“Rejection can be life sustaining if you look at it as fuel for the fire” – Bernice L. McFadden

 

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It’s not every time you get to talk to a writer who has authored nine critically acclaimed books, including SugarThe Warmest DecemberGathering of Waters (one of The New York Times Editors’ Choice Books of 2012), and Glorious, which was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and was a contender for the NAACP Image Award. This writer, Bernice L. McFadden is a three time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of multiple awards from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA). 

Isn’t that AMAZING? 

If you have ever been rejected as a writer, you need to read this interview. Bernice got seventy five rejection letters for one book!

You see why this interview originally published on Writers Write is a must read? Bernice shares her journey as a writer and there is a lot to learn from it.

Before the Book

My home life was very tumultuous. And I spent a lot of time in the library. That was a safe haven for me…I sought refuge in books and in writing…I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was about nine. I would steal my mother’s Jackie Collins books and mimic them. That was kind of like erotica. My mother would read this and be horrified. 

Enter the Agent

When I was about twenty-five I started submitting on a regular basis. I submitted Sugar for over ten years and got over seventy-five rejection letters….I didn’t give up because this was what I really wanted. I sent my first agent a query letter on February 9, Alice Walker’s birthday. A magical day for me…When I got an agent it took him two weeks to get me a two book deal.

Favorite Book You’ve Written

I love them all differently. If I had to pick I would say Sugar because it was my first. The Warmest December is also a favourite because it was about my family…Tony Morrison wrote a blurb for it, so that was a big thrill.

Describe Your Writing Process

I write and research at the same time…I’ll read things I that I find inspiring… I read a lot of poetry. I like lyrical passages. I spend a lot of time walking because a lot of the writing goes on in my head before I put it on paper. Today I walked so far I didn’t know where the hell I was. It’s a lot of research, a lot of reading and a lot of walking.

Knowing When a Novel is Finished

At the begging of my writing process I feel like I have people coming to visit. Like one or two people. When I am really engrossed in the writing my house is full…All I’m doing is recording what I hear. As I get close to the end my house starts to empty out. It feels melancholy and lonely without the character’s voices.

Hardest Sentence, First or Last

…The first sentence. It’s always tough getting started. Even though I’ve been doing this for eighteen years when I sit down to start a new project I’m a novice again. I’m unsure.

Advice for Writers

People feel that rejection is a horrible thing. Rejection can be life sustaining if you look at it as fuel for the fire. You should think, “I’ll show you.” It’s your dream and you should have it. Your time will come…Learn, acquire the skill. Your time will come. 

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