Thursday, August 6, 2009

Have you ever written a letter to a favorite author?

I have no photo for this post, which I know means exponentially fewer people will actually read all the words. C'est la vie.

I have often contemplated writing a letter to a favorite author. In fact, I have two specific authors in mind, both of whom are rather famous. One of them is even known to write with a fountain pen! I always thought, oy, they probably get absolute nutters writing to them all the time, and their publisher won't even forward the letter to them, etc etc. And it's not that I'm expecting a response at all, but I DO hope my words would reach them. But, through a lovely twist of fate, I am writing to a published author now whose books I've actually not yet read (though his latest sounds quite interesting, and I do intend to read it - you can check out his blog at bentpage.wordpress.com and get info on his books from there); I started writing to him through the fountain pen network, as we are both fountain pen aficionados, and his letters have become among my most interesting and cherished ones. (Gee, a professional writer who writes great letters: go figure!) Anyhoo, I just got another letter from him yesterday, and he answered my question in greater depth about what it's like to receive a letter from a reader, from the perspective of a bona fide published author. And he really encouraged me to go ahead and write those letters. I actually think I will, though I know I'm going to take ages and ages to craft them *just so*...

I haven't often turned questions on to my blog readers, but I will do so now, since you are all such an interesting and erudite bunch. Have any of you written letters to favorite authors? What has the experience been like for you? Have any of them actually [gasp] written back?

14 comments:

  1. Writing a letter to a well-known author and having them respond back is something akin to the lottery: You know you probably won't get it, so you don't even bother. To that effect, it really never seriously occurred to me to write to a favorite author! (Well, it did once, when I was younger, but I realized that they'd probably be swamped with fan mail and didn't want to bother them).

    What's it like for him, getting letters from readers? Flattering? Annoying? Time-consuming? I think my biggest worry is, like I said earlier, bothering them.

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  2. I wrote a book that was a Book-of-the-Month selection almost ten years ago. I hardly have a bunch of fans but I will say this: I hated getting letters or emails from people who wanted me to a) find them a publisher or b) read their work and comemnt or c) write blurbs for their books or d) find them a job doing x, y, or z. Maybe if they had greased the wheels a bit...

    I got about 50 of those and then I got about 3 letters from people who honestly liked my book and who did not seem to have any wish for me to do something for them. Guess which letters I answered?

    And then there's the person who has copied a lot of my book onto her blog without providing me credit and who never answered when I wrote to say "Hey...I wrote that?!" "Do you want me to send Viking Penguin after you?"

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  3. I wrote to Jo Dereske, author of Miss Zukas mystery series, after I found out she had been "retired" by her publisher to tell her how sorry I was to hear that. She sent me a lovely thank you note and included a library checkout card that listed all the books in the series. BTW, the character Miss Zukas is a librarian. It was a lovely surprise!

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  4. I have not hand written an author the old fashioned way but not along ago I found Anna Rice on Facebook and emailed let through the website and she ansswered back. And if you forgot dear Ilona, I may not be a well know famous author yet but I am an author of two published books and you write to me. :)

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  5. PS. I know what the last person who post a response here means I am an author and I get messages on line from some people who want ton thrust their work on me or edit their work or get them in with a publisher. I don't mind reccomending my publisher to them but the rest is assumptious. Once not long ago this woman wanted me to see her work and when I refused gracious she said here is my advice to best way to get people interested in your work is to be interested in theirs. I say who says?!

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  6. Only once did I write to an author to tell her know how much I enjoyed her books. Never heard anything back which would have been fine if she hadn't claimed to answer all her fan mail. (I haven't been as big a fan of hers since.)

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  7. Great subject for a post, Ilona! I have heard from two of the three authors I wrote to. Bill Bryson sent a nice postcard (which I must find and put in my scrapbook) and Minette Walters sent a nice thank you. Both of these have been a few years ago, but I am planning to write to 2 others. I'm a HUGE book fan and really appreciate a book that pulls me in while I'm reading it and continues to haunt my thoughts when I am done. Hannah Tinti wrote 'The Good Thief' and Barbara Kingsolver wrote 'Poisonwood Bible'. Those are my next two. I'll be anxious to hear how you fare with your fan mail. Keep us posted!
    Jackie
    www.lettersandjournals.blogspot.com

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  8. My husband wrote to Billy Collins (US Poet Laureate) after he used his poem "The Lanyard" in my mother-in-law's eulogy. Mr. Collins wrote a great note back to him. It was a bright spot in a dark time.

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  9. You know, I always meant to write to my favorite author, Madeleine L'Engle, but then while I was in freshman orientation at my college someone said, "Isn't that the author that died last week?" My face fell and he apologized a million times. Ever since I've been trying to figure out who else I'd write to and what I'd write. Just to let them know someone appreciates them.

    I'm also a fan of sending elected representatives letters, but in that case I don't know what I'd say. You need to write short and to the point in those kind of letters. I'm good at elaborating, awful at brevity.

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  10. I wrote just an e-mail to my favourite author when I was 8. She, Angela Sommer-Bodenburg, wrote "The little vampire" books and I loved them! I ask her if she plans to write another book. She answers a few days later. :) Her books changed my life.

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  11. Hi Ilona,
    As you know I haven't written to a famous author but I did write a letter to a famous Actor.... And he sent me a signed photograph on which he wrote a Thank You and my name. So that was pretty special to me.

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  12. I just came across a response to a review in Time magazine that I wrote back in high school in the early 70's! I don't even remember the film I was disagreeing with the critic's review of.

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  13. My brothers and I have had remarkable success with this writing-to-authors business, especially my brother Jeff, who has had extended correspondence with a few. It doesn't work every time, but we try to say something worth reading -- not just what is said, but also in how it is said. I'm sure many authors get enough of the begging letters that a real letter of this sort stands out. My most recent delight was when I sent a fairly casual, but humorous, email to Alan Furst, and he replied in kind. Neither email was more than three sentences, but both were amusing. I love Alan Furst's work, and am still, a year later, so pleased every time I think about how he took the time to answer.

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  14. In reference to Stephanie's comment about writing to elected officials, and only tangentially related to the original post --

    I have the STRONG urge to write to elected officials as well (not just my local officials, but ones on the national scene), usually after I read the news and get all worked up about something. I fully realize that the kind of letter I would write in this situation (You're-an-idiot-and-I really-think-it's-time-for-you-to-step-down) would be labeled as nothing more than the rantings of a crackpot (which, on one level, would be a fair assessment, I suppose). I just know that sometimes, just the thought of writing such a letter makes me feel a whole lot better. Should this fall into the category of "unsent letters"?

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