|BEDA No. 23: Fan mail in 2009
||[Apr. 23rd, 2009|06:13 pm]
Alan "fallofautumndistro" Lastufka
When I was eleven I drew a picture of Weird Al, for Weird Al, and mailed it off to his "Close Personal Friends of Al" fanclub address.
A week or so later I got back an autographed 8x10 that read "Hey ALAN, thanks for the GREAT drawing! Weird Al Yankovic, damaged in handling, please accept our apologies - your post office" The glossy had been ripped in half, scotch-taped back up and stamped with the Post Office's apology. It was the happiest and saddest piece of mail I think I had received up to that point.
I mailed the "Close Personal Friends of Al" again and told them about my mangled autographed picture. Maybe the tear-stained line paper was enough to convince them, or maybe Weird Al is just a really awesome guy, but either way, I received a second autographed 8 x 10, this time protected in a sturdy envelope with some cardboard to keep it safe from any damage.
And that's how fanmail worked. Some number-one-fan somewhere opened and read mail and sent out glossies that may or may not have been actually signed by the artist themselves. It was very one-sided, in that the fan knew so much about the artist, while the artist just scribbled on some pictures of him/herself.
A couple years ago I sent a fan email to Chris Walla, the guitarist and backing vocalist for Death Cab for Cutie. I told him about how his music had been the inspiration behind my latest band and shared a link to one of my new songs for him to listen to if he was interested. Not only did he actually respond, but he gave me a pretty kick ass review of my song! (click here to read his reply/review)
I later realized fanmail had evolved and become interactive. Given my track record, I started contacting more and more people whose work I enjoyed. Zinesters, authors, YouTubers, etc. With each person I complemented or told a story to about how the sharing of their work helped or inspired me, I literally gained a new good friend.
Alex Wrekk, the first zinester I fangirled over, eventually came to stay with me for a week and we wrote a really well-received (and well-reviewed) zine together. John Green, a New York Times Bestselling freakin' author!, responded to my first fan email. Now we chat on Skype daily, he's making a spoken word appearance on my next album, and he calls to say thanks when I send him third-grade valentines telling him to meet me under the monkey-bars.
Given the book I published this past winter, and my small level of success in some niche, online communities, I now receive fan mail pretty regularly. I've received drawings of myself, much like that first one I sent to Weird Al all those years ago. Some emails or letters are touching, some creepy, and some pique my interest to the point where I click through on the email signatures and experience the world of content my "fans" create.
This happened last week. I received an email entitled "warning: this message contains compliments". [Note: if you ever want to get me to read your email right away, you could do worse than to spill that it contains compliments within the subject, just sayin'!] The email was from Karen Kavett (xperpetualmotion). I had heard John mention Karen in one or two of his blogtv shows, but honestly, I had no idea who she was. But her message was heart-felt, and I had a few minutes to kill, so I visited her YouTube channel.
I'm pretty sure it took me less than one video to subscribe. Karen was vlogging about, well, vlogging, and YouTube. Her video was well-edited, she had some good thoughts on the subject, she made me want to leave a comment.
The next day I realized she was participating in VEDA, and that day's video was even better than the previous one. I was hooked. I clicked back to her channel so I could visit her website, or follow her on twitter, whatever she had listed there. After checking out her website, I come to find out, Karen designed the Nerdfighter Tour map! I live-streamed every Nerdfighter Tour event last year... I spent a month of my life starring at that map! She also designed Liane's album art. I wrote a song with Liane and was one of the first people to hear Liane's album, because her and I were working together at the time. This Karen person had been in and out of my life twice already.
The next day I wrote Karen a piece of fanmail of my own. I was super impressed with her VEDA series, I loved her design work, and the people she was choosing to work for/with. And I wanted to thank her for getting in touch and infiltrating my life with her own work.
So, the moral of the story is... subscribe to Karen. Hah.. no, the moral of the story is human beings are able to share ideas and work at lightning speed with almost no walls between those who are "famous" and those who are fans. And I think we're all richer for it, and the art that we're all creating is better for it. And I think that if someone's experience-turned-art-piece, vlog, song, - whatever - has resonated with you, that you should tell them.
Have you ever sent fan mail? Have you received a response? Have you ever received fan mail? Should this entry have been a vlog instead?
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