Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Measures of Success

Tuesday afternoon, out running errands in the summer heat, still wearing the Capris and T-shirt I'd thrown on for my morning walk, I caught a glimpse of my wilted self in a window, and thought, I'm so glad writers don't get famous.

Well they do. Sometimes. But rarely like Susan Boyle. The paparazzi don't wait outside an author's door, hoping to snag a photo of her in her pajamas.

Even the picture on the back of her book won't help folks recognize her in public, not if her photographer did his job. Compare Jonathan Franzen's author photo (left) with the truth (right) and ask yourself if you would notice him in the checkout line at Walmart.

No, you wouldn't, and that's just as it should be. We don't want to be celebrities. We want to be read.

In a comment to Latayne's post on Monday about measures of success, Bonnie brought up the "'blessing the hearts and lives of others' measure that, while important in mainstream fiction, is 'critical' in Christian fiction." She went on to say that "For some writers an e-mail from a reader telling them the book has brought them closer to God in some way is success enough."

So today we're going to share some of the messages we have received from readers. These are our dearest measures of success:

Bonnie Grove:
"I just finished reading Talking to the Dead and it filled me with capital "H" hope on many levels - reminding me that God is with me ... and reminding me that God is always there for those that are seeking. "

Patti Hill:
"Thank you for your wonderful book, Like a Watered Garden. Following my mother's death, my grief consumed me and my faith in God waivered. Your book has encouraged me to open my Bible again and draw near to Him."

Latayne Scott:
"(Latter Day Cipher) quickly becomes much more than it appears. One part murder mystery and one part exposé of the theological flaws in one of the worlds most powerful religions; in addition the book addresses quite well what happens when someone suffers a crisis in faith, when the very foundations of their beliefs are shaken and cracked."

Sharon K. Souza:
"There was something about (Lying on Sunday) that intrigued me. Once I started, I couldn't wait till I had half an hour or an hour to read it. I especially liked the ending. No matter what bad thing happens to us, we can look to Christ to bring us through. Thank you for the incredible ride."

Debbie Thomas:
"Oh, I fully enjoyed Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon! I wish I didn't have to let the characters go. They were so realistic. It is going down in my history as one of my favorites. I loved the paragraph at the end of chapter 41, it has written itself into my heart."

Kathleen Popa:
"The Feast of Saint Bertie is the first Christian fiction I have ever read, and boy did you set the bar high! ... For me it contained pearls of wisdom that left me breathless. Your book was dark chocolate for my soul. I have read, re-read, and underlined passages. The gratitude centered message of the book has blessed me, my children, and my husband."

You writers: have you heard from your readers? We would love for you to share the messages that have blessed and encouraged you.

And you readers: have you written to an author lately? What did you say? Or if you haven't, consider this the place to practice a bit of fan mail for your favorite author. He or she would love to hear from you, and we at Novel Matters would be happy to share your process.


Patti Hill said...

Reader mail IS the only way we know if a story hits the mark. I don't gloat when I get a note. I sigh, relieved that I have faithfully followed the footsteps of Jesus through a story and now the fruit. My gift matters to the Kingdom. I love that.

As an aside, Debbie and I are headed to the BIG event of Christian publishing, the International Christian Retail Show. We'll be signing books for hundreds of bookstore owners from around the world and--gasp!--making appearances and being interviewed. I'll have to get dressed, wear shoes, and file my nails. I'll close my thesaurus to step into the public part of the writer's calling. My goal is to promote Jesus, not me. All prayers gratefully accepted. I'll blog on the last day of the trade show next Wednesday. I'll have stories to tell and pictures of Debbie and me. I'm off to pack!

Oh hey, if you're going too, come see us at our book signings and tell us about yours. Debbie signs her Christy Award finalist, Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon, on Monday, 1:00 p.m., at the Moody booth. I'll be signing on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. at the B&H Publishers booth. Come see us!

Unknown said...

I second what Patti said. It is all about helping readers, that the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened. That is our true honor, our privilege.

I'll be at ICRS too -- signing Latter-day Cipher at 3 pm at the Moody booth on Monday; and signing The Mormon Mirage at 1:30 at the Zondervan booth on Tuesday. Both events are only an hour long (as I assume Debbie and Patti's are) so come by early if you want a book!

Of course I am deeply gratified when people write me letters saying that my books have helped them. But there are a significant number of people who in person and online are very angry at me for writing about the religion I once loved. Some of them show up at book signings. I would appreciate your prayers.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

It's so gratifying to get a letter from a reader who 'got it' and to really know that you effectively communicated the story that God put on your heart. You're right, Patti. That's basically the only way we know, because sometimes the story takes over, and the characters talk in our heads (all at the same time)and we don't always have enough time to step back far enough to judge.

Please, please stop by the booth and say 'hello' if you get to ICRS. We'll be searching for friendly faces!