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.)


  1. Gotta admit I had a nice, healthy guffaw when Colbert said "twatted." He's so dreamy!

  2. Great post. I always wonder if I am doing the right thing, or if I am some kind of fool for following my heart in this writing biz. Your illustration is fabulous and says alot. Thanks for the uplift.

  3. This made me laugh...probably because I can relate all too well.

    I wish I were 13. I'd send you fan mail. (I take that back...I never want to be 13 again).

  4. Christina, yes!

    Patricia, glad it helped. It is really, really hard to follow your heart. We just have to let go of the others and do it for *ourselves*.

    Michelle, if I had to go back to being 13, I would die. : \ But thanks for saying you'd send me fan mail! : )

  5. Love this post, that fail whale is flying!

  6. Definitely still fan letters :)

    Love your take on the fail whale

    Miss Stephen Colbert - he is genius!