Monday, January 11, 2010

Letter From Readers

Letters from readers are not usually why writers write. Most writers are surprised to hear from readers. We are inundated with facts about how bloated the publishing market is and we can plainly see how many books are for sale on Amazon so it can be startling when a letter arrives from a reader with so much competition out there. I hesitate to call them fans, because some letters from readers express differing opinions or complaints, but readers’ letters can literally make a writer’s day go from bad to excellent. Just knowing that someone has noticed your work will energize your writing for months!

I recently received a letter in the mail from a young visitor to my website who asked me how she, a twelve year old, could become a better writer. She appreciated my list of “21 Steps To Writer Wellness” posted on the site ( but wanted more.
At first blush, my response is that writers are born not evolved, but that isn’t entirely true. If this girl is compelled at age twelve to ask me how to become a better writer, she is already on the right track. Somehow she knows now that writing is her destiny. I could have told her about the lack of money a writer lives on, or how the average writer doesn’t have health insurance, or how difficult getting into print can be, or what overbearing manic depressives some editors can be, but instead I typed a return letter with ideas and books to read about becoming a writer.

Obviously her letter made an impression on me. I receive letters and emails about my book at a regular trickle. They say something nice and then ask for something. Sometimes I can help. Other times I cannot. As I mentioned, just getting the letter can buoy my creative spirit and keep me trudging through this most solitary of occupations for many months.

And then there is the unusual “letter” I received recently from a reader who intended to send me a letter (I think) and never got around to it. She made notes and wrote questions for me in the margins of my book Writer Wellness, A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity and I found it in a box at a church used book sale! Yes, I bought my own book back for one dollar but it was crammed full of this wonderful woman’s handwriting and plans. What a treasure her notes and comments are to me today and what an amazing sensation to reread my book while reading her notes. I imagined her sitting across the table talking to me as she studied my ideas and the two of us coming up with a plan to put the ideas into motion to help her write her memoir, but her handwriting in my book is the only connection I have to her. It’s a connection worth writing for.
Have you ever written a letter to an author? Did you get a response? Have you thought about what you would say to a fan if you received an uncomplimentary letter about something you had written? Would this interfere with your desire to write?

What I'm reading: 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt
What are you reading?

Be well, write well.
Joy Held


  1. Mom, I am very amused that you found your book in a used book sale at a church, and even more amused that you bought it. At first I'd be a bit dissapointed myself, but upon finding the treasure within I'd be just as overjoyed as you must have been.

    The story about the twelve year old writer struck up a memory from when I was a twelve year old writer. I don't remember what you told me but it must have had some effect because I'm still writing and consider it a passion of mine to this day. Whatever you said to me, say to her, and it will guide her in a direction to a healthy writing life.

    I am also very impressed you are blogging, I will follow your posts with anticipation. I love you, Big Daughter.

  2. Daughter, I remember a letter you received from an author when you were about twelve years old. Remember this?
    BLOOD AND THUNDER ON HURICANE PEAK by Margaret Mahy is your favorite book to this day isn't it? It was the first time you expressed the desire to connect with an author beyond reading the book. And what a grand letter she returned, remember? I thought of that when I received the letter from my own young reader. I hope I helped.

    You didn't have a chance NOT to write. Think about it. Between me and Sandy, you had to be an adult before you realized that not everyone was a writer!

    Writing is how your soul makes itself heard.