I was living in France, thirteen years old, when Robert Jordan wrote me a letter. To say I was a fan, would be an understatement. I read everything James Oliver Rigney Jr. wrote. Twice.
But it wasn’t enough.
I wanted to be involved in the world Robert Jordan was creating. I wanted to start up a website!
It was 1995, and the Internet wasn’t in widespread use – especially not in the outskirts of Paris – but the only thing I really read on the Internet were blogs (before that word existed). About The Wheel of Time, mostly.
And as an eighth grader, I’d meticulously copied every poem, song, and prophesy in that series (up through book 6). And I wanted to share them with the world.
The original letter I sent no longer survives. But Robert Jordan wrote back.
It’s wonderful to see authors who engage with their fans. If Mr. Jordan hadn’t written back to me, I would have still read all his books. And even if I hadn’t, he was top of the New York Times bestseller list by that time. My patronage was a single coin in the Scrooge McDuck vault.
But he did write back. And by mail, with seventy cents of international postage (which is like $10,000 with inflation).
I guess if there’s a first lesson, it’s that authors should engage with their community. And if I ever get a fan letter, I’m sure as hell going to write back.
And the second lesson? Robert Jordan’s signature was wayyyyy better than mine will ever be.