Rachel Riendeau Hayes: “You will have more rejections than acceptance”

I would like more people to support the arts. Many people do without realizing it by watching movies, reading books, going to museums. I would like folks to be more aware of how many jobs the arts supply and support artists, small and big, famous or not. Read more articles online, shop small businesses, see […]

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I would like more people to support the arts. Many people do without realizing it by watching movies, reading books, going to museums. I would like folks to be more aware of how many jobs the arts supply and support artists, small and big, famous or not. Read more articles online, shop small businesses, see regional theater and independent films. Many people rely on the arts for comfort and I would like them to be more aware of how crucial arts programs are for young children as well as adults who rely on them to exist for their careers and support them anyway they are able to.

As a part of our interview series with the rising stars in pop culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Riendeau Hayes.

Rachel Riendeau Hayes is a writer and actor living in New York City with her husband and two cats. Inspired by the magic in the stories she grew up with, she writes original fairy tales, retellings of folklore, and suspenseful flash fiction. She also runs a successful blog on her website where she writes about living with anxiety, city life and her creative process and experiences. Rachel believes a walk under the trees can help cure any sadness, pumpkins should be considered friends, and a museum holds more secrets than can be discovered in a lifetime.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been a writer. When I was little, I wrote short stories, the majority of them being horror stories, and poetry. I was focused on acting as my main career path and writing was consistently there when I needed it. I loved telling stories, making up worlds, creating characters both onstage and in writing. My best friend and I ran a blog for several years where we told stories from growing up as well as sharing our thoughts on a variety of topics. It was a fun way for us to stay connected and be creative. That is what sparked the interest in doing this on a more full time basis.

I started my own blog back in 2015 when I had moved out of the city briefly to document what it was like to live in a smaller pond. It was a way to share my struggles and experiences. It began as something for me to help me handle the process of leaving behind my home and it grew into something that spoke to other people. I made connections with my writing and it was absolutely wonderful. Not only was it healing to get it out on a page but it became a little community where I stopped feeling alone. It turned into what it is today when I moved back to New York and I began pursuing other writing endeavors as acting had taken a back seat. I started submitting to publications and gathering information on how to become more of a freelance writer.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

I submitted a short story to a publication that I was certain it would get into. When the rejection came, I was shocked. This was early on when I started submitting consistently and though as an actor, I am used to rejection, my writing was fragile and personal. However, this rejection came with feedback from the editor. It was actually incredibly helpful thoughts and made me realize that even if my story was rejected, it was read and considered. The thoughts helped me shape the narrative a bit better and I am grateful for it even though it came in a disappointing package. I think it is interesting how rejections can be useful and propel you forward even if it doesn’t seem like that is their purpose. They are something every writer has to experience and they only help you get better.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Reading submission guidelines! I’ve made so many mistakes sending horror stories to the wrong publications and receiving rejections back saying “Um, well, this was good but our theme this month is the beauty of a garden and this is about a killer horse?” I would plow through submission requests without reading requirements or themes and just send my stories along. It’s the most surefire way to get rejected, that I learned! Read what the publications are looking for and if you don’t have something that fits, move onto the next!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am working on my first novel. It is a fantasy tale of dark and light magic and how edging towards the dark doesn’t equal evil. I’ve built an entirely original world and magic system which was an absolute blast to do as a lover of fantasy and fairy tales. I’m currently in my third draft and looking forward to welcoming beta readers later this year.

I am also working on a collection of short stories. The past several months I have been writing stories based on folklore such as selkies, kelpies, the Wendigo, and the Jersey Devil. I’d like to put them into a collection for publication at some point. I posted them on my blog for the time being before I revisit them to edit, rewrite sections if need be and construct the collection hopefully for publication.

My Finding Magic bi-weekly newsletter was something I started this year. In it, I share new writing, ideas for how to find magic on a daily basis, updates on my novel, and other recommendations for movies, books, music, anything that sparks joy and helps others discover there is wonder in the everyday.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I’ve met many writers in several different writing communities that have truly filled my heart and helped fuel my confidence. Nanowrimo, Instagram, and Medium are the top three places I’ve been able to connect to other writers. They are all insanely supportive communities of published and self published authors who share their process, content, and engage honestly with each other. I’ve learned so much from hearing about their editing, rewrites, ideas, aesthetic boards, and tons of other tricks I would have never been exposed to.

Other fantasy authors are the most interesting to me. There are several I’ve been engaging with and it blows my mind how different our worlds we made are though they are all collected in the same genre. It gives me such confidence and love for writing, knowing there is enough space for everyone to share their talents.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I would say write for yourself and not for others. I say this and I fall victim to writing for others all the time. It is incredibly difficult not to focus on what a reader would want and what would sell, be popular, etc. I fail often at trusting my readers and luckily find that when I go back to edit. My most popular non-fiction pieces have been when I’ve felt strongly about a certain topic. I wrote a piece about Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones and how the last season of the show should have treated her better. It was featured heavily on Medium and I wrote it because I was filled with such rage over this character I deeply love and never thought, “Oh, this is timely, this will be popular, this will sell.” I wrote it to get it out. Write for yourself. Write because you have to get it out.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

I am by no means successful in this career yet so failure is always looming. With writing and with acting, you do it because you love it. I am not me without these two career paths. They are what runs in my veins and I have to do them because it is what I was meant to do. I’m a storyteller. Failure will happen to everyone at some point. It is unavoidable. It is part of the process of any creative field. If you feel you have to do something like this like I feel I have to tell stories, don’t let failure scare you. You know the monster, name it and keep going. Failure only stops you briefly; success is always on the other side.

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

Living with anxiety, I’ve learned different tricks to cope and make sure I take time to rest and refocus. Writing, specifically journaling, helps me immensely. I also find mediation, yoga, and walking in the woods (hard to do in a city so parks are your friend!) helpful to relax.

I have this thing I call a reset day. You could also call it a mental health day. During this chosen day, I remove all stressful things from my schedule. Deadlines, job applications, the news, etc. I spend the day doing things I love: watching familiar movies, eating my favorite foods, staying in bed if I choose to, reading and writing. I let the world slip away and listen to what my body needs, completely resetting and refueling. When the world was open, I’d go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I am a member and wander the vast halls, listening to music, and exploring. I’ve been a thousand times and there is always a new room or painting or sculpture to discover. Fill a day with things you love and your brain will be happier.

Walking in the woods has helped a ton during the pandemic. Whenever I feel anxious or stressed, I go outside. Something about the air, the sun, the trees and birds, I can get lost in it and everything melts away for a bit. The woods, or a park, is always healing.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

– You will have more rejections than acceptance. I definitely still have more rejections than anything else and still get disappointed when things don’t get selected.

– Something that means a lot to you may not mean a lot to everyone. I write a lot of personal essays and stories and ones I think will be popular and shared widely aren’t. It’s hard when I’m so connected to them to remember that doesn’t mean others will be.

– Writing is not lucrative. I knew this but it is always good to be reminded. You do it for love, not for money.

– Make your own work. This goes for acting and writing. When I stopped relying on others to determine my success, I became more successful. A short film my husband and I wrote and shot, entitled Pillow Talk, ended up winning big at a Vermont film festival and several festivals around the country. Stop waiting for someone to discover you; put yourself out there so you’re easier to spot.

– Have a good support system of fellow writers. It is wonderful to be a part of the writing community and have peers to reach out to with questions and learn from others experiences. Do not view others writers as competition; the world is big enough for us all.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings”- The Little White Bird, J.M. Barrie.

I have always loved the story of Peter Pan and The Little White Bird is his first appearance. I remember reading this quote and having it stick to my bones. It told me to always believe in myself and I can get through anything. To have that underlying faith that no matter how bad it gets, I can get back up again and fly. That quote is always on my mind when I write or perform. I just have to have faith and I can do anything.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would have to say my parents, my brother, and my husband. They’ve all been helpful to me. My mother always told me I should be a writer and both my parents have been supportive in reading and sharing my work, buying me books on writing and sending me articles. My husband is endlessly supportive, reading my drafts and giving me notes.

A story that comes to mind is about my brother. I wrote a flash fiction story that was very Poe-esque and he liked it, asking if he could have a go at writing his own story inspired by it. He sent it to me and it was incredible, so different from mine yet in the same vein and it was brilliant to see how many stories can come from one idea. When I was complimenting him, he said he wasn’t like me: I am full of stories. I’ll never forget that as long as I live. I never realized how true that was until he said it. I do feel full of stories and that is why I write.

Another one is that my parents let me read books that I was probably too young for. I read Stephen King, Tolkien and Ray Bradbury before any other kid my age. My parents saw my interest and let it grow instead of limiting it because I was ‘too young’. I’m forever grateful for that.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would like more people to support the arts. Many people do without realizing it by watching movies, reading books, going to museums. I would like folks to be more aware of how many jobs the arts supply and support artists, small and big, famous or not. Read more articles online, shop small businesses, see regional theater and independent films. Many people rely on the arts for comfort and I would like them to be more aware of how crucial arts programs are for young children as well as adults who rely on them to exist for their careers and support them anyway they are able to.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Stephen King. He is one of my favorite writers and has been since I was little. My parents letting me read King’s short stories influenced me early on. I love his crafting of worlds and characters. How he can create tension, letting it rise and terrify and thrill you with just a few sentences. I’ve read his book On Writing twice now. It has so many dog eared pages and scribbled notes. It would be amazing to sit and talk with him in person. I am fascinated with how he comes up with ideas and has taken his guidance to heart in all my writing.

How can our readers follow you online?

My website, where you can find my blog and other writing. I also have a bi-weekly newsletter that you can sign up for at Follow me on Instagram @lepetiterenard and on Medium

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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