The author waves
"In 1989, then-7-year-old Amy Corcoran sent her favorite author, Roald Dahl, her interpretation of a 'dream in a bottle'—a reference to Dahl's popular book The BFG. To her surprise and delight, the children's author wrote back a short but sweet thank you letter.
"We used a knife to open it properly, so the envelope's still intact," Amy recalls. "I was just over the moon to receive a letter from Roald Dahl." None of her classmates at school at the time actually believed her, she says — but there's now published evidence of the correspondence." —NPR
The author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory wrote back! He wrote back a lot, and to lots of people: kids, teachers, librarians. He was a giant among authors, there's no doubt. And so all his letters are highly prized, under glass, behind a lock and key. They would be in my house, anyway. But even on much smaller scales—just happy little hellos, replies on social media, shared drawings and play—it's special for everyone when authors and readers connect. Not just for readers. Authors need it, too.
Warren the 13th And The All-Seeing Eye jumped into our bookshop basket like nobody's business, and not because the kids were with me. It's creepy! It's funny! It's cool! Ben agreed. He read it three times on his own and more out-loud from me. We loved it. One day he came to me and said, "Mom, who did Warren? And when's the next one coming out? When? When?"
So we looked. And we found the author, Tania del Rio, and her happy news: the sequel is on its way.
And so we waved. And she waved back! And so did her publisher! And then, a treat. A sneak peek for Ben, which he gobbled up happily (shhhh!). It all felt pretty special.
Dave Atkinson, author of the terrific first and second Wereduck middle-grade novels, got a portrait of his main character as depicted by a reader. And he shared it and said YAY! Then Dave's daughter, having a crafty afternoon, decided to make her own Hueys, inspired by the Oliver Jeffers books. ...And lo! The bookmaker himself gave a thumbs-up.
Round and round it goes. When you wave to authors and they wave back, you participate. You insert yourself into the creativity! You throw a lasso around magic by bringing the author just a little bit closer, making them real to you. It's not just about seeing their smudgy hands or their tired Tuesday, or knowing how close a new book is to coming out. It's something bigger. When an author waves back, they're not just a name and an ISBN number anymore. They're a person, just like you.
Chit-chat and sparks! It's a funny thing. The real-lifeness of a tweet or a photo or a handwritten letter feels like a license, doesn't it?
You could do this, too!
You might draw. You might sing or dance or do anything at all!
You might get inspired and riff, and make something that's your own.
Something that makes you feel proud.
Keep going! Hooray!
As authors, we get the same from readers. You egg us on, and we egg you on. Thank goodness! Authors spend so much time by ourselves, cranking out manuscripts that may or may not get picked up. There's a fair bit of hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing. When we're heads-down, we miss the creative jet fuel of the classroom: the silly faces, goofy swaggers, growly giggles, zombie walks, cyclops doodles. Best of all, the Keep going! Keep going! when the bell rings, and we read right through recess.
Readers, you feed new ideas! You help make books.
Did you know that?
Your nudges and questions and hellos are jewels and rubies and gold!
You shout HEY! WRITE A BOOK ABOUT 'ZIPPERMAN' NEXT!
And I say Hey.... that's good! Why don't you?
Heather, a mom who bought The Dread Crew for her sweet and voracious daughter, once wrote to ask for my mailing address. "Most books live on shelves," she said. "But Camille drags her copy of The Dread Crew back and forth to school in her backpack daily in case she gets free reading time."
Then it arrived in the post: a lovely bunch of paper notes from Camille. 'KEEP WRITING! KEEP GOING! GO GO GO!'
When you want a sequel, you want it as soon as possible, don't you? Camille made me smile. So I sent her a video detailing some sneak peek twists and turns of Flight of the Griffons, and she sent me one back, and she became my pen pal and chief hurry-upper. There's no bigger carrot on the end of the lonely, self-doubt-riddled stick of creative writing than an eager reader. That's why Ben and I reached out to Tania del Rio. Somebody sent me an "I'm waiting!" once, and I've never forgotten it.