Here’s a fun and fruitful idea: Write a fan letter to an author you admire. I just did this and thoroughly enjoyed it! Actually, I wrote a virtual fan letter to Lizza Aiken, the daughter of the writer Joan Aiken who had written several wonderful books that I recently discovered in my YA ramblings.
Lizza has created a lovely Web site for her mom as a way to keep her spirit and creativity alive and it’s a wonderful tribute. I just loved the fun and flow of the site and felt so excited about discovering Joan Aiken, that I had to send Lizza a note. I’m glad I did!
Consider this for a moment: If you were writing a fan letter to an author, alive or departed, to whom would you write? If you were Emily Dickinson, you might write to William Wordsworth or Shakespeare (she once said that no one need read beyond Will and The Bible to learn all). JK Rowling said in a recent interview that if she had one author she would love to meet, it would be Dickens. Now think again for a moment: Would your literary fan letters be addressed to?
Sending off such a note via snail mail or cyberspace isn’t just about saying thank you. It can also inspire you to think about what matters most to you about an author that you love and ways in which you may be working to capture some of those qualities in your own writing. Beyond this, it can lift you up and make you feel that even for a few moments, you are breathing the same literary ether as the author you are communing with. Now that’s heady stuff — and bracing, too!
Then there’s the gift you bring to an author as an admiring reader — what greater gift can you give? Imagine being a young poet and having your work read by the great poet Rainer Maria Rilke and having him write this to you in a letter: “You see, I have copied out your sonnet because I have found it to be lovely and simple and born in the shape that it moves with quiet decorum. It is the best poem of yours that you have let me read.” Think what wings this would have given to your hopes and dreams!
Writing, as we all know, can be a solitary occupation. And yet we are not alone, because somewhere, even subconsciously, most of us write in the hopes that we will be read. And as readers, what higher praise can we give than to say thank you? Write on.