Daily Archives: June 9, 2014

Reading the Sexy Parts Out Loud

Question:
 
I am another huge, longtime fan of Alice -and you! I’ve read several of your books over the years (Shiloh is one of my all time favorites!) but the Alice books resonated with me in a special way. My friends and I used to get the books from the library and read parts of them out loud to each other -all the stuff we had questions about, but were too afraid to ask! Thank you for helping us through that!
What I’d really like to thank you for, however, is how you wrote about Denise Whitlock several years ago. I was too young to value it then, but I have special appreciation for it now. Currently, I work in suicide prevention. Unfortunately, suicide/depression etc. still aren’t really talked about as much as they should be. Most people are afraid to bring it up and have conversations with their children or friends, but you were not. Thank you for bringing to light such a serious issue, and handling it with so much sensitivity and understanding. I hope that other readers in the future will read this and know it’s okay to talk and reach out for help -I’m sure many people already have.
Thank you for all that you do!
 
Phyllis replied:
 
You brought up two important topics–both concerning talking freely about certain subjects.  It took me a long time as a young girl to realize that whatever I was concerned about regarding bodies and sex, a zillion other girls were concerned or interested in also.  And for the life of me, I can’t understand why depression or other emotional/mental issues have to be so secretive.  We go to doctors for all sorts of ailments, some of them on very private parts of the body, so why should it be so difficult to tell a counselor or nurse or doctor, “I’m feeling really anxious and can’t put my finger on why,” or “I’ve been depressed for weeks now, and nothing seems to pull me out of it.”  But of course, there need to be willing adults and professionals available, and for many young people, those are hard to find.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fan Mail

View from Indonesia

Question:
 
Hi Phyllis! I am Alice huge fan from Indonesia and i just want you to know that how your books inspired me a lot and all of the series are my all time favorite books!! I feel like i’m growing up with her. I’m 19 now and i read Alice since i was 12 (and i still reread it) and since then i fell in love with Lester!! It’s so sad that Now I’ll Tell You Everything is the last book of all the series. Thank you so much for writing these books!! Thank you!!!
 
Phyllis replied:
 
I think we all fell in love with Lester.  I’m not even sure where I got the name.  I think he was a boyfriend of my sister’s.  I used to accuse him of being conceited, because he always had a smart reply to everything.  He sure did love to argue ,and I secretly liked the attention.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fan Mail

View from Germany

Question:

The first Alice book I read was Alice in Rapture, Sort Of when I was in the hospital at age 11. When I learned there were more books, both before Rapture and afterwards, I knew I wanted to read them. I bought a huge chunk of them when I visited my grandmother in America a few years later.I have to say, the older Alice got, the more I liked her.

I especially enjoy the books from Simply Alice, if not from Alice On Her Way onwards, mostly because she still reacted intensely to things, but otherwise didn’t act like something was a giant catastrophe as she did previously. It’s one small problem for me, I can’t read the older books and enjoy them as much as previously, because Alice seems to think that every tiny thing is the end of the world or a much bigger deal than it is.

But Now I’ll Tell You Everything just topped it for me. She was mature, still a bit quirky and it was nice to see how she continued to change over the years. The debacle of Abstinence-Only Sex Ed VS the regular Sex Ed is a part that always gets my blood boiling, while the last chapter Viva La Alice got me shedding tears. Of course, at some points in the books, I wanted to grab Alice and shake her – particularly when she dates Tony, who is a complete jerk and needs a proper woman to reign him in properly, or when she tries to be friends with Jill and Karen. Why she would even bother with them is beyond me…

But then, there will always be parts in Alice books that I just don’t understand. I live in Germany and was raised here, so I don’t understand this big deal of dances at schools or why she needs to buy a dress every year, if the previous ones fit just fine. But it was enjoyable to read about her and her family and friends, although at times I still wonder what happened to a few minor characters that seemed to disappear completely off screen as the books progress. But the main focus remained on Alice, her family and children, and that was the most important thing.

Phyllis replied:

It’s always interesting to read different points of view.  I think some girls would agree with you, that if they really loved a dress, why not wear it again to other dances?  I can empathize with Alice, though.  Girls bodies to tend to change a little at that age.  The breasts may become fuller, the hips wider, so I’m not sure the same dresses would fit from year to year.  The dances Alice and her friends were really excited about were the few formal or semi-formal dances at her school. And those are a big deal, as they were when I was growing up.  I wanted a different dress for each one too, and got them by sewing them myself.  (Thank you, Mrs. Boonstra, for teaching me to sew in 8th grade).  But I loved all your comments, and very much appreciate your writing to me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fan Mail

Do You Actually Read Fan Mail?

Question:
 
I don’t usually take the time to write fan mail, because I don’t like not knowing if it was ever actually read or not, but this was important enough to me that it just kept gnawing at me begging to be written, to tell you.

I just recently finished the last book in the Alice McKinley series. It was a familiar feeling at first, wanting to keep reading and consuming the story as fast as I could while at the same time wanting to savor each word and memory of Alice’s life. Then, when I finally finished, there was a feeling that wasn’t so familiar. I sat in my bed bawling. I know Alice didn’t die, but it felt like with the last turn of a page I was losing a great friend. I felt as if I were in the hospital watching her Dad die, but I also felt like I was at her and Patrick’s wedding smiling and crying like I would at a close friend’s wedding. I’m not used to feeling that strongly about a character, and I was truly in awe of how much I cared. I also couldn’t have even asked for a better ending to her story, to Patrick’s, her family’s, Pam, Gwen, Liz, etc. It was truly wonderful.

As with many other people who have written you, these books and the reality you have created within them hold a very dear place in my heart. I began reading them after I saw my sister reading them one day. I would check them out at the library when I was in maybe 4th or 5th grade. Because of the way my family can be, I learned much of what I know about boys, sex, and just being a normal girl through Alice, and I honestly cannot thank you enough for that. I’m sure I learned from other places – friends, TV, and maybe the occasional talk with my parents, but overall, it was their visit to the gynecologist, the class they took at the church about sex, and in my own later years, Alice’s yearnings for Patrick and their interactions, that made me see that everything I was experiencing in life was normal as well as wonderful. It was something to be careful about but also something to embrace with open eyes and an open mind.

My favorite thing about the whole series is that Alice is a normal girl. Often times when people would see me reading them and ask what I was reading, it was hard to explain. It’s not like Harry Potter – “Oh you know just a bunch of cool wizards fighting a dark lord!” No, more like “Oh, well…it’s Alice. She’s a normal girl.” And I love that. I think in our world today we are taught that success is being a heroine. Success is being financially well-off. Success is being famous. And all of that is a bunch of crap. When I read Alice’s stories I am reminded that ordinary truly is extraordinary. She goes to school, has relationships, goes through all the normal life events. Alice is somebody we all can relate to. I find myself in her every time I read whether it’s when she’s over worrying or longing for patrick, even when she wants to be a counselor (as do I).

Another thing that really hit home with me personally while reading the last book was the drive to embrace the future. I am about to be a senior in college, and I have gotten into this mindset that my best days are behind me. I find myself longing for childhood again, wanting to be dependent on people for my life. After reading Alice from ages 20-60, man was I pumped up to live the rest of my life. Fun isn’t just for the youthful, and I cannot tell you how long I have been trying to get passed that hurdle in my mind and heart. I’ve known it, but reading this made me really truly understand that life is a wonderful journey and it doesn’t end when you graduate college. I often go through quite dark depressive spells for months on end. It’s hard for me to find hope sometimes. I believe in God, and that certainly helps. But for the first time in a long time, I have hope in life. Just life in general. It’s nice to have hope as an overwhelming feeling and not just hoping in one particular thing.

So, all this is to say: Thank you, Thank you so much. I cannot express how much these works have meant to me from the time I was 8 to now, being 21, and for many years to come as I reread the pages you’ve written with a happy heart and weepy eyes at times. Sometimes it seems silly, that a story can be so meaningful, because, after all, it isn’t real. But most of the time, it just seems wonderful. It’s wonderful that these little realities can be created and can affect us and help us so much. It’s one of life’s true blessings. Thank you for who you are and all the realities you have created in my life and in countless others.

Phyllis replied:
 
Indeed, I do read my fan mail.  I don’t read it as fast as I should–right now I’m working against two separate deadlines, but I felt I couldn’t put off checking my friendsofalice website, and am embarrassed that so many emails have accumulated unanswered.  I’m just so happy that the character of Alice resonated with you. Very ordinary people can have an extraordinary influence on the lives of others in the way they perform their jobs or inspire other people or raise their children.  I wish you all the best in your future career!

Leave a comment

Filed under Fan Mail

A P.S. (sometime later)

Question:
 
Hi, it’s me again.

I just finished “now I’ll tell you everything” and naturally I sobbed my eyes out. A flood of emotions came over me so strong it shook me. The way you tied everything together gave me closure. I love the way Alice turned out, and I love the way the series ended. I hoped that the group would uncover the capsules. Thank you for that. Thank you for the decade I spent loving Alice and the whole group, and for teaching me so much about love, life, and reality.  You’re one of the most remarkable people in this world.

Phyllis replied:
 
I’m so glad the ending didn’t let you down!

Leave a comment

Filed under Fan Mail

Afraid to Start Reading It

Question:
 
I’m sitting here staring at the cover of “Now I’ll Tell You Anything” afraid to start it. I’m not afraid of reading it because of the content. I’m sure you did a fabulous job, as you always do. I’m afraid of opening it because when I finish this book, it’s the end of an era that has lasted a decade for me. I stumbled across “Alice in April” in my fifth grade teacher’s bookshelf one day when I was only 10 years old. And from the moment that I picked it up, I was hooked. When I found out that it was a series, I was excited. I used every single Barnes and Noble gift card I received for birthdays or Christmases to go buy more books to try to complete my collection. Eventually, I had every single Alice book up until the ones that had yet to be published. And I read them faithfully. I read them throughout middle school, the most hellacious time of my life, as I was bullied out of my mind. I related to her on so many levels. My best friends Alana, Anna, and Kaltra are very similar to Pam, Liz, and Gwen, as we have been best friends since elementary and middle school.

I’m 20 years old right now, going into my third year of college. And reading this book and completing it symbolizes that I’m not a little girl anymore. I’ve been reading these books for a decade. This book, as I understand, takes Alice all the way til she’s 60. She’s no longer talking as if she’s a teenager. She’s talking as an adult, as my peer, finally, because for so long I would be so much younger than she was in the books that I was reading. This book symbolizes the continuation of my journey into adulthood. It lets me let go of being that 10 year old who was SO excited every time you mentioned anything about puberty or sex in your books because it was so informative. I mean, here I am, in a steady relationship with the man I think I’m going to marry, studying social work at the college of my dreams. I’m growing up, and Alice is too. And once I finish this book, I feel like I’m not a kid anymore.

That’s how big a part of my childhood these books were to me, Ms. Naylor. I know you probably get it all the time. But I’m 20 and I still have every single book lined up in order on my bookshelf in my childhood room. My sister is 11, and I told her this summer, I want to read them with her. Your books help people, so much. Your writing is beautiful and real. And ALICE is real.

So even though I haven’t started this book yet, I wanted to thank you. I’ll get up the courage to open the cover. Although I do have a feeling that there will be tear shed throughout the course of reading it. Thanks for helping me have such an amazing childhood and young adulthood. I know I’m probably just another email praising you and thanking you, but I do hope you have the chance to read this, and to realize how much you’ve helped me. “Now I’ll Tell You Everything” is going to be amazing, I just know it.

Thank you so much, Ms. Naylor.
 
Phyllis replied:
 
Your letter moved me so much I forwarded it to my editor.  I’m sure it made her day as well.  It delights me to know that your sister will enjoy the books, and that you have the whole collection.  Thanks so much for writing to me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fan Mail

Happy and Sad at the Same Time

Question:
 
I just finished reading “Now I’ll Tell You Everything”. A book has never made me feel so many different emotions. I felt awful when Alice was engaged to Dave but I knew that you wouldn’t let her spend the rest of her life with anyone but Patrick. I squealed so hard when they found each other at the airport. Every time I walk into my English class and see my beautiful young teacher I can’t help but think of Alice admiring Sylvia. About an hour ago I was in tears due to the passing of Ben. I was so happy with how you decided to end the series. As soon as it was announced that the last Alice book would be chronicles of her life from age 18-60 I knew you would include the time capsule. Your final book has made me appreciate my parents so much more. I’ve been reading your books for the past 6 years, starting them when I was 9 as I was introduced to them by my best friend. They’ve make me so happy and sad at the same time. They taught me everything I know and I wouldn’t be the same person without your books. Knowing she is not a real person hurts because she has become one of my best friends over the years but, I find bits and pieces of her in me as many other girls do. I’m 15 now and, I wonder if my mother has the same thoughts about me as Alice did about Patricia when she was 15. I’m going through all your recent letters and they all seem to be be about how thankful everyone is. You’ve inspired and helped so many people with your series. I’ve written to you twice, once when I was 11 and again when I was 13 but this time I feel like I have way more to say to you and I appreciate this series so much more This ending is bitter sweet but I still know I can re-read the series and experience the adventure you took me and many other people on all over again. I like this series rivers and love it oceans and I’m so grateful for the day you jotted down the title “The Agony of Alice”.
 
Phyllis replied:
 
Thank you so much.  You know, when I’m talking about these books with friends, I talk about  Alice as though she’s real, too–laughing over some of the funny things she did, and tearing up about the sad parts.  And then I get embarrassed, because I’m the author!

Leave a comment

Filed under Fan Mail