EP. 32 | Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai on Facing Rejection When You Write about a Hard Topic

My novel was rejected by so many publishers because it deals with very horrible topics. It deals with death, with  rape, with war, with agent orange, with mass murder, executions… Of course there’s a sense of hope and lots of love, and family bonds… but people have to confront the horror of all the evil and horror to be able to find kindness and compassion. They have to go through a lot of darkness to see the light and they have to become vulnerable together with my characters. So this book is not a fun read, it’s a serious read. So I think a lot of editors thought they wouldn’t be able to sell it.


What to do when you write about hard, complex topics that not everyone will want to read about? Like Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai says in this extract, it’s all about the author’s perseverance.

It’s up to the writer herself or himself to believe in her or his own work… If you believe in your own work you never feel the desperation, because there is a fire that burns inside of you  and keeps you going. You don’t have to depend on other people to tell you that your story is important, because you know it is important.


Listen to this extract to find advice on:

  • Finding your inner-strength as a writer to cope with rejection.
  • Understanding that you may be writing about a complicated, hard topic and that may mean it may take you longer to find a publisher.

Connect with Quế Mai:

Website / Twitter Instagram / FaceBook

The Wandering Bard podcast is also available on Spotify. You can also find us on Twitter at @TheWBmag.

EP. 31 | INÉS G. LABARTA ON rejections as part of the writing process

Rejection is a normal part of the writing process, so if you’re getting rejections it means you’re doing the right work, keep sending stuff out and don’t be afraid of talking about it


Writers get rejected constantly, no matter the point of their career they are at. In fact, getting rejected is a good thing: it means you are producing and sending writing out to the world. And this is already a big accomplishment.

The thing with rejections – they can be uncomfortable, irritating, sad… we don’t generally like to talk about them. We are used to sharing our successes – but the rejections? Who wants to share those?

That said, if you were to meet with a group of writers and started sharing your rejection stories, everyone would be able to add their own. What is more, by talking about the experience of being rejected with peers we realise that our experiences are far from uncommon – and it helps to know we are not the only ones struggling to find a place for a piece we care about.

In this episode, Inés talks about how she started sharing her rejection stories with her writing community – and how this helped demystify them. They are all not that special – everyone gets them!

Listen to this extract to find advice on:

  • Sharing rejections with your peers.
  • Rejections as part of the writing process.

Connect with Inés:

Twitter Instagram

The Wandering Bard podcast is also available on Spotify. You can also find us on Twitter at @TheWBmag.

EP. 30 | CHARLEY BARNES ON rejections as a first time writer

The one thing that I felt I handled well were all the rejections to the book, but I think the reason why was because I wasn’t yet seriously considering myself as a writer. Rejection felt inevitable.

charley barnes

When Charley Barnes got ready to publish her first-ever novel – Intention, a psychological thriller – she had no expectations whatsoever. In fact, she was the first one surprised to see that she managed to find a publisher in less than a year.

When we start our writing careers, it is not unusual to expect more than acceptances (and it is no wonder, since novel writers have to get through many rejections before landing their first publishing contract). However, you can see this as Charley did: an opportunity to explore different avenues for your book (finding an agent, traditional publishing, indie publishing, etc.) And above all, don’t despair! Every rejection is a step closer to that final acceptance.

Listen to this extract to find advice on:

  • Unpacking rejections as the start of your writing career
  • Having a laid-back attitude towards rejections in writing

Connect with Charley:

Website / Twitter / Instagram

EP. 29 | caitlin stobie on nice rejections 

With my poetry collection… I’d send it to places and they’d say it wasn’t quite right but then they would give some really nice feedback… and that’s what kept me going, because they actually took the time to tell me that so that probably is a good sign.

caitlin stobie

In this episode, writer and scholar Caitlin Stobie talks about the start of her writing career and how rejection felt ‘crushing’ but, at times, it could also be encouraging.

We have all felt lost at the beginning trying to place our first poem or the first piece of prose fiction in a magazine or a publisher. But we all also have at least one rejection that was encouraging and showed us we were on the right path. Sometimes, these kinds of rejections can be even more inspiring than acceptances.

What is the ‘best’ rejection that you have ever received?

At the time, rejection always feels crushing, especially if it’s something where you think you actually stand a chance.

caitlin stobie

Listen to this extract to find advice on:

  • Handling rejection as a starting writer
  • Recognising the ‘nice’ rejections – and using them to keep working on a project
  • The value of rejections

Connect with Caitlin:

Website / Instagram

The Wandering Bard podcast is also available on Spotify. You can also find us on Twitter at @TheWBmag.

EP. 28 | ROB M FRANCIS ON the rejection limbo

The thing that bothers me most about rejection are the publishers and editors that don’t bother with replying to the writers that have put their heart and soul into something and sent it off… the other thing that is quite frustrating about the experience is that of time. It can take as long as six months or even longer in some occasions to get a rejection. You’re in this kind of weird limbo.

rob m francis

One of the most frustrating parts about sending your writing out is waiting (often many months) before knowing if publishers want to give the work a chance or not. Yes, the publishing industry moves at a glacial pace (since writing the book is the first in a series of long and complex steps to get it on bookshops, especially if you are going the traditional route). But waiting months to hear a rejection (or getting silence as the only answer) is actually a very common experience for all sorts of writers. Welcome to (in Rob’s words) the writing limbo.

Listen to this extract to find advice on:

  • Facing rejection at the start of your writing career (hint: you’ll have to get used to it!)
  • Good practice as an editor handling rejections.

Connect with Rob:

Website / Twitter

The Wandering Bard podcast is also available on Spotify. You can also find us on Twitter at @TheWBmag.

EP. 27 | lisa blower on rejection and class

What I have realised is that publishing is a class issue and a lot of the people reading me are of a different class to what I’m reflecting and certainly the voice I often write in… and so when the rejection comes it really frustrates me because is not the writing they’re rejecting, it’s the class I’m reflecting.

lisa blower

In this episode, Lisa discusses her experience with rejection. By taking a glance at her incredible career (an ample list of prestigious awards, two novels out with prestigious publishers…) one may think she’s not one used to dealing with rejection. But truth is, Lisa’s publishing journey has been a complex one (as it tends to happen to many of us!) with a fair share of rejections.

What is more, Lisa suggests that sometimes, when you write from a perspective that is not mainstream, your writing may get automatically rejected because the gatekeepers can’t see themselves reflected in your stories.

This is an issue that affects many authors in all sorts of genres – read here this sharp article by J K Nemisin. The publishing industry needs to change, so let’s persevere and keep knocking at the doors no matter how many rejections we may face!

Connect with Lisa:

WebsiteTwitter / Instagram

The Wandering Bard podcast is also available on Spotify. You can also find us on Twitter at @TheWBmag.

EP. 26 | yvonne battle-felton on rejection is not about you

Rejection is not about you. Part of it it’s about that piece, that story, that poem, that book. But it’s also about them and what they can and can’t see, and about what they can and can’t market, who they can and can’t target.  

yvonne battle-felton

Perhaps some writers believe that one reaches a certain point in their career when they are established enough and stop receiving rejections – only acceptances, commissions, money and praise come their way! While this may be the dream of many of us, truth is, won’t ever happen. Your writing won’t be loved by absolutely every human being on this Earth.

What is more, and as Yvonne Battle-Felton suggests in this episode, we need to stop taking rejections personally. Getting a short story rejected doesn’t mean being kicked out of the writing community. Doesn’t even mean we are not good writers! Writers get rejected constantly, it’s simply part of the journey.

If you get a rejection letter, see it as a confirmation that you are doing the work you should. And if it is a rejection from a place you love – do like Yvonne – and celebrate!

I’ll always remember the first time I submitted something to The New Yorker and it was rejected and I was like, yeah, I got a rejection from The New Yorker, that’s pretty cool, and I was talking to a really good friend of mine, who is not a writer, and she was like, oh my gosh, what are you gonna do? Are you gonna stop writing? And I’m like, what are you talking about? They don’t send rejections to everybody… this is great!

yvonne battle-felton

Connect with Yvonne:

Website / Twitter / Instagram / Facebook

The Wandering Bard podcast is also available on Spotify. You can also find us on Twitter at @TheWBmag.