People who read my books tell me the darndest things.
Perhaps instinctively knowing that I’ll never let them down — or simply because I’ve written a lot of personal stuff in my books — some readers write very personal responses in their letters and cards.
I feel privileged to read them. Every one.
Some weeks ago, one particular letter arrived. It accompanied a card, and was totally unexpected.
You see, it came from a prominent person, and the fact that he took the time to read my book — and write to me — was a huge surprise.
As you may know, I live with a strange thing called post traumatic stress disorder — one of the outcomes of a car accident of years ago. Only very recently have I written about it. When I did, I deliberately crafted my book, An Honest House, to provide a balance between the beauty, love and support that surrounds me in our old farmhouse, and the uncontrollable terror that always hovers, just out of sight.
I wanted book lovers to read my book, and I particularly wanted people who struggle with PTSD to read it. I wanted them to see, in an ‘up-close and personal’ way, how someone else lives — with and, in spite of, PTSD.
But here’s the problem: if you have it, reading about PTSD can be a death-defying thing — or so it feels. It wasn’t until after writing An Honest House that I finally read an article about PTSD – written by my own therapist, for the back of my own book! Even then, I only read it because I had to.
Shortly after my book went to print, I saw a news story about a prominent person who lives with PTSD. I wrote to commend him on revealing it in public, and also mentioned my upcoming book. He replied warmly — then warned that he’d most likely not read my book.
Imagine my surprise and pleasure, then, when I recently received a letter and card from him — just like that, out of the blue!
The letter was warm and revealing.
A beloved relative, he wrote, had recently died, and in his grief, he decided to read An Honest House. He found himself immersed in it.
I alternated between smiling and feeling choked up as I read. How moving to learn that he actually read the book and that it gave him comfort in a challenging time! And how gratifying to know that An Honest House will have a place of honour on his bookshelf.
As with the vast majority of my readers, I’ve never met this man in person, never even talked to him on the phone. I likely never will. Yet, in a way, we know each other.
Dedicated to everyone who writes to an author whose book they’ve enjoyed.
53 thoughts on “The Private Responses of My Readers”
Very moving testament to the power of blogging to forge important human connections.
Yes, Cindy. Books and blogs are indeed a great way of making connections between writers and readers.
Thank you. I thought so too!
It must feel very good to know that you made a difference in his life.
Thanks, Bernadette. He also made a difference in mine. His public revelation made me a lot more comfortable with releasing An Honest House.
It’s wonderful to read such a lovely post like this. To know that you made a difference in a person’s life. If we as writers make even one person laugh, cry, feel loved or feel they are not alone, then we have made a difference.
Well said. Thank you for this.
You’ll most likely never know how many people you’ve helped, but that’s okay.
So true, because we love what we do but it must be a great feeling to get a letter like the one you received. Hugs.
It’s true. Even with blogging, we will likely never know how many people we have helped.
Kudos Cynthia. I’m glad for you and this person you helped. It sound like your honesty and vulnerability are helping others cope with their challenges. Hugs and blessings.
I hope so, Brad. Why do it, otherwise, with all the emotional and physical pain involved? (This is what I asked myself along the way.)
I’m so happy that gentleman took the time to write to you, Cynthia. Receiving a handwritten letter from someone who’s been touched by our words is truly the greatest review we can get.
Yes, indeed, Jill. To put so much time and effort into doing so — it truly made my day.
Cynthia, while I don’t live with PTSD your book touched me and made me realize what happens to those that do. Because you are such a great writer and took the time and had the will and stamina to put it on paper you have shared this experience and created an understanding of PTSD for anyone who reads your work. Keep going, girl.
Thank you, my generous friend Amy. You may recall that this was the manuscript I walked away from at least 3 times. Couldn’t stand the pain of it all. So when such a reader takes the time to respond so powerfully, and tenderly at the same time, it really hits home.
Hits home is exactly it.
Dear Cynthia, one letter of praise from a reader is worth more than any royalty check. Well done.
Blessings ~ Wendy
I’ll take the royalty cheques too! But you’re so right: this reader’s letter and card meant so much to me, and came at a perfect time. It really says a lot about how much a reader’s response can mean to an author. We should all take the time to write even one letter to an author a year.
What a wonderful response to your book/story, Cynthia. I hope more people with PTSD will find the courage to read your story.
Me too, my friend. But as you know, that’s asking a lot of people who live with PTSD.
Sadly, yes. 😦
I think we all forget how eager and grateful others are to get warm words–how amazing that this man took the time to pass his along to you! Now I’m wondering to whom I should be sending a note, to let them know they influenced me . . .
Please do so, dear Kerry. These things really do matter. Thanks for replying, as always.
Lovely connection, Cynthia. A testimony to the great value in telling our stories via memoir, and crafting them in such a way as to be accessible and hopeful – as yours is.
Thanks so much, Diane, Queen of Memoir-Writing!
I agree with Cindy. Blog friends enlarge one’s world and allow a person to travel around the world while staying home.
So true: Blogs and books expand our worlds. Thanks, Laurie!
Cynthia, wow! I was so moved to read your post and can only imagine the impact that letter had on you. How kind and generous of you to reach out to him in the first place and how special to know how much your book meant to him through his letter to you. A remarkable story and thank you so much for sharing, truly inspiring.
Annika, I’m always inspired by your generous replies to my blog. Thank you. His original revelation about his PTSD gave me strength, and I am so pleased that my book gave him strength.
Happy Spring! It’s been a good Spring here, with a lot of rain. (Our stream broke its banks – water has such awesome power.)
Amazing! Sharing such honesty in your book and the inspiration it offers for dealing with the many challenges you face, I’m so glad he read it and it can offer him another point of view and touch his life like it has so many of your readers.
Thanks very much, Tina. I well remember our exchanges as you read my books, and how precious your words. Thanks for writing to me back then, and I’m so glad we can follow each other’s blogs.
One day, maybe, your excellent cooking skills will rub off one me! (ya think?….)
I am glad that you reached out to him, and that he did finally read your book and contacted you in turn. Those out of the blue notes of warmth and praise are worth more than royalties. They feed the spirit.
Well said, Lavinia. They do indeed feed the spirit. Writing can feel like such a lonely task — but when it hits home with a reader, what a joy! And you know what I mean, because your writing about nature and life on your farm brings me joy.
Wonderful and heart-warming. We are all humans, in high office or on the streets, but is harder for those in power to admit to, or to take the comfort from, the help on offer when they hit the bumps in life. I’m so glad he found the courage to read your lovely book and I am sure that your words will have given him that help and comfort he needed.
Me too, Hilary. Sometimes I think it’s a lot harder for men to admit to the need for help. But his initial courage gave me courage, so I guess we en-couraged each other – just at different times.
This is such a wonderful post, Cynthia. It seems to be about consequences doesn’t it? And your courage. Because you were brave enough to write so movingly in your book about your struggles with PTSD, all these other connections and consequences could then take place. I see in my daughter that same reluctance to read about her anxiety that you had to read the article written by your therapist. It’s bad enough having to live with it all day and all night without having to read about it as well! I was so moved to hear about the gentleman who also had the courage to write about his experience of PTSD and your connection with him. The more sharing of experience there is, the better for all of us.
I think about your daughter quite often, Clare, and her situation is one I particularly empathize with. If at my age, even reading about such things scares me, I can well imagine how tough it must be for her at times. And I know how courageous she has been, despite setbacks.
By the way, your insight about the consequences that began with my decision to write about PTSD has enlightened me — I didn’t think of it in that way till now.
Thank-you, Cynthia. Thank-you for your thoughtfulness.
A lovely testament to the power of human connection. Famous or not, to have touched another person in a positive way is about as good as it gets.
Well said, Tina. Thank you for replying.
Cynthia, every time I see a pic of the house/environment you’ve created, it just oozes home. Comfort. Peace. Your books do the same:). Not surprised at all he loved it.
Thanks. K. I tried hard to recreate the feeling of comfort, love and grace that has kept me going in these years. I never noticed them, during the worst years. But once you start looking, it’s right there, surrounding you.
How wonderful that people send letters and cards .. very special
It is very special, Julie. Now, if one person in particular, would just throw me a jar of quince jelly, that would make me happy too…. (tee hee…)
This is absolutely wonderful, Cynthia – to reach out and touch people you have never met and make a difference in their lives is a treasure xxxx
Yes, Dianne. It’s great. Especially when you are not expecting it.
The wonders of our connected world. Previous writers probably had little feedback about their work, other than official book reviews in publications. — Oscar
That’s true, Oscar. Or a reader would write and never know if the author got the letter.
Congratulations, Cynthia, on hearing from a prominent person (among many others) who found meaning and solace in your book. It means so much to take but a minute and let a fellow traveler know they’ve done good.
I’m glad for you … Jeanne
Thank you, Jeanne, for your wise reply. And for using one of my favourite words: solace.
What a lovely connection to make Cynthia, I can imagine the pleasure of receiving such a communication!