Posted by: oneyearbook | November 7, 2009


I love the concept in this post at MFA Confidential. I love the suggestion (which she’s quoting from Carolyn See) of writing and sending admiring letters, which she calls “charming notes,” to people in the literary industry. Perhaps not every day – I feel like word would get around that you were writing everyone and their dog, you know, especially in this day and age of Twitter and blogs – but maybe choosing a few from each category (authors, agents, editors, so on) and writing to compliment them.

Kate says that it worked out well for her: authors liked being told that people enjoyed their work. One of them, she says, even agreed to read a story of hers. Of course she also mentions the crippling fear that can come over a wannabe writer when meeting someone they’ve always admired, and how awkward those situations can be. When we were at Audrey Niffenegger at the VIWF Katy and I went up together because it seemed easier, because we weren’t sure what to say to her. Then in the end I blabbered out a whole story about how reading The Night Bookmobile (it’s a comic she wrote for the Guardian – I recommend it, you can read the whole thing at that link) made me sad because it’s kind of sad story about librarians and my mother is a librarian, and then I pointed at my mother, who was hanging back in a corner and didn’t know what I was saying about her, and I thought, huh, I should shut my trap. But Audrey just said, “Oh, I’m thinking of writing a sequel to that, it’ll probably be more upbeat,” and all’s well that ends well.

I did have a bad experience with a fav author at a reading/signing event once, though. I don’t blame the author in question for this (I won’t name him, though); it was more a case of my inflating what possible relationship one could have with an author during a two-second signing of a book. I had carried one of this author’s books around a foreign country for almost a year because that book had made me want to go to the country, pretty much, especially to the part of it I ended up spending a lot of time in. So I had that copy of the book with me and while he was signing it I was telling that story. He said something short, the equivalent of “that’s nice,” and turned back to talking to one of the other authors signing at the table beside him. For a bit I was upset about this but then I realized: people must come up and tell him stories all the time, and if he made the effort to engage in a long discussion with each of them, the signing would never be done.

But on the other hand the only time I’ve done something like the “charming notes” it turned out quite well: I emailed Michael Chabon after Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay came out (but before he won the Pulitzer) and told him how much I admired it. I mentioned in the email that I was a big fan of Vladimir Nabokov and essentially implied that I thought Chabon had the ability to come close to Nabokovian heights. He wrote back, quickly, to thank me for my email and to say that he, too, loves Nabokov and that he didn’t think he could be reached. Or something like that – for the longest time I had a print-out of the email in the book but now I’ve gone to look for it and not only can I not find the email but I can’t find the book. Highly irritating. Perhaps it’s a sign: time to write more notes.




  1. Thanks for pointing me at “The Night Bookmobile”. I cried. My Mom is a librarian too. 🙂

    I sometimes write entire mental “charming notes” to favorite authors, but I have never found the nerve to write one down and send it. Next time I think I’ll give it a try.

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