Fan Mail

I hardly ever receive mail about my articles in Arizona Wildlife Views magazine. So it was a surprise when, a few days ago, I received a letter from a reader. I opened it with some hesitation, for reasons revealed below. My fears were unfounded. In carefully chosen, well-crafted prose, the writer praised my story “Wild Life at House Rock” in glowing terms. He said it took him to a part of Arizona he’d never visited, and he really enjoyed the trip.  I won’t quote the letter, so as not to (cliche alert) toot my own horn. Suffice to say, he made my day.

The reason I felt trepidation as I opened the letter was that it was postmarked from one of Arizona’s prisons. I had no idea what to think as I opened it. I’m sure prisoner mail is read by staff before it’s sent, so I wasn’t really afraid of the contents. I guess I just didn’t know what to think.

It turned out, neither did he. In the letter, the writer said he hoped I wouldn’t mind receiving it. As a writer, I’ve always sent my words into the world assuming without question that they will find warm welcome. It’s hard to imagine being behind bars. You read something, it speaks to you, you want to thank the writer, but you have to wonder whether your words will even be read, not to mention what the person reading them will think or imagine of your situation.

It took some courage for this person to write me, and it really touched me that he did. He said my story took him away from his environment for a little while. I’m not sure any story I’ve ever written has ever received higher praise than that. What a nice way to begin 2013.

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8 thoughts on “Fan Mail

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  1. I’m so glad you shared this, Julie! What a good reminder of the power of words to transport a reader, and a reminder to us writers that readers are individuals located in specific situations — no such thing as the generic “reader.”

  2. That’s the best! Did you reply to him? I wonder how he ended up with a copy of the magazine. Thanks for this very nice story.

  3. As you said, it’s unusual to get any kind of written response and getting one from a prisoner even more rare. Writers should be aware of their audience when composing a piece, but I’ll readily admit to never considering that audience. How nice this person has awoken an awareness of an audience not considered; does make one wonder if there are other audiences we might be ignoring. But it wouldn’t make me want to reply.

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