Rejected: three writing samples by Kurt Vonnegut
A decade and a half later, a writing sample by Vonnegut would have been accepted without a look beyond the author name, but in 1949, Kurt Vonnegut was a nobody, and the editors at The Atlantic Monthly had no big plans to lift him out of anonymity. After mailing the magazine three samples of his work, he received the above letter of rejection from editor Edward Weeks, which now hangs, framed, in Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis. The following decades of Vonnegut’s career were characterized by a prolific output of award-winning novels, including Cat’s Cradle and Slaughter-House Five, the latter of which is rumored to have developed out of one of the rejected samples.
Weeks’ mistake reads:
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.