Slush Pile Success

Katharine Weber, author of The Little Women, Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear, and The Music Lesson, responds to yesterday’s slush pile subject line “with a slush pile story . . . to say that miracles do happen”:

My first fiction in print was in The New Yorker because Dan Menaker’s then-assistant (now the big-deal agent) David McCormick found it in the slush pile. I was nobody they had ever heard of, unagented, and not only that — the story had been rejected by The New Yorker a few weeks before, though they didn’t know it.

For the first and only time I ever did it, I broke the presumptive rule and simply resubmitted the story because somehow I just knew they had made a mistake. The story, “Friend of the Family,” ran in January 1993. It was a piece of my then-unfinished first novel. The publication of that story changed everything for me.

When you are writing a first novel, the world is usually not waiting for you to finish it. In fact, the world probably dreads the moment you finish your first novel. But when a chapter of it has appeared as a story in The NYER, the world is actually waiting for this novel. (The waiting world then rejected Objects repeatedly — seventeen houses rejected Objects — before it found a home. But that’s another story.)

(Despite her story’s happy ending, Weber says: “I do not recommend, as a rule, sending every rejected story right back to publications that don’t know a good story when they see one. It’s not a good habit.”)


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