January 21, 2011

Happiness Is... A Fan!

It's official.  I have a fan!  Possibly two!

I know.  I can't believe it either!

Here's what happened.

A few days ago, I got an actual article of fan mail which said (and I quote) "I LOVE your blog!"  Imagine that!  She loves my blog!  Way to make my day!

But it gets even better (I know.  The mind reels.)

Yesterday, in the same week (what are the odds) I made a phone call, and when I identified myself, the person who answered said, "Susanna Hill, as in Punxsutawney Phyllis?"

WOW!  That never happened before!  (And the fact that the person turned out to be the husband of a teacher whose wonderful preschool I have visited many times, and who was therefore more likely than many to have heard of me, did not detract in any way from that moment of heartwarming happiness at being recognized by association with one of my books!)

This brings me to an interesting point, though.  Writers of picture books do not have the same opportunities for interacting with their readers as writers of MG and YA books do.  This is not necessarily because picture books touch their audience less deeply.  It probably has more to do with the fact that most 4 year olds are more interested in playing in the sandbox than writing fan mail :)  The picture book set is not widely known for visiting websites or reading and commenting on blogs :)

But this means that, unless an adult who reads to them is unusually motivated, enough to find time in an already over-scheduled day to write a note, you're not likely to hear... anything. In fact, one of the reasons I started this blog was precisely to encourage more of that interaction between writers and the children, parents, teachers, and librarians we write for.  We want to know what you think.  What do you like?  What do you look for?  What can we do better?

When your picture book is first published, if you're lucky, you'll get a few nice words from one of the big reviewers.  After that, it kind of drops into the void.  Days go by.  Amazon rankings take one step forward and two steps back.  Pinkaliscious sells a bajillion copies and your book waits wistfully, hoping someone will pick it.  Publishers only send statements twice a year, so that leaves A LOT of days to wonder whether anyone is even reading your book, never mind whether they like it.  When the statements do arrive, in this economy, sales can be disappointing.  It's hard to remember that the sales figures are not necessarily a reflection of your book's worth (although they may be.)  There is no way to measure how many times your book is read in schools, or how frequently it is checked out of public libraries, or whether, somewhere, a child asks for it over and over and over again.  People might be reading (and liking) your book... or they might not.  There is a lot of uncertainty involved in being a writer.

But that is exactly why the rare moments when someone takes the time to tell you that their son loves Freight Train Trip, or their daughter demands Can't Sleep Without Sheep every night at bedtime, or you get invited to visit a school, or someone mentions that they love your blog or know who you are... that is why those moments are especially sweet.  They can carry us through a whole bunch of those uncertain days.

So when next uncertainty strikes (which will probably be in about 10 minutes) I shall martial positive thoughts.

I mean, after all, I have a fan!  Possibly even two :)


  1. It must be so lovely to get those comments from parents or readers. As a teacher, I sometimes hear parents talking about books they've loved or that their children love, and aside from Charlotte's web, they are almost always picture books.

  2. You write for MG - I would think you get lots of reader response!

  3. Yay, Susanna! That is awesome that you have a fan...or two. Soldier on! And know that the other day my 5 year old picked up a paper towel roll and pointed at my 8 year old who said, "Hey! No sword fighting in the house!" and the first responded with, "that was a good book!"

  4. Thank you, Megan! You have just made my day :)


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