"Is it possible to gulp a book? That’s what I did . . . "
So began an email to me the other day. It was from a woman in Germany and had arrived at my website amid a flurry of spam.
We writers spend a lot of time worrying about, and looking at, our reviews. The ones that stick with us the most — at least from what I’ve observed — are the negatives, the nasties and disgruntleds.
But what about "fan" mail? Are those notes, the ones that readers take the time to compose and send us, worth less? Sure, they’re private. They’re not printed in newspapers or posted on Amazon, but why don’t we celebrate them more?
When I get one of these lovelies, it’s like a piece of candy that lasts and lasts. I even have a file where I put these gifts. On days when things are bad, when I wonder what the hell I’m doing trying to write, I go to that file and feel vastly better.
I also write fan mail. I’ve been sending notes since middle school. My first letter was to Leonard Bernstein. He didn’t respond and I didn’t care. I wanted to thank him for his musical Mass. In the ensuing 35+ years, I’ve thanked too many authors to count; a couple of movie stars; musicians; a talk show host or two (I sent a huge one to David Letterman for demonstrating such respect for writers during the WGA strike); and a few cartoonists. Some have responded — Madeleine L’Engle, Lois McMaster Bujold, Lynn Johnston. Some haven’t. Who knows if every one of my thank-yous even arrived on the targeted person’s desk?
It doesn’t matter to me. The important thing is to be grateful and to express that gratitude to the people who’ve evoked it. Call it increasing the quotient of good vibes in the world.
Back to the mail I’ve received: Every note, letter and email makes me feel wonderful. More than any positive printed review, these heartfelt and personal communications mean a tremendous amount to me. They’re the reason I write for publication rather than keeping my manuscripts to myself.
So today, let’s talk fan mail
1. Have you ever written a fan letter? To whom? Why?
2. Have you ever wanted to write one, but didn’t know how or where to find the person? (I’ve wanted to write Alice Hoffman for years. Maybe contacting her publicists would work . . .)
3. Is there someone from history you’d like to thank?
4. Writers: what’s the best fan letter you’ve ever received?
It’s Monday. Most people complain of the blahs. Join this conversation today and let’s see if we can generate enough great feelings to carry us all through the rest of the week.