My grandmother’s house in Atlantic City… this white and pink house a block away from the ocean… you just went in and it felt like home. Whenever I’m thinking about writing or where I feel both safe and comfortable enough to create and imagine anything that’s possible… I go back to that place, that house… When I think about my literary home is that house that’s no longer there.
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.
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.
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.
‘I remember the ocean was as flat as the ship’s deck when the masters appeared. I saw their flag, but at the time I didn’t know what it meant. You know the one, white and red. We were all so scared. I understood later it was the Cross of the Order of Christ, the Empire’s divine right to the spice trade. We were coming from India when they sunk the ship, but not before putting me and a few others in crates.’ A sigh. ‘My sarcophagus. I was reborn inside it.’
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.
The thing that bothers me most about rejection are the publishers and editors that don’t bother with replying to the…
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.
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!
[Being a writer you need] to take care of yourself… because writing can be really hard… for my writing I deal with topics such as PTSD and trauma and that affects you mentally as well…. Having a daily exercise routine is also important [to support your writing routine]. I practice yoga and go for walks.