Monday, January 11, 2010

"And this is a delight."

by Lauren

Aspiring authors, published authors, and non-authors alike, do yourselves a favor and take a moment to check out Ben Yagoda's essay in the New York Times on readers' access to writers in our technological age. 
I can only think of one occasion that I've done it on a purely personal level: I was trying to recall the title of a beautiful novel I'd read in college (Bapsi Sidwha's Cracking India) that had been titled one thing when originally published, another in the US, and a third when made into a film.  Upon googling, I stumbled across the author's website. Uncharacteristically, I took a moment to reach out to her and say how fantastic her book was and how much it had stuck with me. And I was delighted when, over a year later, she came across my email and realizing she had not thanked me, wrote back.

Since I haven't done it again, apparently the reward of hearing back wasn't enough to encourage me (though by that point I was an agent, and ethically it had become more complicated) to continue reaching out.  Obviously the examples in the essay are the odd, amusing, or frustrating ones, but do any of you routinely contact authors of books you've read?  And published authors, what emails do you get to rival Mary Karr's love letters from the incarcerated?

7 comments:

  1. I have written to authors when I've enjoyed their works. (Never would I point out an error! as the essay showed.) More often than not, I get a reply, which is nice considering I certainly don't expect one.

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  2. A good number of years ago I wrote to Iris Murdoch when I'd read in a newspaper that she was suffering from writer's block. My letter, as I recall it, was one of support and encouragement. I'd never written a letter like that before, but her writing had meant so much to me.

    It was her husband John Bayley who sent a hand-written reply explaining that Iris had been diagnosed with dementia - this was a little while before it became public knowledge.

    I still have that reply on a pinboard, although a lot of the ink is now smudged.

    That reply reminds me that sincere people write back to sincere expressions. If I ever become a well-known writer, I must remember about how to respect sincere expressions.

    Steph Fey x

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  3. A woman wrote that she hadn't laughed in a year, since her husband died around New Years. She was feeling very down, passing the one year anniversary of his death, and someone handed her my book. She thanked me for taking her mind off of her grief, that she laughed all the way through. Very humbling.

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  4. Quite often yes. It is surprising how many authors are accessible and how many reply. If the author is well published and I have stumbled across their work - I may also send them an email and ask which of their books do they reccomend starting with.

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  5. By the way, and please take this comment how it is meant - constructively - it seems that many of your blog posts are NYT related - it gives blog readers the impression that you have but one source of information...

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  6. I've gotten replies from a number of authors, though not all that I've written. I appreciate it when I do, and don't mind at all when I don't. I've been especially appreciative of the children's authors who've made the point of writing back to my kids. Tony Abbott in particular wrote a lovely note to my son, and he was absolutely thrilled. I understand many see it as part of the job, but I saw it as sheer kindness and generosity.

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  7. It's lovely to see that the upsides to this access really go both ways.

    Simon, fair point. We do actually read a fairly wide variety of sources, but I can see why that might not be the impression we give. It's probably also the case that sometimes we read things in multiple places and the Times is the one we link to, so we'll keep our eye on that as well. Thanks for the feedback!


    -Lauren

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