Fan Mail Wednesday #93 (blog post #500!)

There are days when I question this blog — why I do it, if it’s worth the time and energy — and, with less frequency but much more sting, I question if what I do for a living has been a colossal mistake. I struggle to pay bills, struggle to create something lasting and worthwhile, and I wonder if trying to make it as a writer was just delusion. Maybe I should have sold insurance with my father after all.

That old punchline applies, “Don’t quit your day job.”

I suspect other writers have felt this same way.

I don’t know if there’s an easy cure for it, but I do know that the absolute heart of the writing life is what happens when a book miraculously reaches a reader — a young person — and that reader is moved in some way, inspired to think new thoughts, feel things, see the world from a fresh perspective. Maybe laugh a little, too. It doesn’t pay the mortgage, but it helps me get through those times of doubt and worry.

Kids always ask, “Is it fun being a writer?’

It’s a lot of things. The rewards are immense. But I’m not always sure I’d recommend it.

Dear  Mr. James Preller,

My name is Vassiliya. This is my 1st time writing to you. I should tell you about myself. Well, my favorite color is blue. My favorite animal is a dog. My favorite food is chicken with rice. I am 9 and I have no brothers and sisters. Now I think I should tell you how I look like. Well, I have light brown long hair, brown eyes, and white skin [In the summer it’s tan]. I read your book Justin Fisher Declares War. I liked it a lot. I wrote a book this year. It’s called The Day We Ran Away. It’s funny. I might publish it but, I’m not sure yet.

P.S. Please, write back.

Your New Fan,

I replied:

Dear Vassiliya:

Thank you for your email. As you can tell from my preamble above, I’m having one of those no good, horrible, terrible, not very good days. I also know what helps: rereading your note, which you sent a few weeks back, to help me remember why I write in the first place.

You see, there are days when I almost forget.

Yes, I am more of a dog person than a cat person. My dog, Daisy, is Not Too Smart. Don’t get me wrong. She’s sweet and loving and as good as can be. But if a bedroom door is halfway open, she has no idea how to get out of the room. Not a clue. My cats — we have two of them — watch Daisy with amusement. They roll their eyes, lick their paws, and purr with feline superiority.

I’m glad you liked Justin Fisher Declares War! I hoped it would be a light, fast, funny book for kids in 3rd, 4th, 5th grade.

I’d be happy to hear more about your story, The Day We Ran Away. Is it based on a true story? Are you funny in school, or just on paper?

Seriously: Thanks for writing. It means a lot. This job can be tough sometimes, a little lonely, and with a share of disappointment. Hearing back from a reader like you, and a fellow writer like yourself, well, it just makes me glad.


PS. My dog writes letters to camp. When my daughter, Maggie — she’s 9, like you, Vassiliya — went to sleepaway camp for a second week this summer, she asked for one thing: “I want another letter from Daisy. A long one.” I don’t know when Daisy finds the time to sneak into my office to type those letters. Or how, come to think of it, she even learned to type. I guess she’s not so dumb after all. Hey, she’s even written to President Obama. And just look at that face. Soooo cute!

One comment

  1. Liz S says:

    Hey, JP — Happy 500th! Hang on to your current day job, please. The world needs more books from you.

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