brother Snerd always did a superb job of clarifying the issues in my articles that needed to be addressed. On the occasions when he responded, I felt that even if my manuscript was rejected, I had been heard. It was because of the letters that I eventually came to work at the magazine.
So, for all the aspiring writers out there, I thought I might share a few of his letters for encouragement. we’re all in this together!
Letter 1. Dear Mr. McDermott: Thank you for your recent submission. I regret to inform you it was too boring, even for America. Sincerely yours, Br. Mortimer F. X. Snerd, S.J., Assistant to the Editor.
Letter 37. Dear Mr. McDermott: Please STOP italicizing, CAPITALIZING and underlining words in your article for EMPHASIS. Your readers are PERFECTLY capable of grasping your point, if there IS a point and it is ABLE to be grasped. EMPHATICALLY, Br. M. F. X. Snerd, S!J!
Letter 61. Dear Mr. McDermott: Thank you for your recent article on a personal experience. It might help you in the future to know that while we your readers are interested in any insights you might have, no one, absolutely no one, is interested in your personal “journey.” Expunge the phrase “and then I realized” from your vocabulary. No one cares how this or that event “made you feel.” I see from your signature that you are a Jesuit novice, God help us; please, save your sharing for the mutual-affirmation groups to which you no doubt belong. A thought from me to you, Br. M. F. X. Snerd, S.J.
Letter 97. Dear Mr. McDermott: I am pleased to inform you that I am recovering from a cataract operation, and consequently was not forced to read your piece. Sincerely, Br. M. F. X. Snerd, S.J.
Letter 101. Dear Mr. McDermott: Thank you very much for your recent article on your summer trip to Uganda. Who knew that one could identify the solutions to that region’s complicated problems after only one week’s visit. I have written a letter to your provincial asking that they send you to the Middle East; let’s give you 10 days, maybe you can figure out world peace. With abundant hopes for the whole world, Br. M. F. X. Snerd, S.J.
Letter 143. Dear Mr. McDermott: Thank you for your recent manuscript on the spirituality of illness. A job well done. It made me sick. Try not to underestimate the value of simply asking a good question. Certainly we here at America have lots of good questions every time we receive something from you. Br. M. F. X. Snerd, S.J.
Letter 167. Dear Father McDermott: Congratulations on your recent ordination. Yet another reason to pray for the church. Let us hope that you choose your words more carefully when breaking open the word of God than you do for your articles. “Seinfeld” may be many things, but it is not “awesome.” Br. M. F. X. Snerd, S.J.
Letter 191. Dear Father McDermott: Thank you very much for your most recent scriptural exegesis. It took an entire fifth of Scotch to get through it, a new record. Were you planning to give college credit to those who finished it? As ever, Br. M. F. X. Snerd, S.J.
Letter 215. Dear Father McDermott: I regret to inform you that the editors have rejected your recent submission on liturgy. If you are determined to continue submitting pieces, perhaps you should just consider working here. The editors get printed all the time, no matter what they write.
I retire on Tuesday. Br. M. F. X. Snerd, S.J.