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!

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