By Amanda Wochele
I'm 20-years-old, yet I can already fill one wall of my bedroom from ground to ceiling with rejection letters. And e-mails too, if we're playing fair. Usually, the publishing companies I send to are forthright; Dear Amanda, the letter reads, I'm sorry, but we will not be accepting your piece, [Insert Failed Title Here] for our publication. I like it that way, because sometimes the publishers fail to make any effort to show they know my name - or have even read my piece. Dear Writer - Our deepest regrets, but we feel your piece is not right for...Do they address me as "writer" just to rub it in? And sometimes, these companies like cop-outs, and take what I call the "high school route," Thank you for your submissions. Below is a list of the winning pieces, and I have to scurry over the list two, three, seven times just to make sure my name really isn't there.
The more I write, the more vulnerable I become. So if you want to get technical, I could maybe plaster two of the four walls of my room with rejection letters. This counts not only my blighted opportunities as a writer, but all the way back to being ostracized on the playground, birthday party snubs, breakups, every Valentine's Day I have spent alone (the number hovers around 20), not to mention college admission rejection letters (think poison Ivy).
My mother tells me everything happens for a reason. She says this because I ended up not far from her, living in a cell-of-an-apartment close to the university I attend in
It's not so bad here, because everybody knows Philly girls are tough, and I certainly never cry, unless there are truly extenuating circumstances. I can get by, though the worst of it is I'm not even old enough to drink in bars. Everyone here goes to bars. My friends just leave me on Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights to go to bars, because they're all older and claim there's nothing else to do, and they all go to bars and drink and get drunk without giving the slightest thought that I might be in my apartment, dying of boredom. Alone.
If things got really bad - like if I ran out of cereal - I could get into my car that the locals like to spit on (because I live in one of the more refined parts of Philadelphia; the part where it's charming just because it's so not) and drive the 50 minutes to my parent's home. My mother would make me a warm meal, and for the evening I wouldn't care about those rejection letters. Yet even my mom's lasagna comes at a price, because as I shove a forkful in my mouth she'll ask, "So, any new guys in your life?" and I'll have to take extra long to chew and swallow dramatically and tell her, "No, no...just the usual bad habits," except I won't say that last part.
Maybe I've never really come close to dying of boredom. It's March now, the vernal equinox has come and gone. On some days, the weather is so nice and inviting that kids conjugate with guitars and makeshift drums to sing and dance on the lawns. Some students walk by and laugh, but I smile because they sound like musicians. Sometimes if I close my eyes, I couldn't tell if it was the boy with the pompadour and the guitar singing, or a front-man on the radio. They're sharing art, and I think that if anyone were to have the audacity to say they weren't artists, I'd backhand them in an instant. Because Philly girls are tough like that.
When people come over, some say I have excellent decorating skills - that I really know how to work with the drabness of blank white walls.
Lately, I've gotten better at no longer considering rejection letters in my mailbox or my inbox as a truly extenuating circumstance. I walk to the drugstore now almost every week to pick up 9-by-12 envelopes so I can ship my stories off. I have switched to skim milk. When my friends leave me for bars on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, (and sometimes even) Sunday nights, I tell them to have fun. Because being alone with your mind is a risk artists must take. And artists in this city have guts.