You won’t remember me…
Whenever my writing life encounters a road block or a pothole, I draw my support and motivation from a stockpile of emails from readers. One of the rewards of being a kid’s author – and it’s a biggie – is the emails they write. Funny, quirky and always honest. When they like what they read, they know how to say it so an author feels on top of the world.
One of my memorable emails came from eight-year-old Andrew in Canada. He was loving the Samurai Kids series, but he was worried. He’d found a spelling mistake, and didn’t want to tell me, but thought he should. Because it was on every page!
I was puzzled. I’m a champion speller (Camden South Primary School), I had Microsoft to help me and an Absolutely Wonderful Editor (Sue Whiting). I read on. Andrew’s mum was Japanese. He wrote and spoke fluent Japanese. Oh, oh! Andrew had impressive credentials. He told me I had spelled the Japanese word for mouse incorrectly. Now I was even more puzzled. I didn’t know what the Japanese word for mouse was. I kept reading. It was Nezumi.
Suddenly it all made sense. I made up the names of the Samurai Kids – except for Yoshi which came off the Nintendo box. In retrospect this was mistake, regardless of the spelling issue. It was my first book and I received lots of adult advice while I was writing, that kids would never remember six Japanese names. I later discovered they can easily remember twenty-six. Apparently only adults struggle with six.
But by unhappy accident, I had pulled the word Nezume’s name out of thin air and even worse, I had given him the spirit of the Long-tailed Rat. So to Andrew, clearly a spelling mistake with the word mouse. Andrew and I exchanged about three emails. Over the years, I continued to tell the story of his first email, especially at school visits when kids asked me what would be the one thing I would change in Samurai Kids, if I could start again.
Fast forward eight years, to 2017, one month ago. An email arrives. “It’s Andrew from Canada. You won’t remember me…” Andrew is now sixteen and making some big decisions about his future career. He’s interested in IT and remembered the email conversations we had, including a discussion about my job as a software developer. He was looking for information and advice.
I wrote back to answer his questions and tell him not only had I never forgotten him, I was still talking in schools about his first email. He thought that was really funny and said he felt a bit famous.
Children’s authors often touch the lives of kids, but mostly we don’t hear about it. I always respond to every email and letter in detail, no matter how many or how often or how much the same they are. I’m lucky to have lots of stories that vindicate how important this is. Andrew’s story is my new favourite.
(Andrew’s name and country changed)