When my first book, Bummer Summer, was published, I was absolutely ecstatic. After three long years of writing, I didn’t think anything could be neater than seeing a real book with my name on it and my words inside. But when the first fan mail arrived, with actual comments from actual readers, I knew I was really and truly an author!
Back then, I’d receive a few letters every month from kids who had read Bummer Summer and who wanted to let me know what they had liked about the book. It was very exciting to get this kind of feedback from my new readers, and I happily answered each letter right away. I even became pen-pals with some of my first-ever fans. Little did I know that within a few years there would be over fifteen thousand fan letters a year – and that almost all of the writers would want to be my pen-pal!
Once the Baby-sitters Club series began, mail arrived from all over the United States and Canada and even from some foreign countries. It was (and is!) so much fun to open. Kids often send pictures of themselves, and they tell me about their families, their pets, their hobbies, their classes and their friends. I’ve received stickers, friendship bracelets, decorated envelopes, original art work and even short stories! Many of my readers ask for writing tips or hints on how to start their own baby-sitters club. And almost everyone has a favorite BSC member (usually the baby-sitter who the writer feels is most like her)
You might be surprised to know how much letters from fans can influence an author. For example, I got so much mail asking for a special story for Shannon and for Logan that I decided that they should each get their own Readers’ Request book. And you would not believe the mail that arrived after Stacey left Stoneybrook for New York City! My readers wanted her back in the Baby-sitters Club right away. My editors agreed with them, and Welcome Back, Stacey! was the result.
Fans like to suggest ideas for new books, but the request that came up the most often was for a story dealing with the death of a friend and how kids could cope with this tragedy. After I wrote Mary Anne and the Memory Garden, I was touched to receive many poignant letters from readers telling me that the book has helped them deal with personal losses in their own lives.
While it’s been many years since my first fan letter arrived, I still love reading my mail (a much easier task now that the BSC series has ended!). I’m honored that kids take the time to share their opinions and ideas, and every letter is special to me. And as an author and long-time reader, my day is always made brighter when someone tells me that my books have helped to make reading a favorite pastime!