One of the unexpected joys of publishing a book is the connections that you make with readers around the country.
A middle school student in a suburb of Chicago reads your first book, for example, and then writes an epilogue for the book as part of class assignment.
Then she sends you the epilogue, curious about what you think, and two years later, the two of you are still exchanging emails from time to time.
You’ve never met this person and probably never will, but you’ve found yourself a pen pal, and you are the better for it.
In this case the middle school student is now a high school freshman, and her name is Rachel. Recently she wrote an essay for class about the power of getting to know an author personally. She sent her essay to me, and with her permission, I have posted it here.
It served as a good reminder to me about the power of sending my stories into the world.
Authors Found Through E-Mail
Authors have always held a high place in my views. As someone who likes to write, authors have always seemed like magical beings who were able to create masterpieces. Being able to connect with an author was an opportunity for me to experience the power the story possesses. Personally, I get so affected by books and stories that sometimes their authors get lost. They don’t always get the credit they deserve for writing, because the story gets in the way a little. This is why I know that story can connect people. Having reached out to an author, he has become a real person in real life.
Realizing the power of story for me began with reading one book. I read Something Missing, by Matthew Dicks. This book was more than just a story. It was an experience. The characters came to life, and I was absorbed in the story. But then it ended. No closure, no complete resolution, just the end of the book came. I was devastated. I couldn’t let go of the story until it was done, and it wasn’t.
So when I was in 8th grade, my teacher gave us the idea to write an epilogue to a book that we read. After thinking about what to write, I stuck with that idea and thought of a book. The first one to come to mind was Something Missing.
Since reading the book, I had thought of many different ways it could end. Many of them were similar, but with one or two minor differences or changes. I eventually ended up with what I thought was the best idea and started to write.
Since I knew Matthew had a blog, I decided to see if his e-mail was on it. I wanted to e-mail him to tell him about what I was writing. I found Matthew’s e-mail, and the very next day, I got an e-mail back. He liked that I was writing an epilogue, because his publisher had wanted him to write a sequel. He didn’t really want to, but was curious to see how others would see the story as it continued. But what surprised me the most was that he said he wanted to read my epilogue when I was finished writing it.
The fact that a published author was going to read my writing amazed me. I made sure that every word was just right and made sure that every detail or fact made sense. By the time I was finished, about eight people had read and revised it. I was absolutely sure that it was ready, and I sent my epilogue to Matthew. Not only was I proud of my writing, I was nervous to hear what he would say about it. I couldn’t wait to get a response.
A few days later, after constantly checking my e-mail, I got an e-mail back. This time, when I got the e-mail, I hesitated before opening it. I wasn’t sure if I should open it. The whole idea that I was e-mailing an author was something I couldn’t quite grasp at the moment. But I opened the e-mail. He liked my epilogue, and after that, we just kept e-mailing.
Now we still write to each other and talk about life and writing in general. He even said he might need my help with a character he is coming up with. He also keeps me up to date with his progress on his new books.
Not only was I able to communicate with an author, but I also got to connect to other people who read the book. Living through the same character creates a bond between people. Both people experienced the problems and conclusion of the character’s story, and it becomes common ground for communication.
Since my mom recommended Something Missing to me, it has become a common discussion point and debate. My aunt read the book too, so it’s something we all share and use that as a way to connect. When I received the first e-mail from Matthew, I called my aunt to tell her, since she loved Matthew’s books. My mom, aunt, and I talk about the e-mails along with the story. This has made the story so much more important and powerful for us.
The whole situation shows that story can connect people. This is why story is so powerful, because people can relate to each other over that story. For me, story has the power to connect people. If it wasn’t for story and books, I wouldn’t have contact with an author. I also wouldn’t be able to connect as easily with people who have read the story.
Story has so much more to offer us than just education or entertainment. Story can connect people who would have never met, or strengthen bonds between people who already know each other. Story is very important to me because it is so powerful. If story wasn’t powerful, with the ability to connect people, we wouldn’t have walls lined with books or feel the need to reach out to the story’s creator.