Submission Sunday 2.25.24 The Rejection Interview with Tamara MC

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SS: Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview, Tamara! Would you say that you fear rejection? Why or why not? 

TMC: I’ve never been terribly afraid of rejection. Anything that didn’t come into my life wasn’t meant to. Life would be overwhelming if everything was a yes, if everything I wanted or wished for came my way. Yes, you can have 20 pink Barbie limos. Yes, you can take home every stray you’ve ever seen in your whole life. Yes, you can sleep and cuddle with hundreds of cows in your twin-sized bed. Now that would be overwhelm! Thank goodness, I never got a yes to my high school crush, who I recently saw on Facebook. He’s not nearly as cute as I remember.   

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SS: What does literary rejection mean to you? 

TMC: Literary rejection means one of two things. My piece is not right for this publication/publisher/editor… at this moment in time. Or two, my work isn’t up to par yet. I still have more to do on the craft of writing or in telling this particular story. 


SS:What’s a rejection that you mourned at the time but now are grateful for? 

TMC: I sent out a query for my memoir, Child Bride: Married in a Sufi Cult, to my dream agent in 2016. I was in shock when he responded within minutes. We went back and forth, but in the end, he didn’t sign me. I was devastated at the time, but fast forward seven years—I’m thrilled. Since querying him, I’ve graduated from two separate yearlong memoir programs, Grub Street’s “Memoir Incubator” and Story Studio Chicago’s “Memoir in a Year.” I’ve also taken countless classes, rewrote my memoir 1,220,345 times, and have built an amazing literary community. 

I am a helluva stronger writer now. I wasn’t ready in 2016. Nor was my story hatched in 2016. I needed to study structure and storytelling more. I needed more therapy. More time and distance, despite my story having taken place over 25 years prior. There really are no timelines in the game of writing. There is an old Yiddish adage, which translates to, “We plan, and God laughs.” Living the writing life is an unpredictable road. But we signed up for it because we’re still here kicking. There is nothing else I’d rather do. I don’t have a Plan B, so it’s go big or go home. 

A lot of the process of publishing writing is about giving up control. This doesn’t mean we don’t work our a$$es off, but rather, we grind while also leaving space for mayhem and mystery. 

The “Writing Angel” decides when a story is ready. No sooner. Make friends with her. 


SS:What’s a literary rejection that still bothers you? 

TMC: Each rejection I’ve received (probably in the thousands) weren’t meant to be… yet. “Yet” is the keyword. I’ve learned to be patient. Each piece comes into the world when the piece is ready, and equally important, when the world is ready for the piece. When our personal timeline collides with the world’s timeline, a synchronicity ignites. Poof. Writing takes time, and I have accepted that some of my writing will likely take a lifetime. Or beyond. 

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SS:Please fill in the blank and then elaborate: People don’t think often enough about the relationship between rejection and ______________. 

TMC: Living. Rejection is part of life. Brené Brown says, “Daring greatly is being brave and afraid every minute of the day at the exact same time.” Life is about rejection. We will fail and fail again. We will also persevere and persevere again. How are we here? Our ancestors endured for our survival. All of our lives are successes, pure miracles. 

Diana Nyad, the marathon swimmer who swam from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida at 64 (let that sink in—64!) tried four times before succeeding. It was only on her fifth attempt in 2013, she completed the 102 miles in 53 hours in the open sea, her eyes nearly swollen shut from the salt water. When coming to shore, she had three messages for everyone. “One is we should never give up. Two is you are never too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.” These messages pertain to us as writers. 

Nyad had an uncompromising vision, never letting go of her dream. We have to be willing to battle sharks, boxed jellyfish, and frigid temperatures to arrive beat up but triumphant.  


SS:What’s something you’re avoiding because you don’t want to be rejected? 

TMC: I am ready to begin querying my memoir Child Bride again. It still doesn’t feel 100% ready, but now I’m questioning, will it ever feel fully cooked? Rather than rejection, I combat perfectionism. I’m less fearful of rejection because I know it’s bound to happen, but we generally have one chance with an agent. I’ve spent several years making my list of top agents, so I guess I have FOROC, Fear Of Ruining My One Chance. 

I’m also considering querying my original dream agent again since the story has changed so much, and I have changed so much since I last wrote him over six years ago (I think this may be the exception to double querying). I will be a little crushed if I’m rejected by him twice. But again, not really. I know my perfect agent is out there somewhere . . . somewhere over the rainbow. Finding a literary agent is like finding a life partner or a best friend. It’s not a one-way relationship. Rather, there’s mutual respect and adoration. 


SS:What is something you have going on now or coming up soon that you’d like to cover in a rejection-proof supergel? 

TMC: I would love to cover my book proposal and memoir in rejection-proof supergel. I’ve put in the time and the dedication. My story is also very timely right now with all going on in the Middle East, so I don’t want to hold onto it much longer. What I really desire now is a partner in the process, and that’s the main reason I want to find a literary agent. I feel as if I’ve gone as far as I can go alone, which I’ve heard is a sign your work is ready to go out. But I’ve felt this before, and I still had more work to do, so I’ll see. The Writing Angel shall decide. 

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SS:What’s your favorite quote/saying/belief/song about rejection? 

TMC: “Sometimes I feel like my whole life has been one big rejection.” – Marilyn Monroe. 

If Marilyn Monroe saw her whole life as one big rejection, where does that leave us mere mortals? Rejection really is about perception. In our daily lives, we have so many more successes than failures. Today, for example, I stubbed my baby toe getting up in the morning. I can’t recall the last time I did this because it’s been so long. So, even though my little toe is throbbing, she hasn’t been in pain for at least 1,825 days (three years). I’d call that a win.  


SS:What advice would you give readers of this newsletter about facing literary rejection? 

TMC: Give yourself a time restraint for how long you’ll feel all the emotions—sadness, anger, frustration, etc., and then move on. Maybe this is easier said than done, but I find it helps. Yesterday, I had four literary rejections. Four! I had a rejection for an NEA fellowship I was hoping I’d get this year (I’ve applied several times). That one stung a bit. I read the email, sulked for about fifteen minutes, allowed myself to feel sad, but then I began preparing for what I’ll do differently two years from now. The prose cycle happens only once every two years. 

For me, it’s getting a rejection and then coming up with a plan. How can I improve? Next time, I hope to have even more pieces I’m proud to submit. But I also understand, my rejection might’ve had nothing to do with my writing but with what NEA was looking for at this moment in time. This year my application wasn’t right for this set of judges, but it may be later. I also have to be okay knowing I may never get an NEA grant, but I’m still willing to try with all my might. 

“Oh well,” I often hear myself saying. So much is out of our hands. I put forth my best work and then just wait and see. Upward and onward to us all!!! 


SS:We want to say yes to your work! What’s a way we can support you? 

TMC: You can support me in three ways: 1) If you love your literary agent, I’d love a referral. I’m happy to share more about my memoir with you if you send me a message on my website. 2) Sign up for my email list and be the first to know about my memoir. 3) Hire me to speak, consult, or teach about coercive control or gender-based violence (cults, child marriage, domestic violence, human trafficking, or polygamy). Please refer to my website for more information: 

Also, please be in touch if you’d like to collaborate in any way. I always love making new connections. Thanks so much for this opportunity to participate in The Rejection Interview series, Chris! 

Happy submitting. May the Writing Angel shower you in pixie dust. 

SS: To you, too! Thanks so much for your thoughtful answers! A word written in white paint on a wood surface  Description automatically generated

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