One of my very favorite things to do in the whole wide world is get the mail. Not e-mail, mind you, but honest-to-gosh postal mail. Very analog of me, I know, but I love opening up the box we have nailed to the old maple tree in our yard and seeing it crammed full of stiff white envelopes, magazines, and, on a good day, that E-Ticket of mail, The Package. (Come on, is there anyone here who doesn’t love seeing that smiling amazon.com box?)
The other day, however, it wasn’t a package that made my day, it was one of the envelopes. This one was a yellow envelope, and the return address on it was one of my favorite places in the world, Historic Hudson Valley, of White Plains, New York. The fine folks at HHV, as they call themselves, were incredibly nice and helpful as I was working on Washington Irving, so any correspondence from them is always a treat. I opened it, and inside was a small, sealed envelope, with a cover note from Kate Johnson, curator of HHV. “This letter came in for you,” Kate’s note said in her perfect, spidery script, “so I am sending it on.”
The enclosed envelope — with a Rancho Cordova, California return address — had been sent to HHV, but addressed to my attention. I turned it over; “Thank you” had been written across the back tab of the envelope. Gently, I nudged it open, and slid out the card inside, a crisp white notecard with a painting of apple blossoms on the front. “My very dear Sir,” the note began, in a spiky cursive:
Thank you for the beautiful reading days you have given us with ‘Washington Irving.’ A work of art coming in with the arrival of Spring.
Carlotta Monteverde (*)
All I can say is: wow. That small note made my day, week, month, maybe even year.
The fact that someone read and enjoyed my book — someone I don’t know — and then took the additional time to sit down, write a note, and mail it, is all at once so sweet, flattering, humbling, and inspiring. I’ve been well reviewed in the Washington Post, New York Times, and Associated Press, but I must tell you, no review means more than the kind words of a reader. To know it’s been in the hands of someone 3,000 miles away who read it and enjoyed it — and enjoyed it enough to write — really makes it all worthwhile.
In all my days as a reader, I don’t think I’ve ever once dropped an author a personal note to tell them how much I appreciated their work — I think my assumption was always “Ahhhh, why bother? They’ll never get it.” Because of Carlotta, I’m going to change that assumption. I’m going to start letting writers know when their work has touched, inspired, or just flat out entertained me. Because it sure meant a lot when someone took the time to do it for me.
I wrote Carlotta a card in return, thanking her for beautiful note — and I meant every word of it. Those apple blossoms on her card may have been a portend of the weather that’s to come, but it was the sentiment inside, in Carlotta’s sprawling handwriting, that truly brought Spring here early.
(*) Name changed to protect and respect the sender’s privacy.