I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Power of the Written Word: Encouraging Authors

By Delores Topliff

The first letter I wrote an author was to Agnes Newton Keith, who penned Three Came Home, the true account of a British family imprisoned in the Philippines during WWII. Mrs. Keith described their lives in Manila before Japan's invasion, their subsequent arrests and terrible internments -- she with her 12-year-old son with other women and children, her husband suffering harsher imprisonment with men considered serious enemies. Her book documents perseverance and the triumph of the human spirit.

Therefore, long before the Internet, with her publisher's help, I mailed her a thank you letter. I didn't get a reply to that letter -- Mrs. Keith was then quite advanced in years. Still, it was important to me to tell her through her writing that we had connected, and she was someone who greatly inspired me. Perhaps unrelated, I've now traveled to the Philippines on three mission trips -- and hope to go again.

My second author letter brought a hand-written reply in flowing penmanship from Polish patriot Slavomir Rawicz, author of The Long Walk, the stirring WWII story of eight men escaping a Russian gulag to trudge 4,000 miles across Siberia, the Gobi, the Himalayas and finally to freedom in India -- though only four survived.

Years later, I had words in print. One day I received a fan letter forwarded from my publisher from a distant family friend, a wonderful woman missionary in Uganda, sure that she'd met the author, Delores Topliff, with a son named Andrew. She praised and encouraged, and later visited, providing input that strengthened my life.

My point? We love authors and the events and characters they share, even fictional ones who so totally live on the page they enter our hearts. Thoughts and stories so well-expressed they deliver what Scripture describes as drinks of refreshing cool water on hot days -- and receive a prophet's (or author's) reward.

Do you analyze what you like best in your favorite authors' books? Maybe study and learn, perhaps adapting their skills into your own writing? Have you ever written a letter of thanks or encouragement to one of your favorite authors? I encourage you do to so!


  1. Dee~

    What a great post! The first letter I ever wrote to a writer was back in the early fall of 2008. I was searching Kristin Billerbeck's website in hopes of finding a book of hers I had not read. At the bottom of her webpage, she had a link with a note she had written to the aspiring writer. She closed that message with the encouragement to just write. She said that bad writing could be fixed...the empty page, not so much.

    I was so encouraged by those words, I had to email her and thank her. Much to my surprise, she wrote me back! She graciously poured out more encouragement, including an invitation to join ACFW. I joined almost immediately, and attended my first ACFW conference about a year later. I spotted Kristin at the conference, and after gathering all my confidence, I went up to her and thanked her in person for giving me the push I needed to get serious about writing. It was awesome!! I hope to be that person for another aspiring writer someday.

    As for picking analyzing a favorite writer's work, I got an email today from Amazon heralding a new Susan May Warren book. I think Amazon sent it because I have ordered every single SMW book, lol! Like Susie herself, her books are great teachers.

  2. I was feeling a little nostalgic, lol, so I went and found the webpage I mentioned...Kristin shares some GREAT advice!!


    Thanks, Dee!!

  3. What a great experience--thanks for every word of that, Heidi, and the link. What are you doing up so early--(or late?) Hugs!

  4. Love this post, Dee. I've had the chance to meet some of my most favorite authors in person and tell them how much I appreciate them and their writing. But your post makes me realize the value of the written word.

  5. Like Beth, I've loved getting the chance to meet some of my favorite authors and tell them in person who much I love their writing. Susie, Rachel...at ACFW last year I got the chance to tell Jenny B. Jones she's one of my heroes. I don't think I scared her too much. :)

    But there is something about letters, too...you can save 'em, hold on to them.

  6. I love interacting with authors online. They're so much more down-to-earth than you'd think. I've found most of them to be very warm and encouraging.

  7. Beth & MTagg, how blessed we are to have close successful authors willing to mentor us, and the pricilege to meet others at ACFW, elsewhere. Plus Lisa's on the rising author star path, Beth in 3 months, and many others we know on near horizon. Yes, more special cards and letters are in order, emails to print out as cherished momentoes, etc. So much to be thankful for.

  8. I often analyze what I like in the books I read. I'm a lover of verbs, and I've read through Susie's books just checking her verbs--at least I do it on the second read-through. The first time I'm riveted to the story!

  9. Teri, I know what you mean. I love teaching my students to appreciate well-chosen descriptive verbs, and am happier still when they use them well.

  10. I so agree, Dee that it's important to send written notes to authors who've impacted us. Words can be forgotten, but notes can be read over and over, saved for those times we need encouragement! Great post.

  11. This was a wonderful post. Wow! That's some pretty amazing stuff.

    Always, after reading a wonderful book, I long to get praise to the author. And I've tried to email, but my computer won't send the emails authors set up. (There must be some type of block on my computer.) But when I got to know Beth Kephart online I finally had the chance. She was so gracious, accepting me as a Facebook friend and sending little messages. I use her books as teaching tools (because she is a brilliant writer) and sticky tab the lines I want to reread and learn from. When I mentioned that to her, she said she would love to know what I tabbed and why. I sent a private message and listed many spots and explained the reason each was picked. She was so sweet and appreciative, which is also just who she is. It was an honor and a joy. And she represented the others that I'd never been able to tell. (I'm passing on the love of sticky tabs to my five-year-old granddaughter. She'll mark up a book and then show me her favorite parts. How fun is that?)

  12. I love your comments, too, Lindsay, Pat and Patti, too. Yes, pass such good habits on to grandchildren. Mine are here now and we have very fun times and I'm always amazed/blessed at how very much they learn and remember.