One great perk of being an author is hearing back from readers. My first piece of fan mail came from a little girl who had read my second book, John Newton, The Angry Sailor. (This is a middle-grade level biography of the author of the hymn Amazing Grace.) I opened the note, written on pink lined-paper decorated with blue bunnies, and read:
Dear Mrs. Strom,
Thank you for writing about John Newton. I liked the book very much. I like the storm most of all. I hope you write more books for me to read.
P.S. Are you dead or alive? If you are dead, you don’t have to answer this letter.
I was alive. What could I do?
Well, twenty-plus years after that book came out, after thirty-something printings and translations into ten or so languages, I got another boost from it. Seems that a little fellow named Josh, a fourth grader, prepared a Power Point book report for school on this same book.
Josh’s book report raises so many thoughts:
- A Power Point book report? In fourth grade? Yikes!
- A book can live on way past its shelf life. (Yep, the book is finally out of print, though it’s still available. Check my website if you’re interested. www.kaystrom.com )
- Never underestimate the power of a children’s book. (This book led to a subsequent adult book on the life of John Newton: Once Blind: The Life of John Newton. This came about by way of a fellow in Ireland who picked up the original book, liked the Ireland tie-in, and proposed the idea for the second book, along with a movie, to contacts in the U.S. He also invited me to tour Ireland with the screening group for the Wilberforce movie, Amazing Grace. )
- Buy up your out-of-print books. (I just got two orders totaling 210 copies for John Newton: The Angry Sailor from a bookstore in Australia. Seems the book is selling to schools down under.)
- Answer your fan mail… as long as you are alive!
John Newton was a slave ship captain, the worst of the worst, who was confronted by God’s amazing grace in the midst of a storm no one could expect to survive. He became a renowned preacher and a tireless abolitionist who helped to turn the heart of England against the African slave trade. Amazing Grace is his testimony.
Once Blind: The Life of John Newton
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.