{thanksfully: letters}

I don’t get a lot of contact with my readers, for the simple fact that, hello, yes, I am in Scotland. (This is soon to change, but as it stands: I am here. You, mostly, are there.) There’s also the fact that young adult and teen readers aren’t as apt to get school visits from authors because by junior high, it’s all about getting your SAT stuff together, and there are tests to take, those little bubbles to fill out with No. 2 pencils, study groups, and not a lot of time for deviating from the set course. So, the contact I receive from readers is in the form of email – and I just feel so appreciative of the time people take – some parents and teachers and librarians, and some young adults – to put down on paper – theoretical paper, anyway – some words to me.

As I am not inundated with mail like, say, J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins must be, I answer them all. But, the letters I receive are… priceless. They light a fire in me to do better, they light the way back to sanity when I think I can’t do this, why do I bother, I am such a hack. They are warmest, brightest light, like candleshine on gold and silver.

~ from Gretchen S. ~ “…Mare’s adventures in the WAC were incredible! I am not sure how you did it–but I see the same element in the “thoughts” section of your website–you manage to convey an account of injustice and tragedy with authenticity, all the while keeping away from any tone of self-pity or bitterness, or shallow condolences. What a gift you have!”

On days when the words just will not come, when I delete more than I add, I re-read Gretchen’s note, and am reminded that at our best, we are better than we think we are, and worth of the effort we put into our work.

~ from Lin ~ …”But go, you. Wow. Your book is incredibly voiced and compelling. I feel so proud of you and I don’t even know you.”

And Lin has no idea how happy that makes me. She didn’t set out to make me happy, I don’t think. She just wrote something gracious, from her heart, which reflects on her kindness, and doubles the light of that back to me.

On the day Chris tweeted, “Reading Mare’s War – now THAT’S how you do voice,” I was beyond humbled. Chris is an author himself, and I remain – wow – honestly floored by his words.

A word is such a small thing. But, like the “sticks-and-stones” we learned about when we were kids, the opposite is also true; a small word can act as glue, and for awhile longer, hold everything together.

I am so grateful for Francesca, Jaleesa, Jonathan, Liz, Marco, Julia and all the rest. For the grace of the right word, correctly spoken at the right time, and for all the shining lights of people who write to authors and never know how much their gratitude means, I am truly thankful.

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