Thursday, December 16, 2010

The God-Awful Truth About Fan Mail (And some good stuff too.)

You think that getting published might mean that you get some sweet fan mail, maybe even an outpouring. Well, in kid book world, you might be right. In adult book world, you might be wrong. Below is a recent real piece of fan mail for a real actual (precocious) child. But first, some skinny on fan mail.

Adult fans usually email the author to ask if said author would like to read the stranger's work. Often this is boxed and bowed as a delicious gift the stranger is going to give the author, as if the author isn't swamped with things to read at all times for various purposes so much so that said author fears early-onset blindness.

Sometimes adults write to find out who your agent is.

Sometimes they write in to complain that you haven't written THEIR life, and so they don't believe what you've written at all.

Sometimes they simply email to tell you grammatical errors because they can no longer read, in reality -- that part of their brain has shut down. They only know how to correct.

Sometimes they're insane. One woman wrote to tell me that she'd burned my book in the wood stove because of its cruelty to animals. Unless she beat a cat with my book, I couldn't imagine what cruelty to animals was in the book.

Sometimes the guy fan mail is creepy. "I love your orbs."

Sometimes they're last name's Baggott, too.

Do I exaggerate? I do a little.

There is sometimes an adult fan who writes in to tell you that your book touched them deeply, that it changed them in some way, that without being THEIR life, it resonated with their life and they're sending you an email to thank you for this. Honestly, these letters are usually for Bridget Asher

or an essay Baggott's written. The best -- well not fan mail but an outpouring of kind email I ever got was for this piece at Leaving the Church but not the Identity
which surely also made some enemies.

In fact, I've never been called worse things than in the comment boxes of The Boston Globe and The Washington Post ...

And just this week, I got an email from a woman whose mother had sang with Mel Torme when she was 19, and since I mention my grandmother singing with Mel in an essay in the current issue of Real Simple, she wanted to know if my grandmother might know her mother -- who's since passed away. Her mother is a mystery to her. Unfortunately, I couldn't help. My grandmother was only called up on stage to sing and not a back-up singer and has also passed. I wish I could have. I felt like I'd failed her.

BUT KID FAN MAIL? The ones who find me through You kidding me? My Prince of Fenway Park fans? This will keep you going. These kids are often so smart and funny that they restore my faith in humanity.

So here's a recent example:

Dear N.E. Bode,

Before I go into other things, (other things as in how I love your books, and am an adoring fan), I just want to make sure that you know that I am NOT writing a letter as long (or as rude) as your former Writing Teacher wrote to you after reading the Anybodies. I also want to make it clear that I'm not a sales-person,a spam writing person, or your former Writing Teacher. You don't have to read this, but I, at least, personally think that it would be very nice of you to read this letter. I'm just writing to tell you that I love your books. Well, actually, I can't say that I love your books. No, I can't, and that is because I haven't read all of them, (but am going to) so I can't truthfully say that I love them ALL! But I do love the Anybodies, the Nobodies, and the Somebodies. You might say to yourself, 'why am I getting a letter, and the only reason I'm getting it, is because the writer of this letter wants to tell me that they love my books?' and then you might think, 'I shouldn't be wasting my time reading this letter, because I have more important things to be doing.' And then you might think to yourself, 'what if this actually IS my former Writing Teacher, and, and, and' Let's get back to the point. . .

So, I wanted to tell you that you are the most wonderful writer, and that, no matter what your former Writing Teacher might say to you, *I believe, indeed*. In fact, I just now finished reading the Anybodies for the second time. Whenever I read your books, I feel like I'm in a whole other world. . . your writing is so magical that I can't put the book down. And, as you explained in the Anybodies, when I finished, I held the book, and sat there, half-way in now, and halfway with Fern, and the Bone, and Dorathea, etc. I sat there, just thinking, the brilliant awesome-ness floating around me, including in me. Well, all I have left to say is: Thank you for writing such wonderful books that I have thoroughly taken delight in, been captivated by, enchanted by, loved, adored, (you get the point). . .

I hope that your former Writing Teacher has not been bothering you lately.


a delighted, captivated, enchanted reader,


*see afterward in the Anybodies for more information on the phrase Who will believe? Who indeed!

End of Email.

And N.E. Bode's Response:

Dear Sunday -
I'm assuming that you are NOT my writing teacher (despite your protesting not to be my writing teacher which made me think you ARE my writing teacher but I've decided you're not because, well, you didn't say hideously mean and awful things, instead you said the opposite). So listen, Sunday -- as I will now refer to you regardless of whether or not this is your PEN name or not -- thank you so fantastically muchos (I had a Spanish teacher who did not speak Spanish so my Spanish is poor).

Sincerely AND I mean that,


And I sincerely DO mean that. Who wouldn't write for Sunday? And it's a matter of time before she's writing for us.