• Here’s the Story

    I wrote a book called The Forest for the Trees and it’s an advice book for writers. For four years, I blogged every day about the agony of writing and publishing, and the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gathered and thus ensued a grand conversation. Now, the most popular posts are gathered in Greatest Hits ( a work in progress) Gluttons for punishment can scroll through the archives. If I've learned one thing about writers, it's this: we really are all alone. Love, Betsy
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Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down

Dearest Darling Readers of this Blog,

It’s been a while since I’ve received what I refer to as a “pure” fan letter. Most of the words of appreciation that come my way are also attended by requests for representation. It reminds me of the guy who after six months of dating took me to a really nice restaurant and asked me if we got married if he could work for my dad, possibly own the company someday.  Check!

So here’s a letter I received today. Enjoy. I know I did. 

 

I just this morning finished The Forest for the Trees and boy did you hit the nail on the head. I have three published books and a small measure of writing success. After the second book I started to have a low grade, almost  unconscious sense that … Jesus Murphy, I’m starting to become crazier than a shithouse rat.  I’ve led an adventurous life and I was always been so sure of myself. And then I started to bloody write.On a unconscious level I somewhat connected the dots, but it wasn’t until I read The Forest for the Trees  that I understood that the lead in the fabric was turning me into the mad hatter.

Thanks Babe.

Have you ever written a fan letter to an author? WHat the fuck did you say?

54 Responses

  1. I write fan letters to writers all the time. Carolyn See told me to.

    • Ha! Carolyn See told me that too and I’ve written maybe two. The most recent one (which is still unsent) is a fan letter to a book reviewer who wrote a review that explained to me exactly what I couldn’t articulate that was wrong with a book I read and struggled with. Every other review raved.

  2. Not yet to anyone who wrote a book — but once, to this guy, who writes songs, and is a wordsmith and storyteller of limitless talent and imagination.

    • Damn. I meant this, not that. Anyway, any guy who can write a love song like You Were Meant For Me, and also a song called Handjob on a Church Bus, is a real writer, right?

  3. I wrote a letter to Erica Jong when I was a teenager (30+ years ago). I told her how much I loved her poetry. And I told her I had a painting of my grandfather that was painted by her grandfather (which was true). She wrote me back, a friendly note. I was absolutely astonished she had taken the time to respond. I thought she was a rock star. That was cool. That was the only fan letter I’ve ever written. Except maybe commenting on this blog. Being a fan and all.

  4. Dear lord, I hate a rat.

    I do not write these letters. Though I totally should. But I once sent a note to Dorothy Allison, to which she responded, in part, “Like a friendly shout across a crowded room.” What else does a girl need?

  5. I wrote a fan letter to an author whose Locus interview was so terrific, I had to write to her to tell her how much I loved her first book. She sent me a very nice e-mail back, which I wasn’t expecting.

    But mostly I just squee all over my favorite authors in person at conventions and workshops, like a small, untrainable, inbred teacup mongrel. This happens so often, it’s almost become part of my comfort zone . . .

  6. Wait, have I told you lately that I Iove you?

    I’ve written a few fan letters, but you always remember your first. When I was about nine, I wrote to Marian Cockrell, the author of a fabulous children’s fantasy book called “Shadow Castle.” I wrote and told her I loved the book but that it begged for a sequel. She promptly wrote me a lovely letter back. She never did write a sequel though, and passed away in 1999.

    Her daughter was instrumental in republishing a new edition of the book a few years ago. I recently re-read it and was still as enthralled as I was when I was nine. A movie producer really needs to pick this one up.

    And, a couple years ago, S.E. Hinton, author of the YA novel, “The Outsiders”–the impetus that made me want to be a writer–responded to me on Twitter. I swooned and printed it out.

  7. Dear Betsy,
    The Forest for the Trees changed my writing life. This blog changed my my on-line life. I know I have acted like a shit here and I am sorry for that. No excuses, no agenda just a simple heartfelt thanks.

    This is the only fan letter I have written since 1964 when I wrote George Harrison and told him how much I loved the Beatles and adored him. I signed with a lip-stick print. Sorry Betsy, I like you tons but Im not kissing my screen for ya. Oh what the hell, why not.
    X

    Two fan letters in fifty years, I must be getting soft.

    • Getting soft? Thanks for zillions of comments and all the nice words (after the less nice words which you know I love.)

  8. “Have you ever written a fan letter to an author?”

    Yes.

    “WHat the fuck did you say?”

    I wrote Harold Bloom a poem. I don’t have a copy and I don’t remember what I wrote. He wrote back and thanked me. I don’t have a copy of that, either.

    I wrote to Edmund White to tell him how brilliant I thought FORGETTING ELENA is. He wrote something nice back, told me he liked my photographs.

    I’ve written Averil Dean to tell her about how when she’s good, she’s pretty damn good. She and I are friends, though we’ve never met.

    There are others I may have written. Little thank-you notes for a memorable read and a job well done. It’s not like I’ve kept a list. There have probably not been many more than the three already noted here.

    I read TFFTT before I did a major edit on HIGH STREET. You turned HS down before that, but after I read your book and did that edit, HS got published. So thank you, Betsy for writing THE FOREST FOR THE TREES and having it published and all. (This appears to be one of those little thank-you notes I mentioned.)

  9. I wrote a letter to Gabriel Garcia Marquez to ask if he would sign a book for my husband for our anniversary. There’s a long story, but I wrote it out, had it translated by a friend’s mom from the same village as Marquez and sent it along with the book. Nada.
    I sent a note to Meg Wolitzer and was shocked when she responded. A beautiful gracious writer.

    I have a hard time if it’s too personal. After reading Fear and Loathing…man, I wanted to send you a note. Reading Lit recently was the same. But at the end of the day, I turn the last page and quietly say, yes, you get it.

    • Do you mean Hunter Thompson or me? We are often confused. Xxoo

      • Ha!
        My happy thought of the day is that I didn’t wish I had the balls to send Hunter Thompson a Thank-you-for-totally-getting-it note. Fortunately, my ether sniffing days are long over.

        Food and Loathing. Johnny Depp did play you in the movie though, right?

  10. I wrote a gushy letter to famously cranky queen Nobel prize-winning writer Patrick White when I was nineteen. He did not write back.

  11. Dearest darling writer of this blog,

    What I’m enjoying is the recent stealthy semi/quasi regular posting.

    Back by popular demand ? Here’s hoping.

  12. Like other things, these letters are unwritten.

  13. Authors are my direct competition. I never send fan mail.

  14. On this special (Aprils Fools Day), as a result of Betsy’s posts and numerous comments, I have come to two conclusions: either hell has frozen over or her Meds have finally kicked in.

  15. I wrote a fan letter to you, Betsy, which was so earnest and awful that I almost couldn’t send it. It took me three drafts to dial back the sincerity and still it sounded like the sort of thing Oprah would get.

    • That was the best letter I ever received. Except for a postcard by a mysterious “Robert Tansey.”

      • I meant to tell you that the card stock I wrote it on was a gift from two of the FTF girls, who gave it to me in Portland at our first meet-up. One of those small circles of life where the ends meet just so.

  16. I sent Finnish chocolate. It’s much more literate than I am.

  17. I wrote a comment on this blog once, made sure to state I wasn’t brown nosing… and then went on to compliment you. I can’t remember what I said, but you wrote me back via email. Which of course made me light-headed and gave me heart palpitations. Does that count?

    Others? Orest Stelmach, Wendy Plump, Shane Brown (Larry Brown’s son – we follow each other on Twitter and he lets me know when stuff is happening with his dad’s writing – like the move coming out based on the novel JOE, starring Nicholas Cage – how cool is that???), Elizabeth Craig, Holly Robinson, and a few others.

    What’s blowing my mind are the replies to comments from you, Betsy!! You hardly ever do that!

  18. In high school I wrote a fan letter to Groucho Marx. I typed it up on Peanuts stationery. I got an autographed photo of him that is probably still at my dad’s house in a box in the basement.

    Forrest for the Trees was fan-letter worthy but I ran out of Peanuts stationery and I didn’t think you would send me an autographed photo.

    But I do love this blog.

  19. i send thank yous to my favorite writers all the time. once, i sent you an email immediately after reading Just Kids to thank you for helping get it out into the world – i still had tears in my eyes when i hit send. the search for your email address landed me on your blog where i ended up finding some of my very best friends (& not just “other writer friends” but women who have given me shelter, support and early morning car rides to the airport). gratitude has its benefits.

  20. Money for the book is my thank you note for now – fun coupons!

    But I recently took a class in short story and am starting to appreciate how hard this writing crap is. Also how enjoyable it is.

    BTW, TFFTT is outstanding, and you have some of my fun coupons.

  21. When I turned 50 I wrote a fan letter to Madeline L’Engle thanking her for her novel A WRINKLE IN TIME. I first read the story in a grade school library when I was nine years old. I still remember the pebbly red rebound cover. The tape on the spine and the turned down pages. After I finished reading it I held it in my hands and starred out the school window wondering how a book could give me so much comfort and courage. I wanted to steal it and keep it for my own. But I didn’t. I turned it back in. It would get left behind when we moved again anyways so what would be the use.

    Within a month of mailing that fan letter Ms. L’Engle’s daughter wrote me back and said her mother was newly confined to assisted living and unable to respond on her own—but she had read my letter aloud to her and thought she comprehended its meaning.

    I sure hope so.

  22. I write to my favorite authors all the time. They always accept my friend requests on facebook too. I try very hard not to expose my shithouse rat levels of insanity to them and I’m always pretty polite and brief with them. I think maybe the best fan letter I ever wrote was to a scientist I had heard on NPR. I sent him a poem and he was really, really nice about it. I think I might be the only person who has ever sent fan mail to a scientist.

  23. No, but I once drunkenly went up to Steve Buscemi at a party, grabbed his shoulders and said (slurred), “You Are So COOL!” like it was the most profoundest thing ever uttered in the whole history of time. I’m the dumbest drunk person ever. I threw up not long after that. A lot. I guess I should just be glad that it wasn’t on him. Since then I’ve decreed it’s best to stay away from anyone I admire.

    Except on this blog, of course.

  24. Dear Betsy,

    I read FFTT the other day and recommended it and your blog to two writers. Better than an air kiss, no? If not, here’s one: moi! (French).

    Michael Lewis within the last week was on 60 Minutes, Jon Stewart, and Charlie Rose (that I know of) talking about his Flash Boys, and POW! the FBI and SEC simultaneously begin investigations. Today in the NYT Joe Nocera points out that almost two years ago Scott Patterson published a very similar book (Dark Pool…) to much less noise.

    I meant to ask who does PR for Norton, but the answer is already in your book: Lewis, established credentials, earlier books, plus article in magazine, plus PR, plus serendipity of Wall Street outrage and FBI/SEC need to be shown to be doing SOMETHING, finally, equals the perfect storm of publicity.

    So, thanks for Forest for the Trees, and this is my first fan letter.

    Old Nick

  25. I have a postcard from Ted Koozer thanking me for my note to him (treasure!). I’ve also fan-lettered other poets. Mostly I fan-letter obscure writers and poets because they’re the most likely to read and appreciate being appreciated. I <3 the fan letters I've received because there are never strings attached, just love for the work. But then again, my day job has nothing to do with writing.

  26. I think I might actually write my first author fan letter this week .
    Cheers to Donna Tartt on winning the Pulitzer!
    She’s the real deal; a writer who keeps to herself and works.

  27. Nadzwyczaj skuteczny wpis, polecam wszystkim

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