People occasionally write to me. I call this my ‘fan mail’, but I’m not really as deluded as that sounds. Okay, some of it actually is quite complimentary, but often it’s requests for advice on being an illustrator (which I’m happy to give, for what it’s worth), letters helpfully pointing out mistakes I have made in one of my picture books (thank you!), and very rarely – but rather wonderfully – drawings from children who have liked a story. Inevitably a lot of it is Harry Potter related, though that’s dying off a bit now (and I’m always a bit wary of any HP requests, especially after someone asked for a signed book cover for a sick child only to put it straight onto e-bay!).
Anyway, why am I telling you this? Well, to make the point that unless you live in a cave and shoot would-be readers, writing really isn’t as solitary as it’s often made out to be. Readers and writers go together like crackers and cheese.
I won’t say which is which.
Everyone who keeps a blog knows all this already, but there’s nothing wrong with being reminded, as I was a few days ago when my agent forwarded an e-mail from a confused parent. Could I please explain how something in one of my early picture books was possible? What was “the author’s intention”? There were two small children waiting for an answer.
Wasn’t it clear from the story? Apparently not, and who’s fault is that?
I wrote back and apologised (and I hope my explanation satisfied those two boys) but as I spend my days wrangling with a half-fossilised ms, trying to make time travel sound plausible, it’s useful to be reminded that readers will be the ones to decide if I’ve succeeded or not, not me. And even the loftiest ivory tower has a letter box.