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?