I have a hell of a time finding shoes that fit. I’m a US size 6 (men’s), which rivals the moa in terms of its rarity in New Zealand and the Sasquatch in the US. My feet quit growing more than twenty years ago, and my main solution to this problem has been Doc Martens, which are essentially unisex. When it comes to my soccer shoes, I once took a pair of adidas copas as hand-me-downs from a 12-year-old (I was 17 at the time). The pair of Puma King screw-ins that I bought with driveway shovelling and lawn-mowing money in 1991 lasted me until last year, when three of my teammates (and most of the strikers I marked) were younger than my boots. Those Pumas were old enough to have been made in Germany. My other solution has been to wear women’s shoes, including my current pair of pink-and-slime (not green) adidas predators and whatever running shoes I take as a hand-me-down from Jennifer (the joys of marriage).

As below so above: in intellectual pursuits like MLA panels I am also of an awkward size. Here are the responses from the five rejections I have received so far:

Thank you for your submission to the MLA panel on “Topic.” Many excellent abstracts came in. In the end, I could only accept three for the panel at the Chicago convention. I am sorry to say that I could not accept yours, despite its fine quality.

Thanks for your submission.  I received many good proposals for the MLA panel and I picked the ones that went together the best. Sorry, I did not select yours.  Best of luck to you in your endeavors.

I’m sorry to tell you that we didn’t choose your submission for the panel. We had around 30 submissions and could only select 4.  There were many excellent submissions we had to pass up (and we also had to think about “fit” here in making our selections: putting together a panel with some coherence).

I have reviewed all the proposals for the 2014 MLA session, “[Topic],” and read your abstract with interest.  Unfortunately, your paper was not selected for this panel.  We had a number of strong proposals and the decision was to some degree based on how well the papers would fit together as a group.

Thank you very much for submitting your abstract to the [Topic] panel proposed for MLA 2014. I received a very large number of submissions, so the choice was difficult. In the end I tried to put together a panel from abstracts that shared a narrower focus on [Topic] and subjectivity, and I’m afraid yours was not one of the final three included.

Four out of five were explicit about the importance of fit. Or, as I would describe it, doing the same thing with a different text. I don’t want to rage too hard against these five rejections,  they included very nice invitations to submit to upcoming special issues and edited collections, and the failure studies panel (perhaps predictably) was the flat-out nicest rejection notice I’ve ever received. But I find the academic mad lib of lots of good submissions/applicants, tough decision, and fit a little boring.

So far I’m 0-for-5. I’m fairly sure I’ll go a perfect 0-for-10 on my MLA proposals. My sincerest hope is that one of the rejections says, “we would have picked yours, but the coin landed on tails. Sorry.” I would buy that person a drink or three at the next MLA, provided I can get a paper accepted.