Writers take risks in setting stories to paper but readers take risks, too. I was reminded of that recently in a conversation with a young friend I’ll call Louisa. She confessed that it had taken her two months to get up the courage to email me to tell me her thoughts about Hattie Big Sky. Louisa’s comment reminded me of my all-time favorite quote, “You’ve got to take those daring leaps or you’re nowhere,” (from Russell Hoban’s A Mouse and His Child). Both writers and readers have to endure shaky hands and fluttering stomachs, — uncertain and even afraid of how our efforts will be received — if there are ever to be those cherished connections.
Around the holidays, I got an email from a junior higher named Kaelen. She told me how much she loved HBS, so much so that she used the cover in an art project she was working on. Kaelen shared her dream with me, of wanting to be an artist and writer. For one second, I was tempted to respond that it’s hard work and that not everyone makes it — you know, downer, adult kinds of things. Some grace, however, took over my fingers and instead I told her to keep after that dream. Long story short: an email soon arrived from Kaelen’s mother telling me about challenges Kaelen faced in her life and how much my response had meant. One thing led to another, and Kaelen and I are going to get to meet when I’m in Warrensburg, Missouri in a few weeks for the Children’s Literature Festival there. After hearing from her mom, I sent Kaelen a copy of HBS. Look at what I received as a thank-you in return:
She’s only in junior high! Amazing. And Kaelen tells me she’s sending me a package with more of her stunning artwork.
I get to delight in this wonderful connection because a reader set aside worries about whether or not it was okay to email an author and about how the author might respond. Kaelen has inspired me to send a thank you note, today, to an author whose book I’ve admired.
And Kaelen’s beautiful courage deserves to be honored by my doing my very best work. So back at it I go!