John McPhee: “For 14 years every article he submitted to the New Yorker was rejected.”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of writer John McPhee. born in 1931 in Princeton, New Jersey. He has written about canoes, geology, tennis, nuclear energy, and the Swiss army….

In high school, McPhee’s English teacher required her students to write three compositions a week, each accompanied by a detailed outline, and the students had to read them out loud to the class. Ever since he took that class, McPhee has carefully outlined all his written work, and has read out loud to his wife every sentence he writes before it is published.

McPhee’s goal was to write for The New Yorker, but every article he submitted was rejected by the magazine for 14 years. Then, in 1962, McPhee got a phone call from his father about a college basketball player at Princeton. McPhee went to see him play and decided to write a profile of the young man, Bill Bradley. That was the first article McPhee published in The New Yorker, and it also became McPhee’s first book, A Sense of Where You Are.

McPhee has published more than 35 books, even though he rarely writes more than 500 words a day. He once tried tying himself to a chair to force himself to write more, but it didn’t work. He said, “People say to me, ‘Oh, you’re so prolific.’ God, it doesn’t feel like it — nothing like it. But, you know, you put an ounce in a bucket each day, you get a quart.”

His most recent book is The Patch.

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