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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Rejection Letters from This American Life

Robin and Renee posted a challenge–share your rejection letters. I have two–both from This American Life. Apparently I don’t submit anywhere else, do I?

The first is from October 9, 2003. I submitted “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” Anyone who went to my workshop by the same name can guess–it is an essay about not losing my virginity time and time again.

Dear Leah,

Thank you for your recent submission to This American Life. I’m writing to say that the material you sent isn’t quite right for the show.

Please know that we reject a lot of material that’s perfectly good work but that simply doesn’t fit the idiosyncratic constraints of a radio show, or the idiosyncratic needs of This American Life.

Apologies for this form letter. Because we get so many unsolicited tapes and stories each week, and because our show is produced by such a small staff, we can’t respond individually to everyone who sends in material.

Thanks for your interest in the show.


Stacy Tiderington

It then took me until March 8, 2005 to have the balls to submit again. This time the idea was Making Aliyah–Voices of Judaism. Have you (all you jews reading this) noticed how different each voice is when somebody says the blessing over the Torah? How they pronounce Adonai (Adonoy)? The melody, the pitch, timbre? Behind every different blessing is a very different jewish story. I thought capturing the blessing with their jewish story would make for a nice This American Life.

This American Life didn’t agree, but there is a slighly different tone to this email. It is a personal rejection–notice the word subtle–they might have considered it more than the first before deciding it wasn’t right.

Hi Leah –

Thanks for sending your story idea. Unfortunately, it’s not quite right for us. Generally, we look for stories with strong narratives & strong characters in unusual or difficult situations who are trying to answer some question – with something at stake. This does seem like an interesting topic to document, but what you’re proposing seems extremely subtle and very inside a world that most people don’t know about and can’t relate to.

For more info on the types of stories that work best for us, check out our website:

Thanks for writing.


Wendy Dorr

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