Fan Mail Friday

I recently returned from a writing retreat (more on that another time) to find a mountain of mail waiting for me. Snail mail! Email! Packages and parcels! Whee!

I love hearing from all of you, and I promise you will hear back from me, but it will have to wait until I finish the first draft of MDBC #7….

There is one bit of mail I need to respond to right away, though, and publicly. It’s from Cassie in Canada. Cassie is an aspiring writer, and an extremely talented one. I got a sneak peek at her future greatness thanks to an incredible piece of fan fiction that she sent to me.  Here it is:

HVF with Cassie's book

If you click on the picture, it should enlarge enough so you can read the title:  “Gatsbing at Surprises”

Can you guess what she’s chosen for the mother-daughter book club to read in her story?  Yep. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. An excellent choice, and one of my favorite classic novels!

As I opened this beautifully bound volume, I discovered the first surprise–she dedicated it to me!  I got tears in my eyes as I read the inscription:

For Heather Vogel Frederick, who is my inspiration and whose delightful series
was the inspiration behind this book.

But wait! There’s more! She also included a note:

“Dear Heather,

The only thing better than writing this book would be seeing your face when you opened it!
I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy your own series! Happy Reading.  🙂 

Love, Cassie”

WOW!

Here I am, tears in my eyes and all:

HVF with Cassie's inscription
On the right-hand page, you can also see the first quote she chose from The Great Gatsby:

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

Is that perfect or what? Don’t you just want to dive in?  I sure did.

Cassie, you are a WONDER!  You absolutely made my day, my week, my month, and more. I can’t thank you enough for this dear, heartfelt, amazing gift. Reading your story has been my treat to myself these past few evenings, after I finish my writing for the day. It’s ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, DARLING! (as Wolfgang would say). Oh, And I love love LOVE the “Author’s Note.”

She ends it with:  “Since this is the author’s note, I guess it means my book is finished. It’s not great, it’s not even that good but in the words of Francis Scott Fitzgerald, ‘tomorrow I will run faster, stretch out my arms farther…’ Practice makes perfect and who knows, maybe books by Cassandra [last name deleted for privacy] will start appearing on your library shelves someday!”

I have absolutely no doubt they will.  Here’s why:  Those three words, “practice makes perfect.”

This is the heart and soul of writing–of any art, and any endeavor in life. Cassie obviously gets that. We have to work at the things we love, to become good at them, and then great.

Here’s what one of my literary heroes, Ann Patchett, has to say on the subject:

“Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art you must master the craft. If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say. Write the story, learn from it, put it away, write another story.”  This is from her superb essay “The Getaway Car,” which as far as I am concerned is required reading for every single aspiring writer on the planet. It can be found in her book of collected essays, “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage,” and also purchased as a single essay here and here and here.

Practice makes perfect.

When I was Cassie’s age, I aspired not only to be a writer, but also a flutist. My hero was Jean-Pierre Rampal. I listened to his recordings endlessly, by turn inspired (because he was so phenomenal) and discouraged (because he was so phenomenal). I heard him twice in person, and swooned at his skill. I tried to echo his phrasing when I played the pieces he played, tried to mimic his tone and his passion for music. While I always fell short of his perfection (seriously, the man was superhuman), my technique greatly improved under this regimen. He gave me something to aspire to, and although I never became a professional flutist (my love of writing eclipsed my love of music at some point in college), I was a better musician for it.

It’s the same with fan fiction, and with the practice novels and practice stories we produce, and all the writing we do in fits and starts when we’re first beginning. Keep working at it, keep aspiring, keep practicing.

Practice makes perfect.

 

 

Fan Art Friday

It’s been quite a few Fridays since I’ve posted fan art — we’re way overdue!  I have a trio of fun drawings to share with you today from my readers.

First up is Malory’s picture of Megan:

Malory's fan art

Supercute, right?!   Go, Malory!

Next, Eman gives us a glimpse into each of my book club girls’ personalities:

Eman's fan art

Love it!  (And have to tell you something funny — the first time I glanced at this, I wondered “Why is that hockey stick using a baby chick for a puck?!” Then I took a closer look and realized they were two separate drawings…)  Great job, Eman!

And finally, Caroline was asked to draw a scene from a book for a school project. She chose the moment in HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS where Becca and Megan are on a Christmas cruise, and Megan has just learned that she’s going to Paris with her grandmother. Megan is twirling in excitement, but Becca is disappointed. Caroline wrote, “I picked it because I could imagine it perfectly.”  Thanks to your drawing, Caroline, so can we!  Here it is:

Caroline's fan art

You’re all rock stars, girls!  Thank you so much for sending me your beautiful artwork!

 

Are you out there?

mailbox cartoon
I’ve been working on answering snail mail and email recently, and there are a number of you who changed email addresses or gave me incorrect addresses, or didn’t include addresses at all.

This always makes me sad, because I know you’re eagerly awaiting a response, and there’s no way I can send you one.

So, if you see your name here on this list, please leave a comment and I’ll get in touch with you for your correct address, OK?

Fahmida NaziaNicole Wang
Kaitlin (skyluke4ever)
Gracie (aandechute)
Abby (last name Burns, maybe?)
Ann (annnamey)
Daysa Lewis
Molly (philliesmm)
Laura Winkler
Margaret Harper
Chiara (last name Morley, maybe?)
Denise Espinosa
Sarah Robert

Whew!  Long list this time.  Moral of the story:  check and double-check that you’ve included a return address on your snail mail, and that the email addresses you provide when you contact me are 100% accurate!

Fan Art Friday

It’s my favorite day of the week — the day I get to turn the spotlight on YOU!

(I’m fond of Story Starter Saturday for the same reason.)

I’m turning over a NEW LEAF for 2014, and am going to try and not only get caught up with all my mail, but stay caught up with all my mail.

We’ll see how that works out, right?

Heh.

So to those of you patiently awaiting replies to your letters and emails, hang in there a little longer. I’m diving into my pile o’ mail even as we speak…

Meanwhile, I have a treat for you.  First of all, a glorious self-portrait of Miranda and Sofia, who were 11 when they sent me these pictures LAST SUMMER, and are probably, like, 27 by now. And have grown long, gray beards waiting for me to finally, FINALLY, post their pictures!Miranda & Sofia

Could they possibly be any cuter?  I don’t think so.

Isn’t this a great picture for a cold, rainy Northwest winter day (cold and snowy where many of you are)? Such a blast of summer! I’m keeping it here on my desk to remind me that warmer days are coming…

And here’s the drawing that Sofia did for me:

Sofia's artSimply stellar, Sofia!  (stellar: of or relating to the stars; outstanding — in other words, you’re a star, Sofia!)

Thank you so much, girls — your cheerful faces, lovely letter, and delightful drawing absolutely made my day!

Stop by tomorrow as we kick of the brand-new year with a brand-new Saturday Story Starter.

 

Fan Art Friday

Now that I’m back in town for a while (more about my travels later), I finally have time to share with you  some of the AMAZING, INCREDIBLE fan art that has found its way to me recently!

When this particular package came in the mail a few months ago (yes, shame on me, it’s been that long since I’ve had a chance to sit down and organize my blog), I was speechless. Just. Speechless. The care and love and thought and artistry that went into making each of these lovely friendship bracelets–color coordinated to match the corresponding books–totally blew me away.

So Brianna, today’s post is ALL ABOUT YOU!  I’m sending love & hugs your way, as words are inadequate to tell you how much your beautiful gift meant to me. I’ll treasure them always, along with your letter.

These photographs don’t do Brianna’s craftsmanship justice, I’m afraid. If you click on them, though, it should enlarge them so you can see at least some of the detail.

Fan Art Friendship Bracelets

Fabulous (as Wolfgang would say), right? Here’s a closeup of the bracelets on their own:

Friendship Bracelets

Just had a brilliant thought:
I’m going to hang them on my Christmas tree this year!
*perfect*

Fan art Friday

So this week I’ve been tackling my (staggeringly ginormous) pile of mail, now that the first draft of my new novel is finished. I just love reading letters (and email) from my readers, and I treasure each and every one.

Here are a couple of fun items that turned up over the past couple of days.  They were mailed to me a LONG TIME AGO, and I truly apologize for the lateness of my replies, girls!

First up is an owl collage from Colette:

Owl collage(Click on it for a larger view.)  Isn’t that gorgeous?  She did it just for me, because she knows I’ve had owls on my mind recently. (You can read about that by clicking here and here.) Thank you, Colette!

As if that wasn’t enough riches for one week, I also received this totally fabulous drawing from Emma!

Emma's drawing

 

(Again, click on it for a larger view.) Emma is a third grader who wants to be a writer, too.  I think she should illustrate her own books as well, don’t you?

Thanks so much, girls!  And look for a letter from me soon…

Done and dusted!

Good news!  The first draft of my new novel is DONE!

Fireworks

I sent it off to my editor yesterday, and am now footloose and fancy free for a little while until I have to dive into the revision process.

Well, OK, not really footloose and fancy free. You should see what happened to my desk while I was on deadline.

Messy Desk

Desk? What desk, you ask?

Trust me, there’s a desk under there. And you wonder what we writers do when we’re not writing!  We’re cleaning off our desks! Which for me, means answering the hundreds of letters (emails and snail mail) that have been piling up.

pile_of_mail

This is how I like to imagine myself answering my letters from fans:

fountain pen writing

Because in my daydreams, I live in Jane Austen’s world.

This is how I REALLY answer my letters from fans:

Typing on a keyboard

So for all of you who have been patiently waiting … and waiting … and waiting to hear back from me …

mailbox vintage

… hang in there — it shouldn’t be too much longer now!