Of double weddings and lots o’ kids


One of the coolest parts of my job is the chance to interact with readers. Writing a newspaper column for three-plus years, I’ve gotten my share of interesting “fan mail.” For the most part, I’m lucky; when folks drop me a line, it’s not generally to tell me I suck. (Though that does happen.) The emails, letters and phone calls are heartwarming — especially the one above.

Since Spencer and I announced our engagement, a few questions spring from the lips of nearly everyone I see:

When are you getting married?
Have you chosen a dress?
Do you have a venue?
Are you going on a diet?

(Yep: all real, repeatedly asked questions. Including the weight issue — but that’s a separate post.)

Once we go over the basics, I invariably add that I’m not the only one recently betrothed; my sister’s fiance proposed on the same day. Most express surprise and even chuckle when I add that we’re both planning weddings for the fall of 2013, and then another question bursts forth:

Are you having a double wedding?

Never in my life have I even considered the idea of a double wedding. Though I love my sister dearly, everyone agrees we want our own day. I’m her maid of honor, and she will be my matron of honor; everything else aside, I wouldn’t want to take away from that. Kate and I actually are planning to have a double bridal shower, but that’s totally different from a double wedding. I mean: that’s insanity. Total insanity. Right?

Not for everyone, apparently. I wrote about the double-wedding issue in a recent column, and the letter and photo at top arrived from a reader who told the story of the wedding she shared with her younger sister in 1954. One of five girls, Betty’s father was all too glad to marry two of his lovely daughters off at once.

When I opened the letter, I literally gasped. How gorgeous and classic are those lovely brides? (And don’t worry: the photo is a copy!) I’ve always loved poring through old family albums, and the ladies’ vintage looks are stunning. I think the double cake toppers are adorable, too, and was so touched Betty took the time to send me her story. I showed it to everyone.

Married as 22- and 21-year-olds, Betty and her sister went on to have 17 (!!!) kids between them — and have enjoyed long, happy marriages. She kindly wished that for all of us.

Um, hopefully not the 17 kids part, though.

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?