I don’t know what’s more demoralizing. Getting a rejection from an agent, publisher, or residency/fellowship. But as writers, rejections are part of the job description as even established and successful authors compete for dwindling funding and hyper-competitive grants. That’s why Tayari Jones‘ recent post “Pep Talk For A Young Writer” is required reading.
In the piece, Jones, who wrote the acclaimed novel Silver Sparrow, admits, “I sometimes read [rejection letters] as– Dear Ms. Jones, we don’t like you and or your work,” but adds “after serving on a number of committees that award fellowships/residencies/admissions/whatever, I can tell you from the inside… I have never sat on a grant panel where there haven’t been very good applications that had to be turned down.”
Jones says the culprit is money, or the lack thereof.
“[A]rtists who used to make enough money from doing art–because they are accomplished and well known–are now applying for more grants and contests to get by, to get published. It’s really shocking, how I see pretty big names on press releases for grants, etc that used to be unofficially earmarked for emerging writers.”
She closes with a reminder to keep the rejection in perspective. “[Y]ou are still growing and learning and creating,” Jones writes, “Keep at it. Try again next year. It’s just a matter of time. I promise.”