Poets & Writers

Rejection Slips

DANIEL WALLACE is the J. Ross MacDonald Distinguished Professor of English at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where he directs the creative writing program. He is the author of six novels, including Big Fish (Algonquin Books, 1998) and, most recently, Extraordinary Adventures (St. Martin’s Press, 2017).

MY FIRST time? November 29, 1984. It was the third story I’d ever written and, like the other two, was brooding and mannered and obscure, the work of a young writer writing the way he thought writers wrote. I was confident about that story, though. At six pages, it was the longest one I’d ever written, capacious by my standards, the perfect story to send to the best magazine in the world. I had a pretty good feeling that the New Yorker was going to buy it, publish it, and I was going to be on my way. I was twenty-five years old.

Before I say what I’m about to say I need to say this: I’m a lucky writer. I’ve published six novels, most recently , which was, my first novel, was a best-seller and was adapted into a Tim Burton film and then a Broadway musical, and my other books have been published to “critical acclaim”—which means they didn’t sell as well as the first one. My books have taken me all over the world; I’ve had a wonderful time, and I hold not even the smallest grudge toward anybody.

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