I got a copy of a letter lauding FIRST CONTACT by Evan Mandery recently. It was a letter that I'll frame and put next to the copy of the book in my office. It said all the things I think, only so much better I wanted to call up the writer and gush my thanks. I refrained, since it would probably only frighten her, and I want her to read every book I sell from now forward.
It was wonderful to know Evan connected in this profound and intimate way with a total stranger. To me, that is one of the greatest joys of writing. Even in my limited capacity as a blogger, it's the comments and sense of connection that makes this special to me.
There is a Slate article about the woman who worked at Harold Ober and Associates, J.D. Salinger's literary agent. JD Salinger never read his fan mail. From the article it sounds like he never even SAW any of it.
I'm sure there are a handful of authors these days who don't see any of their fan mail, but I'll bet most see at least some.
Which got me thinking.
I had lunch with a brilliant young editor recently who was wonderfully cruel and sent me a book that knocked my sox off. I read it, then read it again, and then again. Under threat of decapitation and public humiliation, she swore me to total secrecy regarding author, title, publisher, and pub date. (When I can reveal it, I will. You won't be able to shut me up in fact)
But after I read this book, I realized the author was going to get fan mail. Some of it would be the gushing thanks. Some of it won't.
Some of it will be "this is my life you're writing about." And some of it will be from people whose lives are in ruins, who are clutching this book like a lifeline.
And because of Twitter, Facebook, webpages, blogs and the plethora of ways to reach authors these days -- ways publishers and agents demand authors be available in fact -- this author will not have the luxury of not reading these messages.
And some of the authors of these incredible amazing YA books that reach right into your heart? The authors themselves are young. They are social networking savvy. They are right there on the front lines and they will hear everything said, no filter available.
How do we, agents, editors, booksellers maybe, others, adults anyway, help these young authors with this modern burden? I've never even thought of talking to my authors about what to do if someone reaches out like that. I've mostly been worried about my authors' privacy and security concerns.
This is something I'm thinking about now. I haven't seen anyone else talking about it. I think we'd better.
And the irony of the timing of this post is not lost on me: just today I wagged my finger at you and said censoriously Be Reachable.