Late last year, I started writing letters to people. It began at Christmas, when I was trying to decide what to give some of the girls in the youth group. As most of the girls I wanted to give to didn’t know me very well, I thought it would be funny to give them a piece of art or jewelry, so I went with the thing I’m familiar with: words.
At the time, I didn’t have much experience with or knack for writing notes to people, but I wanted to be an encouragement the only way I knew how. Feeling pretty successful after that first attempt, I’ve tried to keep up the habit whenever someone encourages me or I see someone struggling and want to help. This gets difficult when that person is one of the guys in the single’s group and we’re hardly friends, but I still try.
So when I was putting together my Day Zero list, I didn’t think twice about adding “make a list of 5 people who have positively influenced me and write them letters”. It was on my last list and I never got around to it, but now I feel more capable.
Then I saw an item in one of the inspirational lists: “write a letter to a favorite author”. I added it without hesitation, already knowing who I wanted to write to.
Nina had recently decided she wanted to write a letter to her favorite author, too, but he’s a bit obscure and she was having a bear of a time finding any contact information*. Looking to encourage this endeavor, I hunted down someone from his publisher and asked for help, and they promptly sent me a mailing address. This task completed and the address sent to Nina, I figured there was no time like the present to do the same thing for myself.
My author of choice did not have a mailing address to be found; only an email address. This is probably a good thing, considering the aforementioned terrible penmanship.
I will not – WILL NOT – share that letter here. The subject line read “To the Author of My Favorite Books: In Which One Avid Fairyland Fan Tries to Find the Word to Tell You ‘Thank You’ and Probably Fails“, if that gives you any idea at all about the body of the letter (and it was big). I was already in a mood the day I decided to write this letter, which is probably the only reason I’ve already completed this item. A little more than two weeks ago, after only giving the thing a quick once-over for glaring typos, I sent it away.
And immediately regretted it. (And only just saw the typo in the subject line. *headdesk*)
First of all, why on earth would I put that in the subject line? And oh my word did I ever fangirl like an idiot. All attempts at coherency failed epically, and I wanted to burrow under my covers in embarrassment at the thought of it. To date, this has been one of the least thought-out letters of appreciation I’ve penned (or typed).
But then I thought, “If a fan ever wrote something like this about one of my books, I would be flattered. So stop overthinking it. She won’t get offended, that’s for sure. She may just get weirded out and promptly delete it, or it may make her smile. Whatever.”
That author, if you haven’t already guessed, was Catherynne M. Valente, and this past Saturday she wrote me back.
It was two lines, but they were not a form reply. She called me a “wonderful soul” and signed it “Cat”.
My fangirl heart melted.
I’m still supremely ticked that my email server wonked out the format and deleted a line of my post script. Be that as it may, I did my best to express how greatly these books have changed my life and to thank Catherynne for being an inspiration to me. I managed not to mention how I’m also a writer, because that felt like I would be taking it a tad too far.
I found that email during a break at work and I’ve been on something of a high ever since. So thank you, Catherynne, for taking the time to not only read that weird thing, but to respond.
*Next to Catherynne, this author was top of my list; not for me personally, but for how he’s changed Nina’s world.