Today I opened my email and found not one, but THREE letters from young people who have been reading my books. Pasted below is one of them, but all three were equally wonderful.
hi.I am obsessed with your books. i just finished kats fall and it was the best book i have ever read. not many books keep me entertained through out the whole book but this one did. i loved it so much and now i am reading dancing naked and so far i love it. my mom and brother went to one of your workshop things and bought some of your books so when im done dancing naked i will read sun sighns. i just thought you should know that i loved you book and you should never ever stop writing because you have an amazing talent as a writer.from your #1 fan
I wish I could reach out and hug these girls. These letters mean SO much to me. As authors, we send our new books out into the world without any idea of how they will be received. Even in fiction we feel that we are exposing our souls to the world through our writing, and we wonder how the world will respond. There is always a long, painful 'nothingness' when they are first launched, and we think.... is anyone reading it? Do they hate it? And then the professional reviews start dribbling in. When they're good you want to scream Hallelujah! and dance naked in the moonlight. When they're bad you feel practically suicidal. There's nothing like waiting for reviews to expose your every insecurity. Anne Lamott describes the feeling perfectly in her book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. It's a 'must read' for all new writers.
It wasn't until I took up writing myself that it ever occurred to me to write and tell an author what their book meant to me. I have now written about a dozen fan-mail type letters to authors. I should have written dozens more. The professional reviews tell us what professional critics think of our stories, but hearing from our actual targeted audience is SO much better. I have a binder full of letters similar to the one above, and on those days when the writing is not going well and I wonder why I even bother... I just have to pull out the binder, read the letters, and I find the inspiration to continue writing.
Let's not stop at just telling authors how much we enjoyed their books. Let's tell our neighbours how much we enjoy gazing at their gardens, or the check-out clerk at the grocery store how we always choose their aisle because of their great smile or a special teacher how they inspire us. So often we assume that other people know what their strengths are, but we all need reminders. Go on. Do it. Make someone's day.