Tuesday, March 10, 2009

You've Got Mail

Sometimes I get email from individual readers.  I always answer those.

Sometimes I get email from groups using Letters From Rapunzel for a book club or class project. I always answer those too. 

I have never gotten email from Johnny Depp expressing a deep need to meet me for chocolate-filled croissants, strong coffee and a discussion of his role in inspiring Letters From Rapunzel, but if I did, I would always answer. Every time.  (I would have to lie about his inspiring me to write or work in any way. He's nothing but a time waster.)

I thought I'd share a letter I wrote to one book club.  It's become my template for replies to groups. (I also answer the individual questions they ask, but this serves as a good introduction.)  I recently sent it to a class in Georgia who read Letters From Rapunzel as part of the Georgia Book Award program. Their task is to make a commercial for my book, promoting it to other readers and convincing them to vote for it. (Oh, yeah, I'm completely in love with this idea.)

I still have to answer their wonderful extra questions (that's my homework!) but here's the letter:

Dear Readers,

On page 173 of Letters From Rapunzel, Cadence says “an author should thank YOU for reading her book, and not the other way around.” I agree with her! Thank you so much for choosing to read Letters From Rapunzel.

When I first began writing the book, I didn’t know if anyone would ever read it. I was having a hard time getting started, mostly because I had written short stories and poems, but never anything as long as a novel. So, to trick myself, I decided to pretend that all I was doing was writing a letter. Letters were something I knew how to do.

Before email and computers, I used to write lots of letters, and when I wrote them, it was as if I were having a long, honest conversation. In person, I could hardly ever be that honest. I was always too worried about what the listener would think of me. But on paper? Watch out!

Sometimes, readers ask me if I am Rapunzel. Did I do those things? Did those things happen to me? Yes and no. 

I used to write in class when I was supposed to be paying attention. I still have some of those old stories and notes. That “freewrite” about snot? That’s word for word from my current journal. (But I never dared read it out loud until it was part of the book!) 

The bridge? It’s real, but I never saw it. I found an ad for a bridge for sale in my local paper, and I saved it because I'd never heard of such a thing. One day, it showed up in my story.

Rapunzel’s Dad’s Evil Spell? That’s real too, except it was my sister who experienced depression. 

Did I ever hit a boy with an English book? No, but once I “accidentally” punched one in the nose. And I poured a can of root beer over my future husband’s head. 

The fortune cookie messages? I taped one to my computer monitor while I was writing the book. It says: You should be able to undertake and complete anything. (Recognize that from page 175?)

In a way, writing my book was like writing you a very long letter. I’m glad you found my words. Having you read them makes me feel less like Rapunzel, writing alone in a tower, and more like a writer in charge of my own story.

I hope you will each write yourself your own Happy Ending. You are the only one who can.


Sara Lewis Holmes


  1. This is lovely - a perfect response.

    I hope you will post the commercial!

  2. How cute! The only fan mail I have so far is from copy editors :) - but I answer all of their notes, too.

  3. What an interesting, engaging, funny, and totally kind letter. Thanks for sharing it with us, too!
    Jeannine Atkins

  4. Very thoughtful, well written response!
    And PLEASE let us know when Johnny Depp does finally write!

  5. Clearly Mr. Depp is in line for a role in Letters from Rapunzel, the movie...

  6. Root beer, huh?

  7. You had me at chocolate croissant and Johnny Depp, but the letter is simply wonderful. Hope your husband likes root beer.

  8. Great letter! Thanks for sharing this. For the record, I love your feistiness with the root beer.

  9. Did I know that you poured root beer on your husband's head? Did I laugh out loud at this before and just forget it? Oh, I just love it.

    What a thoughtful, fabulous letter.

  10. Wow! I can only HOPE I get fan mail one day! What a great letter! Thanks for popping over :-) I gave you two smiles!

  11. i bet they really appreciated that letter!

  12. This is a beautiful letter. I'll tell you, everything you write - books, poems, missives - turns to gold. Maybe you can write the Craigs List ad for our old entertainment center and with your magic touch, it will leave our garage.

  13. Sara, you set the bar awfully high for other writers! Yowza. The kids (and grownups) who receive your letters must know they've hit the jackpot!

    And why did you pour rootbeer over your fantastic future husband's head? Not that even fantastic people can't be terribly annoying, but c'mon, we want details!

  14. I bet they LOVED that letter. It was funny and real.
    I teach teens and they love to know that we too pour root beer over our loved ones heads. Doesn't matter they reason. I think they are relieved that we adults do.

  15. I guess I should write a post about the root beer incident. Or maybe I should get my husband to write it, for a different perspective! I looked upon it as a not-too-subtle way of flirting and moving our relationship into a more trusting place: as in: do you love me even if I'm annoying and challenge you just a little bit and I'm not perfect? And he answered it with humor and just enough pushback to say: you can't pour rootbeer on my head whenever you like, but I'm not going to walk away from you either. We can have fun together and I love you. We've been married almost 25 years, so I guess that tells you something. :)


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