Occasionally, my favorite moments of an author interview are the ones that don’t entirely make it into print. With Debbie Macomber, the cover star of the January 2017 Writer’s Digest, the moment came when the conversation turned to rejection.
Read any interview with Macomber, and you’ll see how relatable her early experiences with those dreaded form letters were. She’s famously quipped that they used to come so fast, they’d hit her on the back of the head on her way in from putting her submissions in the flag-up mailbox. In her WD Interview, she says this:
“[Before] my first published book, every time I got a rejection, I would force myself to read another chapter in The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. There were days it felt like there weren’t enough chocolate chip cookies in the world to get through another rejection, you know. And I wrote him a letter to thank him for writing that, and tell him how it helped me get through the rejections, and he wrote me back. I have to tell you, that had a profound effect on me.”
When we had that conversation in real time, I sat with the phone pressed to my ear, staring out the window at the traffic below and feeling a bit chagrined. As a writer myself, I knew just what she meant about the cookies—but I was awestruck by her positive approach, combatting every no with an instant, if forced, reaffirmation that we must believe that yes will come.
“Wow. You know …” I began, debating whether I should say what was on my mind. What the heck, I thought. “That’s way healthier than my approach. I wrote a novel that never sold, and back when I was getting flooded with rejections, I had a rule that every time one came in, I got to have a glass of wine that night. It never occurred to me to write a thank-you note to Turning Leaf …”
She burst out laughing. A genuine, hearty laugh.
“I wonder if they would have written back?” I mused. (Though what I was really thinking was, I wonder if they would have sent a few courtesy bottles, to help the cause?)
We got a little off track from there, laughing and trading stories before returning to the Q&A. But you know what? That’s when the interview got real. I felt as if I got to meet the real Debbie Macomber that day, off the page. She was fun, funny, and generous. Later in the call, she took the time to offer encouragement to me from a writing/work/life balance standpoint, and to all writers struggling to pursue a dream while remaining firmly grounded in reality. You can find that advice in these online exclusive outtakes, where Macomber also talks more about the importance of connecting with other writers.
If you like what you read, pick up the January 2017 Writer’s Digest for a full helping of Debbie Macomber’s warm brand of wisdom, and a whole host of other articles to help you start a new year of writing on a positive, right-thinking note. With this issue in hand, I can almost guarantee that there are enough chocolate chip cookies in the world.
And if all else fails, there’s always a glass of wine. Or a handwritten letter. Whatever keeps you going.
Learn more about WD Editorial Director Jessica Strawser’s own debut novel, ALMOST MISSED YOU, now available to add to your Goodreads shelf or preorder from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your favorite online book retailer!)