rejection letters, 1933-1937

In the basement of our Highland neighborhood house at 29th and Wyandot Street some years ago we found a few mementos of someone we never knew. Her name was Mary E. Horlbeck, and she appears (as far as we can tell) to have been a writer and possibly a proprietor of a diner in Edgewater (called Mary and Al’s). The following images come from a scrapbook she kept regarding her professional writing career between 1933 and 1937 – it document rejection letters she received from magazines all around the country.

In the scrapbook we found 138 rejection letters, all carefully glued in place, with the name of the story she had submitted written on them and occasionally a date. Over the years she authored and submitted many dozens of stories (with titles like Tomato Red, The Blessed Latticed Gate, Rake-Off, Rapture More Golden, and The Flesh Is Weak) to publications including Modern Romance, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Delineator, and Red Book and many others.

For some years, apparently, she never had a story published, though she did publish a few stories eventually after the scrapbook was all full up. We found four acceptance letters thrown in to the scrapbook loosely; for one story, she received forty-five dollars, fifty for another. A third said that she would have to wait till later to get paid, and the fourth said that she was the winner of tenth place in the Writer’s Digest short story contest.

The 1930’s were a tough time in Denver, around the country, and worldwide. This scrapbook is a testament to one person’s willingness to continue to pursue her dreams.

-Hugh Graham