My very first story sale was to an Alberta literary magazine in 1989. I have no idea if anyone read that story, which was called “Quiet Father” and which earned me ten bucks, and I probably never will.
By 1995, when I went to Clarion West, I’d sold some SF and mystery stories, and once in awhile I met up with people, usually other writers, who’d tell me they’d seen my stories, usually the ones I’d had printed in Crank! This was almost always an entry point into a conversation about their notorious “Kill YOur TV” rejection slip. It was still a face-to-face or print on paper world, is my point–you had to be fairly conspicuous as an author to hear much from your readers. They either had to write to you the old way or make their way to a convention.
So I don’t know what the era of fan contact by snail mail was like. I do know that now it’s incredibly easy, as a reader, to be able to drop someone a line saying how much I like their work. I do this from time to time, usually when I’m very very enthused and excited, and could you please write another one now? Anyway, it is very nice to get feedback on one’s own stories and books.
You also find out about things like this: a couple of book clubs that have been looking at me lately: Torque Control’s Short Story Club read “The Cage,” a few weeks ago, and now editor Cleilie Rich has let me know I am to be Ms. August in the 2011 Women In Fantasy Book Club line-up. Indigo Springs will be in the company of Prospero Lost, by L. Jagi Lamplighter, War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, Elizabeth Bear‘s All the Windwracked Stars and seven other selections (number twelve is reader’s choice, and thus TBA.)
(If fantasy isn’t so much your thing, I should mention that there is also a Women in SF club, with an amazing reading list and Tiptree mid-month bonus stories, and the sign-up for that one is here.)
You can’t help but feel gratified and appreciative of attention like this, especially when you find yourself in such good literary company. Really, if you’re me, you want to rush over, saying “Hey! Can I do anything? Bake cookies, answer questions, change your oil?”
And that’s where the double-edged sword of “It’s so easy to just drop someone a line” comes in. Because I can’t help thinking it might be a little weird if we authors descended on the club like a bunch of bright eyed and eager birds, waiting to gulp up their every thought on our respective masterpieces.
And also, possibly, because I don’t know how to change someone’s oil.
Is there etiquette for something like that? Anyone know?