Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Care and Feeding of Fan Mail

It took a solid week, but it’s finally done. Pfew. First I sorted. I actually hired my son to help me with the sorting. Flipped mail in one pile, Sammy Keyes mail in another, Shredderman in another, and then Runaway, Kisser, Swear to Howdy, and The Gecko & Sticky each in their own. And after they were sorted by book, the stacks were sorted by state. I’ve learned over the years that people from the same school will all send separate letters (and enclose no SASEs) and you wind up going, hey wait a minute—didn’t I write this address on another envelope fifteen minutes ago? Better to bundle them by school first and ship the replies off together in one big envelope.

Anyway, sorting took nearly a day. Then I had to update my reply letters. And seeing how I have different letters for each of the books / series, there was a lot of updating to do. Plus I had to update the page with a list of book titles and their short descriptions (because people often ask if I’ve written any other books besides the one they’re writing about).
And after printing like mad (and running out of ink TWICE) I gathered my bookmarks and posters and window clings and envelopes and pens and Sharpies and stamps and postage scale and paperclips, and I looked at the enormous pile in front of me and got to work.

I tried hiring my son to address the envelopes, but I gave up on that. My sons can’t seem to address envelopes. The balance of it comes out all wrong. There’s e-mail. Who needs envelopes? Why lower? (Because that’s where the postman looks for it.) What’s wrong with up here? (That’s the stamp zone. Besides It just looks wrong up there.) Where? Here? (No. You need to start in the middle. The MIDDLE. Or maybe a little above. No! That’s the stamp zone! Stay out of the stamp zone! Here. I’ll make a little mark.) I’m not a kid, Mom!

It’s been a battle with every birthday / Christmas thank you note session since they were four. The center of an envelope has some sort of force field around it which my sons can apparently not penetrate.
So he got “fired” and I got “hired” and it was an inky week of addressing and writing personal notes on the general letter (specific to the book being written about).

And here, for your laughing pleasure, are a few excerpts from around the country:

• “My favorite part is when Joey ate the fish.” (Boy in Missouri—he’s talking about a live goldfish in Swear to Howdy)

• “This book also made me have so many mixed emotions my heart was bound to erupt like a volcano covering my whole body in lava composed of different feelings.” (Girl [duh] in New Jersey, re: Flipped)

• “Anyway, I just had to write to you instead of calling you at 10:49 PM like Nolan did to Mr. Green.” (Boy in Washington, Shredderman)

• “Can you write a book about a gothic gorilla?” (Girl in New Mexico)

• “I have 1 dog, 3 cats’, 2 fish tanks (1 is an 80 gallon fish tank.), and 4 people (including me). Don’t you think that’s a lot of pets? I sure do. Lots of pet food. Don’t you think?" (Boy in Minnesota)

• “For my project I need information about you and your job, too. You can also send me some books and materials, too. Also, I finished a book and would like some advice on how to get it published. Send that at the same time.” (Girl from Indiana)

• “I loved the voice! Such feeling! Such voice! Such mind-picturing images! I love it all!” (Girl from Arizona, re: Flipped)

• “Obviously this book wasn’t for me. Because of the lack of livened things up and the characters being so boring. I didn’t like the book. I would greatly appreciate if you would write back.” (A boy from Arizona, re: Flipped)

And then there were the gems. The ones that kept me slogging through the assigned author letters. The ones that made me feel like what I do really does matter. Here are a couple excerpts to encourage those of you who write – because what you do does (and will) matter:

“As I was reading the last few pages, I felt as if I could do something with my life. I felt like life had a huge purpose. It was as if I was lifted from the hole I was in to start with. I love how Evangeline realizes she only needs to be who she is, and learn to forgive, to truly be happy.” (Regarding Confessions of a Serial Kisser)

“I am the oldest of four. My mother has bipolar and she did drugs for a while and my father was never really there…then the time came when we were put into foster care. .. While reading your book it made me think of one social worker I had named Margret. She was just like Julianna and she made a huge impact in my life. Because of your book I realized I wanted to do something so I can impact people’s lives and make them feel the way I did when I read your book.” (Regarding Flipped)

All the sorting, time, materials and postage…in the end, it’s worth it.

19 comments:

Alexa said...

Yay I'm first to comment!!! haha

Wow, seems like you had a lot of work to do! But I bet it's really cool to hear feedback on books you wrote and stuff like that. Especially when you work so hard and spend such a long time writing something, you want to feel like it was worth it. And it is. I think that writing is never useless because it's bringing a little joy into this world, even if for just a short amount of time, that's enough for me to keep writing for the rest of my life :)

Great post (as always!)!

abagayle said...

(: Lot's of work!!Gosh,i want to be an author but i don't know if I'm up for all that fan mail.I'm a very organized person,so it seems like the fan mail wont be so bad,though.If it was all worth it in the end,i don't think I'd mind it so much.I watched this really funny video about an singer of a band who was saying what he thought about emails.He says that you type on your computer,send it and sometimes it doesn't send,right?He thinks there are air waves that go through the air to send your email.So he thinks it is because you're mostly in a cafe or at Starbucks and people are walking around and getting coffee,and going to the bathroom so your email can't get through the air waves.He says to kindly ask them to sit down or move so your email can get through.(:
I couldn't stop laughing,especially when he said where butterflies in your stomach came from.Plus,he said it was a straight face.Great post,and im glad you're now done with (some) fan mail!

Thanks,
AbaGayle

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Thanks A & a :) -- And okay, now I have to know what band this is and the name of the song / video. Gotta see it!

abagayle said...

here's a link http://www.hawknelson.com/hawk-thoughts/

It's hilarious!

Optimistic4ever said...

That... is... a... lot... of... fanmail.

honestly i feel like im missing something. i've been following your blog for so long and yet, i have no idea how to send you fanmail.

im glad you got through everything alright. i dont think i would be able to handle all that.

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

O4E: They send it to the publisher who then forwards it to me. It takes a while to get to me and then if I'm under deadline it takes a while for me to get back to the letter-writer. They don't know about (my secret) blog :) or the ETRTR e-mail. I keep saying that's a good thing because I spend so much time on the computer as it is. But when faced with so many letter to reply to I'm not so sure!

Amanda from Seattle said...

Next time you have a huge back log and need help, let me know, I can come down to SLO and address envelopes. I am great at that kind of busy work!!

Amanda from Seattle

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Amanda! I have such nice people in my life -- you are the 3rd person to offer, but definitely the farthest away. I'm glad there's no force field over the center of your envelopes :)

Elizabeth said...

The Running Dream made Amazon's list of top ten kindle books for teens of 2011 thus far! :D. Got an email from them with the list, and thought you might like to know (if you didn't already) :). As for the fan mail, it sounds insane, but the gems are well deserved :). The rest just cracked me up! Esp. Volcano Heart Girl xD. And of course your sons being incapable of properly addressing an envelope ;). Thanks for sharing with us!

Jinnyd said...

Gotta love the stamp zone! Wow. Just thinking about that picture is starting to make my head spin around and do all sorts of crazy loop-de-loops. At least now I know that if I ever send a letter to you (or other person who has to deal with copious* amounts of fan mail), I will definitely include a SASE to absolve* your sons (and then, subsequently, you) of the responsibility of keeping addresses out of the stamp zone!

Jinnyd

*did you notice the use of TWO SAT vocabulary words in that sentence? hee hee hee, studying SAT vocab is doing something funny to my brain...

Potter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bookworm said...

I would also volunteer to help w/ fan mail, but I truly believe I am the farthest from even Amanda in Seattle - I live in Miami, as in Miami Florida. :D I'm a total freak w/ organizing, though I wish I could help. :/
And the dialog w/ your sons was hilarious............. AMAZINGLY HILARIOUS!!!!!!! :D

Anyway, what is the address of the publishing company, or would you prefer emails to your etrtr email address? Please let me know; i've always wanted to send you fan mail........ But not to add to the pile, just to...........
Ok, never mind, I'm unexplainable.

The Girl in Miami

liz.orvis said...

After reading this post I feel super guilty, but I am posting this anyway. My name is Liz and I met you 5 years ago at the Michigan Reading Association conference in Detroit, Michigan. My mom and I had the pleasure of sitting at your table for the "Author Luncheon" and then I thought you were so great that we went to your session later in the day. As soon as I got home I started picking up copies of all of your books and I have enjoyed them tremendously. I especially loved the Sammy Keyes series, although I see that you have published a few that I haven't read yet, so I will have to catch up. Anyway, at the time I had just graduated with my degree in Special Education, and now I have three years of experience as a Special Education teacher and am working on my Master's in Autism. I recently wrote a children's book about a child with Autism learning how to communicate with pictures, and I am trying to get it published. I have learned about query letters, book proposals and agents, but I was wondering if you had any advice for me? I think you are amazing, and I would really appreciate any suggestions you have. Thanks so much for your time. I hope you are well and that you keep writing for a very long time!!

Most sincerely,
Liz

Hunger Games Lover said...

oh, wow! I don't think I could ever handle that, but I should learn since I very much would like to follow my life long dream of becoming a successful world known author...you should post a full list of all the books you've ever written (no summary necessary ;P) and you don't have to list all the sammy keyes ones...just put "the Sammy Keyes series" i guess...

Kelsey said...

Hi Wendelin!!!
I just recieved a letter back from you in the mail today!! Thank you so much for the reply!! Now I am entering my sophomore year in high school, and still enjoy reading your books. I have read Flipped and Confession's of a Serial Killer. Both excellent books, that I would recommend to anyone!! I saw Flipped the movie, and I have to say, the book was soooo much better!! Well, thank you again! And! Keep on writing great books!
Love,
Kelsey:)

Kelsey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CammyLover said...

Ha ha, I would send mail.... but I really don't want to be adding to that pile of yours. :)YOUR BOOKS ARE AMAZING!!!!! Thank you so much!

BP said...

Wow! This post sent chills down my spine. I wanted to contact you with FAN MAIL, but reading this was worth a million bucks so now I've decided against it (Uh, we can count this as virtual fan mail, no?). I can't believe I found your blog; it was just like finding the last cookie is still there when you get home, or a treasure or something! :D Haha I've just been reading the posts and they're so awesome! On another note, I'd offer to help with the addressing issue, but even if I stayed out of the stamp zone, it would behoove you otherwise to leave it to someone with handwriting that possibly belongs to someone who graduated kindergarten, instead. ;D Love, love, love this blog! AH k. End rant! ;D

Kaeleigh C said...

Hi Wendelin! This is Kaeleigh, I am in Liberty,Mo and go to Heritage Middle school, I'm in the 6th grade. I recently just got done with your book called The Running Dream and I loved this book!!! I had a few questions regarding the book.

1# Are you going to ever write a series to The Running Dream, if so what would it be about?

2# What is your favorite book that you have wrote so far?

3# What is your favorite part of The Running dream? Mine is the part where Jessica is able to be active again and recover after the accident.

Some comments that I have about the book is that in the beginning I thought that the book was really slow, until it sped up at the end of the story. Really good book though!!!