The Quilt Scout

by Mary Fons

Don’t Take It Personally, But We’re Uninterested In Your Heart & Soul At This Time

Column #5

Submitting a quilt to a magazine is brave.

Salinger received many rejections on this one. It's sold six million copies so far. Take that, dumb New Yorker.Submitting any kind of artistic work to any official entity is brave. It might be a poem to a poetry journal or a portfolio of your oil paintings to an art festival. It’s the same if you audition for a play, except your submission is you performing a monologue into the void. In every case, you are saying, “This is the work that I love the most, the work that is closest to my heart. Do you like it, and—by a very short extension— do you like me?”


When the answer is, “Not really,” there is nothing good about it. Most unpleasant situations (excluding the life-or-death ones) have a silver lining. We assuage our pain by looking on the bright side. For example: “Well, [insert disappointment here] stinks, but at least I can go to my cousin’s wedding.” Or something like that.


Have you ever been rejected by a quilt magazine? I have, more than a few times, and by shows/contests, too. The magazine rejections were rejections from magazines with my family name on the cover, and the others were rejections from the magazine I edited. Take heart: being rejected by a magazine run by people you don’t know does not sting half as much as being rejected by the people you work with. As nice as they may be about it, the “No thanks, Mar” taints weekly meetings for some time. You’re the boss, and you failed.


My rejects were rejected for at least one of the same reasons your quilt was rejected. I’ll share with you reasons we all get rejected in hopes that doing so might help you avoid this, and land a quilt in an actual, printed magazine. It’s no a small thing to have a quilt of yours run in Patchwork Today or Quilting Quietly, to cite two magazines that do not exist.* It’s a vote of confidence. It’s a fantastic record of your project, if nothing else, and many quilters, on the back of a single instance of getting into a publication, have started their very own blog. That’s a carrot if I ever saw one.


Here, now, are potentially the reasons your quilt (and mine) failed the big “Yes:”

1. Your quilt is not attractive.

Similar to children, every mother loves every quilt she’s made, however ugly (sorry) they may be. It’s heart-warming, but love in this case does not conquer all. You have to ask, “Would other people want to make this quilt? Would they dash out to buy fabric for it?” If the answer is even slightly lukewarm—or if your quilt features appliquéd, fussy-cut German Shepherds on a metallic holiday print—your quilt will be rejected.


2. It’s a weird size.

At Quilty, we rejected a lot of quilts for this reason. A twin-size quilt is 60” x 80.” That’s a great size for a magazine because people like fast or fast-ish quilts. And square quilts are strange. Do you hang them? Do you wrap half your body in them? Hard to say. So, make a people-sized quilt or it will probably be rejected. [Note: There are exceptions to this, but you’d better have a good reason.]


3. The workmanship is bad.

High-res has destroyed dreams. If your work isn’t A plus, you’re probably not going to make it. The zoom feature on tablets means quilters can view every stitch, and plenty of them do. In a future Quilt Scout column, I’ll discuss the tragedy of this. But for now, just know that if you shoot for near-perfection, and miss more than maybe once, your quilt will be rejected.


4. It doesn’t fit the magazine.If a judge doesn't like brown and pink, this incredible Lady of The Lake quilt is done-zo.

Say Quilting Quietly is a traditional quilt magazine. Do not send an improv-pieced wallhanging, because that’s not what they run. Say Patchwork Today does all modern, all the time. Your batik New York Beauty is a beauty, but it will be rejected. And with good reason! You need to read the magazines, so you know what the editor wants.


5. They can’t write a pattern for it.

Improv-pieced quilts are great, but you can’t write instructions for them. And patterns that run five pages—too many templates will do this—can’t go in.


6. They ran a quilt just like it in the last issue or have one slated for the issue coming up.

This is your bad luck. Your quilt will be rejected.


7. They worked with you before, and you were a nightmare.

Our bad luck. Your quilt will be rejected.


But submit anyway. The law of averages dictates that if you swing at the ball enough, you’re going to hit it at some point. I submit quilts, article ideas, and poems all the time, and I get way, way more rejection emails than acceptance ones. Some aspiring novelists pin their rejection letters to a corkboard. I think it has something to do with tenacity: keep going, don’t let the bastards get you down, and, in the end, you might just win.


*These magazines should exist.