Daily Archives: August 20, 2011

Remember Me?


Hello Mrs. Naylor,
    I don’t know if you keep records of all your fan mail over the years but even if you do there is no way you’d remember mine. 🙂 My name is Briana and I am 33 years old. I live in Laurel, MD but have spent time in DC, Silver “Sprangs”, Hyattsville and Tacoma Park. I began reading Alice when I was about 11 or 12 and immediately I was hooked. It was so great to read about someone in my very own state! I would glow when she talked heading to Wheaton Plaza with her friends because that was a hang out of mine too.
    I became so enamored with Alice that when I was about 13 I wrote my very first fan letter to Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. I told her how much I loved her books and asked her how long she was going to write about Alice. I was totally floored when one sunny afternoon I received a letter. This was a big thing for me because I never got mail. It was from YOU!!  I danced around and shouted and couldn’t wait to show my mom (I was the opposite of Alice – a mom but no dad). I was so excited when you thanked me for being a fan and told me that Alice would reach at least 18. I vowed then and there to read every Alice book ever written. That letter meant so much to me.
    Time went on of course as it does in real life and I eventually left Alice behind. Since then I have even published 3 books of my own; mostly poetry and religious discussion. When someone asked me several months ago about my literary influences as a young person it dawned on me that an entire lifetime had gone by and I had lost touch with my old friend Alice. So I geared myself up and headed to the library. I felt a little silly poking around in the young adult section. I couldn’t believe how many Alice books there were. I didn’t know where to start so I started at the beginning. My how Alice has grown! 🙂 The books still make me laugh, blush, talk out loud to the pages and – at this stage of my life – remember when I was dealing with the same issues.
Today I just felt like writing again to say thanks for keeping Alice going for new generations to share and I can’t wait till I have a daughter to share them with.
                                                                                        
 
Phyllis replied:
 
I’m afraid I don’t keep records of all the fan mail I receive, but I do remember hearing from a few local girls who lived in Silver Spring, and you were undoubtedly one of them.  It’s absolutely wonderful to hear from women who have reconnected with Alice after all these years.  Thanks so much for taking the time to write to me.
                                                                                             

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Creative Writing courses?

Question:

 

I’m writing to you so I can officially proclaim my love for the Alice series.  Despite the fact that ALice and I do not have that much in common, I can still relate to her.  Everything she does seems so honest.  It may not be the right thing, no noble deed dripping with selflessness and grace, but it’s sincere.  It’s nice to meet a character who’s not the epitome of integrity, but who embodies human nature instead.  All the embarrassing, confusing, exasperating, mistake-riddled traits of human nature.  And that’s exactly what we love about Alice.

         Also, I love how the Alice books don’t really fit the format of others I have read.  Almost all the young adult literature I’ve read that features a female heroine follows this pattern:  Girl is a total reject/painfully boring, something catastrophic happens to Girl, while Girl wrestles with her life a drop-dead gorgeous Stud magically appears, Stud falls madly in love with Girl, Girl fixes giant problem, Girl gets together with Stud, (they could possibly break up, but Stud always comes back.)and they both live happily ever after.  Not really that realistic, hmmm?  I always think, “Are these two going to date forever and then get married or something?  Because that’s what they seem to think.” (Maybe I’m just jealous, because of my nonexistent love life :).  I can’t at all fit Alice into this one-size-fits-all format.  She’s dated, she’s broken up, she’s moved on.  Alice doesn’t walk in a dream world like so many other cookie cutter characters. 

           And we all know that, at some point in time, every girl wonders about the topics that Alice learns about (even if we deny it).  I applaud you for your courage in exploring these taboo subjects with such openness.  I admire how you so tastefully incorporate these subjects into the story without disrupting its flow.

           I am an aspiring author (Can you tell?  I sure hope so.) much like the others who write to you.  It’s really quite a shame, because there isn’t a trace of creative writing (I loathe essays and other forms of writing that stifle the imagination) to be found in my english class.  You could take a creative writing course, but that’s only for juniors and seniors, and I’m just a lowly freshmen.  Do you have any writing tips for me?  Any giant mistakes in this e-mail just begging to be addressed?  It’s a bit early, but do you know of any good subjects to major in, like creative writing or journalism?

          Oh dear, I’ve rambled quite a bit in this letter.  I’m so sorry for wasting a boatload of your time.

          You may or may not get around to reading this or answering back.  If you don’t, I won’t think any less of you or Alice.  I understand that you are a busy woman and have better things to do than answer silly fan mail all day.

          Anyways, it’s not important what my name is, or where I’m from, because I’m just another fan.  Though I’m not special, or unique, or different in anyway from all the other Alice-lovers, I’d still like to thank you.  And even though you’ve heard it a million times before, I’m willing to bet it still means a lot.

 

Phyllis replied:

To be truthful, I didn’t take any writing courses.  At the time I was in high school and college, I was concentrating on the subjects I needed for my major–psychology–and thought, at the time, that writing was just my hobby.  Until a family emergency drove me to write full-time, I hadn’t realized how much I loved it and that I could make a living at it.  I wouldn’t take any courses by mail if I were you–you need feedback from other would-be writers, and even without a group or a class, you are already learning by listening, observing, and the memories you’ve already stored in your memory bank.  Would your school librarian be willing to form a creative writers’ group that meets over the lunch hour or after school?  Can you form your own among a few friends who share your interests?  Any way that you can submit articles or stories to the school newspaper?  Meanwhile, aside from creative writing courses when you get to be a junior or senior, concentrate on psychology and sociology, and read other writers to see how they put words and ideas together.  And best of luck!

 

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