Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Karma and the Art of Thanking Someone

Just a short one today. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I really think this is a powerful idea, so I'll mention it again. In Carolyn See's book Making A Literary Life, she describes how important it is to tell other writers that you like them and you're grateful to them. She advocates writing letter to writers you like, just to tell them how much they mean to you. Leave it at that. Don't ask for any favors. Don't ask if they will read your manuscript. Don't ask for a blurb. Just spread the love you feel for the art form, and somehow, miraculously, it will come back to you.

I've written a few of these letters in my lifetime, though admittedly not enough. Some of the people on my list have been Harold Bloom, Jonathan Safran Foer, Carolyn See herself, Nicole Krauss, Aimee Liu, Mary Yukari Waters, Maxine Hong Kingston, Jhumpa Lahiri, and some others that I'm not thinking of at the moment.

Who are some writers who would be on your list? Write them a letter!


  1. Some of my favorite authors: Davin Malasarn
    Scott G.F.Bailey
    Lady Glam
    Richard Bach
    Rod McKuen
    Barbara Kingsolver
    Jane Austen
    Toni Morrison

    I did write a letter to Rod McKuen once but that was a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

  2. I love that book! (And I already wrote to Carolyn See to tell her so!)

    I'm frustrated by my inability to find an appropriate address for many of my favorite writers... I mean, come on. No P.O. Box or dedicated email for fans? REALLY?

    John Irving
    Nick Hornby
    Jhumpa Lahiri
    Amy Tan
    Stephen King...

  3. What a great post, Davin! Is it usually very difficult to send something to an author? Do you usually do it through email? I'm assuming they provide that on their website or some such.

    I sent a letter to Lois Lowry when I was in high school, and that's all. Pretty pathetic! She was so nice though. She sent me some advice for a question I asked but didn't expect any answer to. She's always been one of my favorite YA authors.

    I will definitely keep this in mind. I know I'd certainly appreciate a letter from fans any day of the week!

  4. I've written to David Baldacci and Harlan Coben. Others that I should reach out to with thanks:

    - Judy Blume
    - SE Hinton (I did thank her on the comments of a post on Nathan Bransford's blog)
    - Stephen King
    - Tom Clancy
    - Cormac McCarthy
    - Dave Barry
    - Alan Moore

    Have a great Thanksgiving!!!

  5. I've written to a few authors, and commented to a few others on their blogs. This is a great reminder.

    I'd like to write to:S.E. Hinton Laurie Halse Anderson, Gary Paulsen, Chris Crutcher...there are many more.


  6. My favorite writers:

    Stephen King
    Terry Pratchett
    Neil Gaiman
    Jim Butcher
    Simon R. Green

    My favorite as-yet-unpubbed writers:

    Davin Malasarn
    L.T. Host
    Michelle Davidson Argyle
    Scott G.F. Bailey
    Adam Heine
    Joshua McCune (yes, you do know him, but I'm not saying what his handle is).

  7. Anne, I'm glad to hear that you wrote to Rod! That's cool. Thanks for putting me in this nice list too. Hopefully you won't change your mind about that as you read more of my writing!

    CKHB, that book is great for more reasons than I mentioned here. It is indeed a must-read. For reaching writers, you can send your letter to agents a lot of the time. They will pass it on to their clients and their contact information is much easier to find.

    Michelle, that's cool that you got a response. That's one of the nice perks to doing this, but I don't think we should expect them. Like I mentioned to CKHB, I think you can go through agents (maybe even publishers?) to get to the writers.

    Rick, cool list. If you write a letter to Cormac, tell him I like his writing too. ;P It's great that you've already written to a couple of people on your list.

    Paul, again, it's wonderful that you've already written to some authors. I bet they really appreciate it!

    Matthew, that list is a nice glimpse of the type of writing you like--a few I haven't heard of too, so I'll check up on them!

  8. Charlotte Bronte,
    Elizabeth Gouge,
    Nick Hornby,
    Anne Tyler,
    Susan Howatch,
    Ian McEwan,
    Jane Austen,
    Helen Fielding.
    People who write accessible, but intelligent fiction.
    I have never thought of writing to authors, but its a great idea for the living ones.
    Very thankful for this and other blogs.

  9. I realise that first list had 3 dead authors was under no obligation to contact.
    My selection:
    Susan Howatch
    Nick Hornby
    Anne Tyler
    Helen Fielding.
    Ian McEwan,
    Robert Harris.
    Thanks for this blog. I've found it really useful recently.

  10. I usually keep things focused on books rather than on their writers; I have favorite books but I don't necessarily have favorite writers. I see a difference there, somewhat of a separation. So I've not written any letters to anyone specifically.

    But I HAVE had one writer contact me after I wrote a review saying how much I liked her book.

    Writing's such a solitary endeavor for many writers, with too few rewards. So if I like something a writer has written, I make sure I say something publicly somewhere--or if they have a website with commenting features, I'll compliment their works there. Writers definitely need to hear this stuff!

  11. Davin: This is a great idea. To which living authors do I owe a "thank you" letter?

    Gunter Grass
    A.S. Byatt
    Geraldine Brooks
    Ursula K. LeGuin
    Peter Carey
    Umberto Eco
    Francine Prose
    Andrea Barrett
    Layne Maheu
    Jon Clinch
    J.D. Salinger
    Harper Lee
    Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    Orhan Pamuk

  12. Davin, you are the man! This is such a great idea. So many writers are in a vacuum, never knowing that we consumed their book, dreamt of their characters, thought for days about the world they invented.
    I know I will think of many authors when I have time, but a few who jump to my mind:
    Neil Gaiman
    Ursula Le Guin
    Margaret Atwood
    N. Scott Momaday
    Sherman Alexie
    Louise Erdrich

  13. I wrote to Dave Barry once, when he wrote something that made my stomach hurt, I laughed so hard. He wrote me a postcard in return, which I thought was very classy. I have written to Barbara Kingsolver, but I had to send the letter through her publisher, and I don't know whether she ever even received it.

    CKHB's idea is great. Listen up, favourite authors - Your fans want to thank you. How about making that easy?

  14. Davin, what a great idea. You and Carolyn See are the clever ones. Most of mine have gone to the great beyond. Like Anna Sewell, Poe, and Hemingway to name a few. There are a few that are still alive and on my list. Most write MG with a few YA authors in there too.

    Kathleen Duey
    Patricia C. Wrede
    Gail Carson Levine
    Bruce Hale
    PJ Hoover

    Happy Thanksgiving Davin! :)

  15. Cardiff Sparrow, I think it's a good idea to focus on the living ones! :)

    F. P., I think it's fair to just focus on the book. I'd personally be fine with that if someone were to write me a letter after reading something I had written. That has yet to happen from a stranger, but I keep hoping it will.

    Scott, somehow, doing this just makes me feel better. It goes back to the karma, I think. We are so used to getting rejections in the mail, that I think having a mix of good stuff flowing through the same mode of communication is really helpful.

    Tricia, I'm glad you like it. I wish I could take credit for any of this, but it really is all Carolyn See. I remember when I was writing the letter to Jhumpa Lahiri. I started out describing what I liked about her work, but the more I wrote, the more I realized she had probably heard all of this before. So, instead, I just started to describing where I was when I read her book, and how much it helped me.

    Sandra, LOL. I wonder how many writers even consider the fact that they will be getting fan mail. Most writers are probably too humble, and the popular ones who get a lot probably don't want to deal with it!

  16. Robyn, many of mine are no longer living either. But, I'm glad you were able to find at least a few! :)

  17. I love this idea, Davin. I have some favorite authors, but I think I might write letters this year to some old teachers, a church leader and an long lost cousin.

    I have been considering it since you mentioned it in a blog comment and this post confirmed it is what I will do on Friday.

    People like you must get lots of good karma :)

  18. Excellent idea, good sir (or good lady, I suppose). On my short list of living authors would be Mark Helprin, Tad Williams, Neil Gaiman, and Stephen R. Donaldson. Pity I can't write to dead authors--they're the ones I read most.

  19. Tess, just sending out the letter feels great, so I think that's the karma right there! It's instantaneous.

    Simon, you (or anyone) can send dead writer letters to the literary lab. We'll post them! ;P

  20. Jodi Piccoult. She's veriy inspiring.


  21. E.B. White
    Laura Ingalls Wilder
    Judy Blume
    Paul Zindel
    Jane Austen
    Margaret Atwood
    Douglas Coupland
    Joseph Conrad
    Graham Greene
    Robertson Davies
    Timothy Findlay
    Yann Martel...The list could go on forever. I think I'd need a lot of stamps. Great post! - G


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