A guest post by My Best Friend and Other Enemies. author Catherine Wilkins.
I never once got an A* on my homework, so for me it is absolutely wonderful to receive fan mail.
Like homework, writing is mostly a solitary business, and even though I have been an adult for quite a few years, when someone gives me feedback on my work, it sometimes feels a bit like they’ve ‘marked’ it.
I write funny books for children, and with comedy especially, until you get a reaction it can be difficult to know if what you’re writing is definitely funny and you’ve achieved your goals.
One of the great things about running the Stand Up Workshop for kids I did at the Edinburgh Book Festival last year was how immediate the response of laughter was (or not).
We built up through games and improv, and eventually the children all wrote up a little anecdote and delivered it to the rest of class as stand up comedy. There were some brilliantly funny stories (lots of them involving poo); but as soon as something was highly amusing, there was laughter from the group, and it was lovely to see.
Laughter is such an honest reaction to material that you immediately know if you’ve achieved your comedy goal. This is something stand ups rely on heavily, and why they travel the country, testing and honing material, based on feedback from the laugher of audiences, to make it the best it can possibly be.
But I can’t really follow children home and make a note of which bits they laugh out loud at. That would be weird. And even if it wasn’t weird, I still wouldn’t be able to tell if the more serious bits were working.
Judd Apatow said in a recent interview that he wished there was a noise audiences made to show they were enjoying the drama in a film, and I thought, “yes, that would be really useful.”
But luckily for me, fan mail exists. It’s so wonderful to know you’ve made a connection with readers and that people are enjoying your work.
I thought this letter from Rose was just beautiful. I especially like that the instruction to ‘PLEASE WRITE MORE BOOKS SOON’ is not only in capitals, but in red as well, so I know I have to take it seriously. And it has six beautifully coloured exclamation marks, so I would need to be a fool not to obey.
And because children are generally pretty upfront about letting you know what they do and don’t like, if they do express pleasure at something, it feels like a massive compliment.
As a writer, all I have ever wanted was for my work to be out in the world, making people happy. Not being that ambitious, I kind of feel like I have pretty much achieved my dream. So basically I can retire now.
…Except, I kind of don’t want to disobey those capital letters telling me to ‘PLEASE WRITE MORE BOOKS SOON’ they looked like they meant business. Maybe I should stick at this for a bit longer…
So thank you Rose. And thanks to anyone who goes to this much trouble to tell someone you like what they are doing. The world is a nicer place because of you.
Catie’s second book, My Brilliant Life and Other Disasters, will be out in September and is available to pre-order now. You can read the first chapter of My Best Friend and Other Enemies below, and order it online here.