Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mail that makes my day

As a romantic comedy author, I don't entertain many fantasies about readers crafting heartfelt letters to tell me how my books changed their lives.

Maybe someday I'll get a note saying I gave someone a chuckle or some frisky inspiration in the bedroom, but for the most part, I'm writing to entertain – not to educate or inspire.

Maybe that's why the email I got yesterday made me smile. I asked the author if I could share it here in case it makes you smile as well:

Sent: Wed, October 13, 2010 1:39:09 PM
Subject: Your blog post, September 21, 2010

Hi, Tawna!

I wanted to thank you for sharing this "show, don't tell" story on your blog. I used it today with my 7th grade students (I'm an English and reading teacher) – it's PERFECT for this age group. My kids are such soft-hearted, animal-loving young people (at least, most of them), so your husband's actions in this story had a big impact on them. I didn't "show" the blog to them (language!) :o) but read them the story, then stopped to ask what they know about your husband from hearing that, before I read the points you intended to make. MOST of them came up with all of the points you mentioned on their own. Very powerful! Of course I showed the picture of Ozzy with a sock on also, to increase the impact (so cute!). Now we'll see if they can transfer this knowledge to their own situations – so far, after discussion with a partner, they've come up with good examples of "showing, not telling" in movies or other books they've read, and in a few cases students made up stories of their own which made good points about characters without using the words they're demonstrating. We're off to a good start!

I felt you should know how you've impacted people as far away as [location withheld] with your writing! Thank you so much!

[name withheld]

P.S. I'm trying to remember how I found your blog - I believe I started with Jenny Crusie's blog, then followed links to Lucy March's blog and followed your link to your own blog from there.

Isn't that nice? And maybe a little unsettling to think I'm warping young minds on the other side of the country.

The funny thing is, I forget people read this blog. I see the comments and track my Google Analytics stats, but deep down I still think it's my mother and my agent clicking over and over and making up different user names so I'll think lots of people are stopping by.

When I was at the Emerald City Writers' Conference a few weeks ago, strangers kept coming up and telling me they read my blog. The first time it happened, I thought it was a joke. When it kept happening, I felt a weird sort of panic. Have I written anything really dumb lately? I hope I didn't offend her with that one post. Or that other one. Or...

I guess I need to get over having a mild freakout when someone reads something I've written. Either that, or come up with a plan to purchase every printed copy of my book next August so no one else can see it.

How do you feel about the idea of people reading something you've written? Does it excite you, or make you want to hide under your bed? Have you ever thought about what sort of fan mail you might someday receive, or are you more inclined to fret about eventual hate mail?

I'm sort of thinking they'll start the same way for me. Dear Pervert...


Penelope said...

Ha, that's awesome!!

I am not your mother or agent. Promise.

demery said...

How fun, Tawna - to know that folks are reading your blog (even school teachers!) I just started blogging a couple of months ago, and I have to admit it's difficult to keep going some days that I see that only 13 people have checked in. And then I'll have a high traffic day or someone will write a great comment. And I press on. So I'd be glad for some readership and definitely won't hide under my bed. Enjoy your success - you deserve it :) Your audience will get even bigger when your books come out.

Patty Blount said...

Wow, good question.

I recently blogged about something dark in my life and kind of regretting it now.

Linda G. said...

Aw, what a great email to get. And totally deserved. :)

Let's see...if I'm ever lucky enough to receive fan mail, I can envision it saying something along the lines of "Thank you for being such an inspiration. God knows, if you can do it, ANYBODY can." ;)

Harriett Starr said...

Wow...I too forget sometimes....maybe I shouldn't have written this....bit too much information

Dr. Cheryl Carvajal said...

That's what I should do with my college classes--bring in that particular blog of yours. We've been working on individual sentences (I give them the lame, vague version; they come up with brilliant, interesting "showing" versions)... but this would be a a good example. I remember thinking that when I read it the first time.

I could even leave in the other stuff, since this is a college class.

Cynthia said...


I hope you are still enjoying that email you posted. It's nice to know that when we write something people respond to it.

I do think about what people are going to think of when I write my blog. But that is the point of it. I try to take the little things that happen to us every day with all of their emotions and put them into words.

I try to always be positive and up beat. The same as your blog is always upbeat and funny, but in my own way. I think people rather read funny and positive then dark and sad.

Thanks for posting the email. It put a smile on my face.

Laura Maylene said...

Starting my blog this year was a huge step and I still have occasional anxiety attacks about putting my life out there and inviting random (and not-so-random) people in for a read. Overall, though, I have to think it's worth it. I have to. Please don't tell me I will be haunted for the rest of my life because I posted humiliating excerpts of my childhood/teen diaries that one time. Oh god.

Anyway. Fan mail. I guess I haven't gone that far in my writing fantasies. I'd just be happy if people actually did read my stuff and like it. This letter was fabulous, though. Look at you, using your blog to teach impressionable kids! Now use that power for good, not evil.

Melissa Gill said...

At first I was terrified of having anyone identify me. But now, I just put it out there and try to be careful about what I say.

I also got a lot out of your show don't tell feature. And always get a kick out of your blog.

randine said...

Having other people read my work still kind of scares me, unless it's my mother.

One of my coworkers the other day suggested that I email the PDF of my manuscript to my coworkers so they could read it.
"I don't like other people reading my writing," I replied, without having a chance to think about it.
She asked me what I plan on doing if/when I ever get published.
Probably go on Prozac or something.
It's really scary.

Debs Riccio said...

I'm a recent subscriber to your blog and I love it (and your clever *pick-a-winner* dog!). I get a bit twitchy when I notice there's only been a couple of visitors to my blog each day - and one of those is a co-worker who's already told me she's read it (minor celeb status - not sure) and liked it. I'm still at the 'approval-seeking' stage and won't just post what I'm having for lunch or put up pics of family - when I'm published 'proper' I'd LOVE fan mail and will respond to everything I get! Great blog, btw.

Shain Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle Wolfson said...

Yes, this is your agent commenting that you write a damn fine blog and I'm proud to be your agent. I'm glad people recognize how awesome you are.

Alexa O said...

YES, I get nervous about what I'm putting out there. I tend to get a little weighty, subject-matter-wise, and although I don't write about personal experiences much, I do write about things that require very, very specific and careful use of language.

If I offend someone, I want it to be because I have said something intentional that they don't agree with, not because I've made a mistake or been unclear.

Plus, it's freaky that the number of people who comment is TINY compared to the number who read it. I have no idea who these people are, or what they think!


Shain Brown said...

I don't think I will ever get over being self conscious about my writing. It took an extremely long time before I let others read my work, and the more I write the more relaxed I get about doing so. But no matter the bad parts, I love writing.

I am so happy for you.

Tawna Fenske twisting young minds since 2010...

Stephanie said...

I think I've only gotten two fan emails...and one was my husband's grandfather!! LOL! But it definitely warmed my day!!!

Like you, I don't write books that will be remembered forever and passed on for generations. I write to entertain, to give people an escape from their daily lives. I don't expect emails about my books changing people's lives either!!

grace said...

I keep hoping someone will send me fan mail, but then I realize I have to do something fan-worthy first... oh well.

That is SUCH a nice letter! :)

Kadi Easley said...

The first time you get a letter from a reader telling you how much you've enjoyed your book, you'll be walking on air. I get a little trip to my happy place every time I hear from a reader, it just makes my whole day.

The flip side is when you get a letter complaining that there is too much bad language in your book. When that happens, you know you've made it.

Harley May said...

This is lovely! Go you!

Candyland said...

I think it's dangerously exciting! I write whatever I want and people will really read it? Um, yes please! No one at home listens to anything I say!

The Novel Road said...

No matter what I write on my blog, when I hit post, I get the feeling it has gone somewhere. That the somewhere is a person or two or fifty... I keep that thought in my "denial" bin. It's just me and the ethereal plain of existance that is the internet... Until I get a response or comment, then I reply they sent me their comments by mistake and send them to your blog... :-)

Be proud of everything you have achieved and thankful for what you lived through.

All the best,


Danica Avet said...

That's such an awesome e-mail, Tawna! It was really a great way to show the difference between show versus tell and I can see why the teacher used it.

As for how I feel about people reading my work...I want them to be entertained. I want to make someone laugh because of the antics my characters get up to. I don't want my mother or co-workers to read my love scenes, so maybe I'll never tell them that I write. Other than that, I would love for someone to write to tell me that after reading my story during a low point in their life, they realized that love and laughter can come even at our darkest hours.

Because deep down under my crusty cynical exterior...I'm a sap :)

Joyce Tremel said...

I'm usually a lurker, but I thought I'd leave a comment for a change. Just so you know there really are people you don't know who read (and enjoy) your blog!

Delia said...

Honey, lots of people read your blog. Even my husband reads your blog, and he doesn't read anyone's blog. And that post deserved mail, it was a very informative post.

If I ever manage to publish anything, I anticipate lots of mail from people who want to let me know everything I got wrong. Okay, maybe not LOTS, that would imply people were reading my stuff, but still...

Rachel said...

Awesome!!! How cool of her to send that to you...well, not sure if it's a her, but, you get the point! :)


lora96 said...

I'm happy when someone's read something I've written. Then I feel somewhat exposed, as though they have come upon me doing something dreadful.

The other day a teacher's aid ran up behind me and started poking me in the shoulder saying "It's light out get up!" b/c I had posted on facebook that my husband shook me awake at 1am that morning in a panic that it was "light out" and we were getting up late, when in fact he'd left the kitchen light on.

All I could think was, wow, this chick reads my status--maybe be more careful what I post?

Anonymous said...

I also used this post - I sent it to my critique partner as a great example of why "showing not telling" doesn't just mean more description. Your blog does two things and does them very well: you entertain the hell out of me, and you often have legitimate, hands-on writing advice. I'm sure your mother and your agent are very proud!

Elisabeth Black said...

That WAS such a good post. It showed how to show.

Unknown said...

Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I'm okay with people reading my writing and I don't mind constructive criticism.

Does that make me some sort of verbal exhibitionist? Hmmmm...

The show v. tell post was excellent and as a former English teacher I can tell you I would have used it too. (Especially since it was a pretty clean post.)

Dr. Goose said...

I think I would be a little overwhelmed if I had as many people reading my blog as you do.

That is why I am glad I only have 12 followers. Just like Jesus.

Elizabeth Flora Ross said...

That is great! And I'm sure it is just the first of many. :) In fact, you should clear out a space for all the fan mail you are going to receive.


Penelope, Mom? Is that you?

demery, we all start in the same place -- with 2 or 3 readers who are likely related to us. You'll have hundreds before you know it :)

Patty, nah, the "dark" is part of you. Let it be.

Linda G, LOL, I highly doubt THAT will be the feedback, but I suppose it could be worse.

Harriet, that blog post is @#$% hilarious. You definitely should have written it :)

Shakespeare, LOL, yeah...I kinda figure she had to omit a few things for that age group.

Cynthia, so I should reconsider doing that blog post about nuclear waste and dead puppies?

Laura, I've been blogging almost 8 months now, and I STILL get panicky every time I hit that "post" button.

Melissa, I think this is why so many new writers consider pen names!

Randine, I've never been too freaked about having family or critique partners read my manuscripts, but strangers? *shudder*

Debs, my dogs say hello :)

Michelle, aw, thanks! Of course, you HAVE to say that!

Alexa, isn't that amazing how many people visit but never comment? Makes you thankful for Google Analytics.

Shainer, I like to think I've been twisting young minds a lot longer than that.

Stephanie, I don't need the "you changed my life" email, but I'll take the "you cracked me up" ones!

Grace, you should just send yourself fan letters. Be sure to perfume them.

KD Easley, there's probably nothing I look forward to more than the first letter from someone complaining about sex or swearing in my books!

Harley May, you're pretty.

Candyland, did you say something?

Douglas, LOL! Thanks.

Danica, your mom will love the smut. I'm sure mine does (right, mom?!)

Joyce, aw, thanks! Always nice to meet the lurkers!

Delia, I'm cracking up over your husband reading my blog. Hell, MY husband doesn't read it!

Ivy, wow, I didn't realize I removed the author's gender, too. How clever of me!

lora96, the internet really does let everyone follow every little thing we do!

danaalisonlevy, aw, thanks for sharing that! I'm glad it helped!

Elisabeth, I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

Jeannie, you're right, it WAS pretty clean. What's wrong with me?

Dr. Goose, you are exactly like Jesus. That's what I think every time I see you.

Elizabeth, maybe I'll clear out an entire room of the house, you think?

Thanks for reading, guys!

Adriana said...

What a nice email! Very sweet of her to come back and tell you how you've touched (read: warped) young children :))

Now, about your question -- whenever somebody reads something I've written (outside things like work emails and grocery lists), it's like that dream where you're naked in front of everyone you know, except it's not a dream, and you've also told them every secret of yours. I'm terrible at it! I get nauseous and my hands start shaking and I start wishing that when they're done reading they won't say anything about it and we can all pretend it never happened :))

Heh... I'd like to think I'm getting better about it, but nope :)

Jen J. Danna said...

I think that this is absolutely wonderful! You've reached out and touched many of us, but when you hear of a personal story like that, it really touches you in return. And then to have the additional feedback at the conference is icing on the cake. Yes, we do read and love your blog and no, it's not just your mom... although if I ever set up a blog of my own I know I'll have the same fear!


Claire Dawn said...

That is so awesome! I think this is the writer's ultimate dream. For something you said to be useful to someone you've never met.

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