Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Humbling, Amazing Response

I’ve been putting off writing about this subject, because I haven’t been able to think of words to describe my reaction—but there aren’t any. Also, this post has two audiences: First, to “everyone,” a.k.a. tout le monde, a.k.a. “all you kids in Internet-land”; and second, to John G______ (last name withheld, because I’m not sure he’d want to be identified publicly), in Massachusetts.

Back in May, John wrote me a letter and sent it in the mail to my house. Okay, first of all, who writes actual letters anymore? That itself is remarkable. Plus, it was two pages, single-spaced, typewritten (with an actual typewriter, in good ol’ Courier), and it was a thoughtful, and warm, response to my entire blog.

No joke—John had read all 544 posts, dating back to early 2009, and instead of leaving comments here and there on miscellaneous older posts, he wrote me the letter, commenting on several at once.

Seriously: He mentioned reading about lebkuchen, venison jelly, woodchucks, stinkhorns, and spiders.

He mentioned reading about our temperamental historic storm windows, my fibula fracture, and our Christmas tree.

By golly, I think he really did read through every post. Wow!

There’s something a little disconcerting about that—my blog is, basically, an online journal, and although I refrain from posting things that are quite personal, still, if you were to read it straight through, I suppose you would get a pretty personal glimpse into “who I am.”

Despite the slightly disconcerting realization that someone had actually read my blog, the flip side is that it is deeply gratifying, and humbling, and exhilarating, to think someone enjoyed reading it so much that he waded through the whole shebang, starting all the way back at my insignificant little first post.

Again, I’m an editor. And I’ve heard it said that authors, during the editorial process, oftentimes feel this sense of being deeply flattered, because the editor has read and considered every single word of the manuscript. Such a close reading, by someone “on your side,” is supposed to be a big ego boost. At least for some authors. I suppose this is kind of how it feels to be on the receiving end.

But here’s something else. John found my blog (much to my personal satisfaction) when he was doing web searches about Edwin Way Teale’s four American Seasons books. (You might recall that I’ve written at length about Teale, and particularly about his four American Seasons books.)

I admit it: Most of my posts are not well planned. They lack structure. The blog itself doesn’t stick to a single topic the way a “good” blog should (crafts; cooking; grandchildren; hotrods; etc). I’m chatty and rambly. And the posts are way too long. I know better than this.

I worry that potential clients for editing projects will find my blog and think that my haphazard free-writings must mean I’m an awful editor. (Trust me, casual journal writing and editing are two completely different things! Make no mistake: I’m much better at editing! I do this blogging stuff just for fun! ~Honest!)

However, I took extra care with my Teale American Seasons posts. So much “care” that I haven’t even yet finished my post for the last book of the quartet, Wandering Through Winter! It’s still in my file titled “Drafts Op Op.” And someday I will post it. (Meanwhile, John, this next picture is for you!)

My Teale posts are especially long and full of words. They are the antithesis of “successful” blogging and Internet writing; they are not breezy, choppy, simple, hyped-up, dumbed-down.

But here’s the thing: I liked them. I was satisfied with them. Of all my 500+ posts, those are easily in my top ten personal favorites. And if the Internet is good for something, it can be a powerful tool for connecting people who have similar interests, no matter where we are in the world. When I posted them, I’m sure I muttered to myself, “There you go. I spent a week writing that post, and maybe three people will eventually read the entire thing.”

But it didn’t bother me too much, because whoever those three people were, I knew they’d be Teale fans. I knew they’d have just finished reading the American Seasons books, and I knew they’d relish the connection with another person who enjoyed reading them.

So my emotions upon reading John’s letter last May were all over the place. Sure, I was momentarily freaked out: How’d he find my address? —Oh yeah, it’s a matter of public record. (Though I don’t engrave it on my posts, it’s also not a secret.) But most of all, I was elated.

Well more than 500 times, I’ve clicked “post” and had the sense that my little voice has just swirled away . . . into nothingness. Or who knows.

Yes, I was thrilled back when I started blogging, when people started leaving comments. And (spammers excluded) it still thrills me each time someone leaves a comment. (And yes, John, I do get an e-mail notification from Blogger each time someone posts a comment, even on the oldest posts.)

But John’s response has felt much, much different. I’ve been trying to decide how to reply to his letter, but I realize I can’t do better than to simply describe what happened, and how it made me feel.

For weeks after I received it, I showed it to friends and family: “Look at this incredible letter I got in the mail!” I read portions of it to just about anyone who would listen. I carried that letter with me everywhere I went.

I took it with me on two recent vacations. I kept it in my possession the way a dog carries around a treasured bone. Swear to God, I want to frame it and put it on my wall, the way a business owner frames his first dollar of profit. What else can I say?

And so, John, I heartily return your final comment to me:

Thank you! I really enjoyed reading that!

My best regards,



Zan said...

This post made me smile. Thanks for doing what you do.

Osage Bluff Quilter said...

That is so cool that someone would take the time to write a "letter". I can't get that close, but I was recognized once by a shopper at Wal-mart.

Julianna Schroeder said...

Zan--Yes, yes, yes--thank you! or, er, you're welcome. I guess I've never really quite accepted that this is "writing," eh?

Patti--I love it that someone recognized you in public! I'll bet that was really, really cool! Were you buying any quilting supplies at the time?


Darla said...

I love reading your blog because I can hear your voice as I read. I feel like we're sitting at the berg discussing those random life moments that are fun to share. Hoping to hear about those recent vacation s soon.

Julianna Schroeder said...

Thank you, Darla! That's a real compliment. I hadn't thought about writing about those trips, but maybe I should. Or, perhaps we should get together at the 'berg and talk about it over a beer or something? It would be almost tolerable there, with most of the MU students on summer vacation!

whalechaser said...

I don't think it gets any better than that. He wrote it because he knew it would have that effect and yes some people still write letters. So glad you were able to have that experience.

Julianna Schroeder said...

Thank you, Whalechaser, and you're right. It is a reminder to me that giving thanks is an activity, not just a feeling.