Friday, December 2, 2011
Me and the Fail Whale
In an online group I belong to, several writers are sharing their awesome fan mail--such sweet, kind, funny e-mails! It's so fun to write for middle-schoolers/teens, because their comments to authors are hilarious and frank and perfect.
Confession: I haven't gotten fan mail from teens. Just grown-ups, though the notes were fantastic, and since we've all been teenagers, it sort of counts, right?
Then the Fail Whale came to mind. I've been thinking a lot about my books and my career, and feeling rather fail-ish as a whole. My books are about people our society would sometimes rather forget, which can be a problem if I want to make money, so I can teach less and write more. Should I try to write something more mainstream? I don't know. Should I write paranormal romance? Don't think I'm capable. Should I put my dream away?
The first illustration: it is me. I am dead on the shore.
Then I thought about what the actual Fail Whale is doing--he is FLYING. The Twitter birds (they're tweets?) are carrying him, because he is temporarily inconvenienced and he's too big. He is getting help from his friends! There will come a time when he is back in the ocean and swimming along. This is a *happy* picture instead of a failure.
Fail Whale says: shut up, quit thinking, and write. Let the good stuff carry you until you feel like you can swim again. Write the stories you want to tell. I'll find a way to do less teaching and more writing. I know, I'll become a swimsuit model! My middle-schooler will die of embarrassment, which is a bonus. Or I'll figure out something more realistic.
The notes from grown-ups are still fan letters, aren't they? People felt connected to my book, so they told me, and that's what I wanted when I wrote it. Maybe the fan letters from teens are still in the mail--maybe the Fail Whale birds are bringing them. I'll be hopeful.
(An aside: best comment ever about Twitter? When Stephen Colbert was asked if he'd used Twitter, his response was "I have Twatted." Love you, Stephen Colbert.)