Reader Feedback and Feeling Exposed

Posted on 18 February 2011

Someone emailed me this week to say that he read “Living Arrangements” in the American Literary Review and was so touched by the story that he had to contact me.

Isn’t that fantastic? Isn’t that exactly what every writer hopes for? For at least one stranger to read your work and get something meaningful from it? I felt so humbled and grateful that someone would take the time to reach out and compliment my story.

Hearing his personal reaction to the piece was also a reminder of how personal this story is to me — how much of myself I put into it. It actually makes me a little uncomfortable to think about, sometimes. It might be why I still haven’t read the story as it appears in the journal. When I started submitting “Living Arrangements” last year, it was easy to feel removed from the possibility that it might actually get published. It was named a finalist for a few awards, but it wasn’t until I won the Chandra prize for my collection, and then the American Literary Review accepted the story, that I realized: Crap. It’s going to be out there.

I tried to imagine the people I know reading it — my oldest friends, my family, the people who have known me from the beginning — and I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know how to feel. A little strange. Wondering if they’d mistake the fictional parts for reality or, worse, if this story is just as revealing as I suspect.

In any case, it definitely was wonderful to get the reader feedback. This is something I make an effort to do from time to time, as well — when I read something that blows me away, I might reach out and let that writer know. I recommend that everyone tries this at least once. You have no idea just how much you’ll make someone’s day. So to the person who sent me that email — thank you.

Photo: SashaW

6 responses to Reader Feedback and Feeling Exposed

  • Teri says:

    That is very cool. There’s nothing like hearing from a reader, especially when it’s out of the blue. Sometimes I feel like I force my stories on friends and family and then wait by the e-mail queue to hear from them. If they don’t respond, I feel bad. If they do, I wonder if they really mean it or are they just being kind. How’s that for the insecure, cynical writer?

  • Downith says:

    Last year we had a number of guest speakers/authors on a course I did and I emailed two of them to say how great I thought their readings had been. I just thought they might like to know – and I’m glad you got that feedback too.

  • lisahgolden says:

    I’ve only written one author and her response blew me away. She lives here in Georgia and I’ve been lucky enough to meet her and connect with her in a way that encouraged me to consider writing for real.

    I love it that you got feedback. I think it’s hard for a lot of readers to approach authors so you must have truly touched that reader.

    And I hear you on thinking about what might be said or thought once a story gets out there for public consumption. I worry about that so much that I sit on stories like a mother hen guarding a clutch of explosive eggs.

  • Cougel says:

    I’ve been there. It lifts me up for days. And conversely, when some heartfelt posts get no responses, I feel dejected. While we writers are not motivated to write for comments, they are encouraging reminders that we should continue.

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