Thursday, October 09, 2014

Ah, If Ye Only Knew....

While I don't often presume to speak for others, I think I'm on safe ground here by making an exception and speaking not only for myself but for every other writer I've had the pleasure of knowing over the years. 

This blog was prompted by a totally-unexpected e-mail I received from a reader saying how very much he enjoyed my work, and it occurred to me that my reactions to it would quite probably be echoed by any writer who received it or anything similar to it. 

I did not recognize the name on the email. The heading was "From a Fan of the Dick Hardesty Series," which of course got my attention, and it began, "Dear Mr. Grey."

I am always absolutely delighted to receive a note from a reader, though a little embarrassed to be called "Mr. Grey." To one who has always suffered from serious low-self-esteem issues, the email was what a tire pump is to a flattened tire. For I’m sure the majority of writers, any positive note from a reader defines the word "validation."

For some unknown reason, readers tend to be intimidated by writers (and having so said, I must admit that I am, too, by writers I consider far better craftsmen than myself). I suspect part of the  reason may be that perhaps they assume all writers are F. Scott Fitzgeralds who live in a different world than  mere mortals. And while there may be a couple of writers who dwell in marble mansions high on Mt. Olympus, most of us are just average people who happen to write books. (I can’t add "who write books for a living," for very few writers can actually live off their writing income.) 

Like any reader hesitant to contact a writer, I too, often feel intimidated anyone I consider more learned or successful than I. So when, in the course of reading the reader's note, he mentioned casually that he was a television writer and producer, I was more than a little flattered. And when I noted that his signature line included the information that he is also communications professor at a well-known east coast university, I was close to euphoric. I did a Google search on him and discovered his television credits include several Emmys. That someone so eminent actually took the time to write me to say he enjoyed my work made me feel like a little boy who has just been given a wonderful present. 

Most writers' worlds are fairly insular. We pour ourselves into our work for months and years at a time. From the moment the manuscript goes off to the publisher, we're more or less left dangling. Few publishers have the time to let the writer know how the book is selling, and our only real way of knowing whether what we've written is good or bad, other than the always-too-few reviews and too-infrequent royalty statements, is what we hear from our readers. And in the end, it is how the writer’s work is received/perceived by the reader than matters.

So whenever a reader is kind enough to take the time to contact a writer directly to say something nice about his or her books, it quite literally fulfills Clint Eastwood's famous request to "make my day." I have never heard a writer say he or she was less than delighted to hear from a reader. To hear someone actually say that the writer's words may have brought someone a degree of pleasure is a special form of validation.

I've always consider every book I write to be a one-sided conversation with the reader. To actually hear back from a reader is, like the credit card ad says, "priceless."

Please keep this in mind, and the next time you read a book you enjoy, don't hesitate for an instant to drop the author a note. It will be immensely appreciated.

Trust me.   

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (


Kage Alan said...

Well? What did his letter say? Or did you even get to read between skipping from "Dear Mr. Grey" to his name at the bottom?

It could have been one of those "I have this fantastic story you should write about in your series!" letter. Or, "Would you please send me a lock of your hair so I can add it to my collection?"

You can't just tempt us and then not tell us what it said. Sheesh.

Dorien Grey said...

Oooops....sorry, Kage; thanks for pointing this out. I was so carried away with the pleasure it brought me I didn't go into detail. I've corrected the blog, as you can now see above, by simply saying that it was very complimentary. I didn't feel right about tooting my own horn too loudly and I didn't want to push my luck by asking the writer for permission to quote him directly.