Everybody’s free (to write a gushy fangirl letter)

I’ve always been a fangirl. I’m pretty sure it started during my rampant and incredibly serious obsession with Hanson, that flaxen-haired trio of Oklahoma brothers who took the music scene by storm (storm, I tell you!) in 1997 with “MMMBop,” a mostly nonsensical but awesome ditty I’ve been humming for, oh, 13 years.

(That was a really long sentence. Please bear with me.)

Moving forward from my days of Hanson worshiping (and yes, I still love them — and they still tour; I’ve seen them in concert almost a dozen times!), we had our boy band phase — which fortunately fizzled out with ‘NSYNC’s demise. But there have been actors (Josh Hartnett, James McAvoy) and singers (John Mayer, Brandon Flowers), too. And my obsessions are not limited to dudes, either; I’ve gone through quite a few passions for TV shows (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Tudors,” “The Office,” “Teen Mom”) and movies (The “Star Wars” series; “Becoming Jane”).

My point: when I like something, I like something. And I’ll gladly tell you all about it.

The modern incarnation of this, of course, translates to my book love. When I love a book, y’all, I really love a book, and since I have this little blog on which to wax on (and on…) about my favorites, that’s just what I do.

Sometimes, though, I have to take it a step beyond. I have to write a Fan Letter.

There are two things I know for sure: everyone likes to be told they’re awesome, and everyone likes to be told they’re awesome in prose so they can read your words and save them forever, whether they’re in email or letter form. To date, I’ve written fangirl letters to Sarah Strohmeyer, Suzanne Supplee, Margaret Dilloway and Megan McCafferty, among others. In some (fortunate) cases, the authors themselves have contacted me first — and then I get to squee! all over the place as their name appears in my inbox, followed by attempts at not sounding like a lunatic when I reply.

What prompts me to write an email to an author versus just writing a book review talking about how great they are? Well, emotional connection. Margaret Dilloway first wrote me after seeing my review of How To Be An American Housewife, a novel that totally captured my heart and imagination, and I couldn’t resist writing her back to say — again — how utterly awesome it (and she) is. I wrote Suzanne Supplee after finishing Artichoke’s Heart, one of my all-time favorite books, because it really touched my soul and helped me come to terms with some scary emotions I didn’t know I still hadn’t dealt with.

When I have something nice to tell someone, I make it a real point to say it. Too often in life we go unnoticed as we sail through our jobs, home lives, volunteer work. Unlike in school, when awards were doled out for every conceivable thing to make us all feel special, no one comes along to pat us on the back or offer kind words regarding a fantastic job we did on a project or obligation. Or even that we got up and kicked the day’s butt by excelling at every task we had to accomplish, no matter how small they may have seemed.

Basically, I think we should be generous with our compliments and reserved with our insults. And when we have something nice to say, we should say it.

Since I started writing my newspaper column, I’ve archived every single complimentary letter (pictured above) or email I’ve received from readers — and I also have every kind email or blog post sent over from blog readers, too. When faced with harsh criticism or some Debbie Downer, I pop open a folder containing all those glowing words and draw strength from that. Not everyone loves me, sure, but some people do. And those people? They have to count more than the others.

One line from that Baz Luhrmann’s ’90s spoken-word graduation tune “Everybody Is Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” has always stuck with me: “Remember the compliments you receive. Forget the insults.”

Words to live by.

And words I’ll continue to share — whenever the mood strikes me.

Have you ever written fan letters to authors or celebrities?
What prompted you to reach out to them?

15 thoughts on “Everybody’s free (to write a gushy fangirl letter)

  1. In Catcher in the Rye, Holden said sometimes he reads a great book and just wants to sit down and talk to the author. Fan letters (especially if they’re returned) are the next best thing! 🙂


  2. This post just made me so, so happy. Everyone loves to be told that they’re loved and appreciated! You’ve inspired me to be a little more generous with my praise. Thanks Meg!


  3. Wow…I don’t think I’ve EVER written an actual letter to an author. What a wonderful idea though to show someone how much you really appreciated their words.


  4. meg,
    i’m a bit of dork and emailed megan mccafferty waaaaay back in 2001 when i first read ‘sloppy firsts’. she wrote me back and i was beyond excited! i’m sure i gushed but i really connected with the books, the setting–i’m a jersey girl too–and marcus flutie (i had my own in high school).

    ps. i a bit shambled your ardor for JSF in my post this evening. lol. i’m just saying.


  5. I love that song/tune/spoken whatever it should be called!

    I wrote fan letters in the past but never sent them, I’m glad of it really because they were too gushy. But recently I did email an author who had already asked me to tell her what I thought of her books. The “problem” was that I absolutely loved them, but saying so probably made me sound like a fangirl. Actually I know it did.

    But you’re right, it’s nice to know that people like what you’ve created. So maybe gushy isn’t so bad after all.


  6. Oh, I used to do it all the time. I mean, I still do, especially since it’s so easy now with email and such. But I remember writing to Jonathan Taylor Thomas and getting a signing postcard photo back in the mail and completely freaking out, ha.


  7. I’m not a fan letter writer, but maybe I should more often. You’re right, people do enjoy compliments, especially when they’re well-deserved.


  8. We do love you! When I saw you mention Brandon Flowers, I got a little excited – I thought, “Really, Meg likes Hokie football?” I didn’t realize there’s a Brandon Flowers who’s a singer!


  9. Love, love, love this post (and love your dad’s comment!!!!!!)

    I have a gushy fan-girl thing going on, especially when it comes to authors that I adore. When I met Emily Giffin this past summer, I was gushing all over the place. Seriously, I was so starstruck!!!! When Leah Stewart’s ‘Husband and Wife” struck a chord deep inside me, I wrote to her and was thrilled when she wrote back! I adore Jill Mansell and should write her a letter too.

    I love the idea of creating a book of positive things and affirmations. I should do that. In fact, it’s been suggested to me previously, but I’ve never gotten around to it. Fab idea 🙂


  10. Great post — there is always a time to compliment someone, and I think performers/writers are especially prone to feeling bad about their art. I sent off a quick email to an author even after seeing a note on her website about how she just couldn’t respond to emails any longer due to the volume — and to my immense pleasure, she took the time to write me back!


  11. I wrote to a ton of celebs when I was younger! I nearly fainted when I got a signed photo back from JTT. I’m sure I still have it somewhere!


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