Charming Notes

As of Monday, I’ll be starting something new. No, it’s not a job (I wish), although this is just as intimidating. It’s time to rewrite “Fearless” on my palm again so I don’t lose my nerve because this week, I will mail off a letter to an author. And next week I plan to do it again!

This idea came from a wonderful book called Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See. Half of it discusses plot, character, and everything you’d expect from a writing advice book. The other half goes beyond craft and explores the hard facts of living as a writer. How to get  tax deductions on writing expenses, how (or IF) to tell your friends and family you’re a writer, and how to make rejection a process. Her advice is honest and practical, two things that instantly endeared her to me. And she devotes a chapter to encouraging readers to send “charming notes” to authors they admire.

Proof that I not only wrote my first charming note, but I wrote like 5 practice drafts!

I read this chapter four years ago, right before I started college, and while the words rang true, the whole idea of mailing handwritten letters to authors scared me stiff. Even Carolyn See says she gives this assignment to her students and they recoil with horror and do anything to avoid it. I spent years making “I’m too busy” excuses, but now that I’m out of school and have no job, that hardly applies anymore. I still have a little voice that says, “I don’t want to bother them”, but now I’m going to ignore it because I know she’s right.

At its most self-centered, a charming note is a networking tool. If you want to be a serious writer, you need friends. But I think you’d be missing the point if that was your only motivation. Mine certainly go deeper. Haven’t you ever wished you could tell an author how much their words touched you? If you were an author, wouldn’t you want to hear that? It’s time for me to stop assuming authors get so much fan-mail that my letter will mean nothing to them. I might be a “whatever” to some of them, but I’m sure there are others who will appreciate it.

While I’m usually a genuinely confident person, there are a few things I’m painfully self-conscious about and one of them is my handwriting. I rarely use snail mail because I consider it inefficient. I treasure my friends and relatives who send me actual mail, but it’s really not one of my gifts. But I’m going to try.

First letter goes to Ms. See herself to tell her that I tried to ignore her advice, but have finally seen the light. After that, I think I’ll send one to Shannon Hale because I am a huge fan of her books and I read her blog and KNOW she is way too nice to be afraid of.

Anyone else ever done anything like this? Closest I’ve come is leaving comments on Youtube videos and being very excited when the Youtuber replies.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nancy Fulda
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 19:59:31

    What a beautiful idea! And you are far a braver woman than I. For years, I have contemplated sending a letter to Lois McMaster Bujold, but I’ve never gotten up the courage to do it. I probably really should.

    On the topic of networking, I’d like to suggest that connecting with other writers via discussion forums is an excellent way to make friends improve one’s writing technique. If I’m not mistaken, your publications in Enchanted Conversation would qualify you to join, if you so desired.

    — Nancy


  2. MissMystra
    Sep 28, 2011 @ 17:03:03

    Thanks Nancy! I’ve never heard of Codex before, so I’ll be sure to check it out.


  3. Trackback: Charming Note #4: Gail Carson Levine « To Reach the Unreachable Star

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