Amy’s Rejection Letters

Amy Tan

Lesson time 07:58 min

Amy shares her rejection letters with you to show how she processes disappointment and carries on.

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Topics include: Amy's Rejection Letters


[MUSIC PLAYING] AMY TAN: Rejection happens to everybody, every writer, no matter how good they are, no matter how published they are, no matter how many prizes they've won. And I think that you should take heart in the fact that I have received my share of rejections. I had the notion that I would have a bulletin board, and every time I got a letter, I would just pin it up there. You know, and it was also so that I could face it. You know, you have these demons, and if you try not to see them, they're almost more terrifying. So I put them up, and I would just collect these. I thought I would read to you some of those, because you could see what some of the reasons are that a piece of work gets rejected. So here is the answer from The Atlantic, from an editor named Michael Curtis, who actually became a friend of mine later. "Dear Sandy--" that's my agent. "The Amy Tan--" that's called "The Amy Tan," because it's the work, "The Amy Tan." "The Amy Tan is beautifully written, and I hope you'll send us more of her work. This story, however, tries to cover too much ground and seems to us a bit too thin. Maybe the next one." OK. Here is the one from the New Yorker. It's-- this one, by the way, was for a story called "Waiting between the Trees," and that's-- to let you know, that was not the same story. The New Yorker-- "Dear Ms. Dijkstra, Amy Tan is a talented writer, and passages of SCAR are effective. In the end, though, there's something reductive about the violence in this story. Metaphor seems to be standing in for the complications and ambiguities of real life. Of course, other readers may not be bothered by the story's lack of depth." Really stinks. "I'm sorry not to be able to say yes. Thank you all the same for giving us a chance to consider it." Now you should know, to even get back a letter of rejection like that, where the editor has put in a lot of thought to explain why they are rejecting the story, is a rare and generous thing, even though the words are not the ones you want to hear, because what typically happens-- and I've received those as well-- you get a form, and it's the rejection. And it usually says something like, thanks for sending us your story-- not for us. It's that short-- not for us. And you know nothing about the reason why. Your insecure mind, as a writer, will come up with the reasons, and they're all terrible ones. Now, we're going to get to submission of the novel, the collection of stories that-- of "The Joy Luck Club" that eventually was called a novel. Here is a letter from Farrar Straus and Giroux, a very literary house, by the way. One of those places, they're very particular about a kind of book they want to publish, so for a first novelist to submit to a place like Farrar Straus and Giroux, you're, you know, pretty ambitious. It's not that I wanted to submit to that. I happened to have an agent who believes in me so much. She's like a mother who thinks her daughter is the most tal...

About the Instructor

Amy Tan was 33 before she first explored her voice as a fiction author. A few years later, her debut novel, The Joy Luck Club, spent 40 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. Now she’s showing you her approach to the challenges and joy of self-discovery through writing. Learn how to craft compelling beginnings and endings, find your voice, and embrace your emotional memory to bring powerful narratives to life.

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Amy Tan

The celebrated author shares her approach to voice, story, and the craft of bringing narratives to life from beginning to end.

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