For a week now, I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember the name of my favorite author from the fifth grade. Yep. You read that right. Fifth grade. Why? Well, because there was only one time in my entire life that I wrote someone a fan letter, and I was in the fifth grade when I did it. In my neatest cursive, I wrote a carefully worded letter to an author and mailed it. Now, so many years have gone by that I can no longer remember his name…and that makes me sad. How is it that someone who meant so much to me once is now a forgotten blip in my memory?
Weeks later, a letter arrived…addressed to me. Hand written. The author had written me back. He didn’t type it. He put pen to paper. At that moment in my young life, it became the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. A successful author of a popular children’s book series had taken time out of his day to write to a ten-year-old farm girl in Iowa, thanking her for letting him know how much his stories meant to her. I was on cloud nine for weeks.
Shortly after receiving his letter in the mail, I attempted to pen my first book. It was a horribly written story about a young girl trying to make it to the Olympics as a gymnast. It was cheesy and optimistic. (Give me a break – I was ten.) But, from that moment on I dreamt of seeing one of my stories on a library shelf or on display in a bookstore window. It was then that I began to realize that I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up…and I wanted to be a writer.
My mother kept the letter (she never throws anything away), but through numerous moves over the years, it’s sadly been misplaced. So, for the past few weeks, I’ve searched Google for any clue as to his name or the name of his books only to come up empty-handed. I’m not giving up though. What I do recall is that the author took his true boyhood adventures with his friends and turned them into fictional stories of mischief and discovery. Every time I picked up one of his books, I was transported back in time where he allowed me to watch his childhood unfold.
Today, if someone wants to reach out to their favorite author, they simply Tweet a message in 140 characters or less and click Send on their smart phones or post a comment on the author’s Facebook page. And, if you’re lucky, the author will Tweet or comment back. It’s an incredibly simple and effective way to communicate what you feel, but somehow it just isn’t the same. A handwritten letter will ultimately always be more personal, but I fear it is a long-forgotten media.
Thirty years later, here I am with two manuscripts and a short story under my belt. And, even though I don’t have any of my work on bookstore shelves as of yet, I still consider myself a writer. I don’t want to be anything else. While I may not remember his name, I do remember the impact his work had on me at the time. For now, hardly a day goes by where I don’t think of that man who took the time to write to a young girl, thanking her for her support. Hopefully one day I’ll remember his name, and I will write to him again…thanking him for his.