April 8th, 2007 | Uncategorized

It’s a very wintry Easter here. Vide snow peeps on my deck.

snow peeps

But despite the weather, I’m engaged in some heavy-duty rebirth-and-renewal type activity. My office has been growing more and more dysfunctional since Fun Home came out last year. Stuff of all kinds has been coming in and piling up, and I haven’t had time to shovel out an equal amount of old stuff. There are no surfaces left to put anything on. My files are impacted. Everything, in fact, has reached a state of complete constipation, with no room left for growth or forward movement.

It’s hard to know where to start, because there’s no open space. But I think I’m going to begin with my email inbox. There are so many items in here that I’m constantly losing track of important messages.


A lot of these 676 emails are from people who’ve read Fun Home. I’ve meant to answer them—and I have in fact answered a lot of messages that I’ve already filed away. But I think I have to face the fact that I’m just not going to get around to all of them.

This troubles me deeply and I’m trying to figure out why. I think it’s a kind of grandiosity on my part—I imagine that all these people who’ve written me are waiting desperately for my reply. But maybe people don’t really care if I answer, maybe they just wanted to tell me something, and they did, and now they’re fine.

But I’m sure most people would like to at least know I received their letter and read it. Is that so much to ask? I think of Rachel Carson. In a wonderful book of her correspondence with her friend Dorothy Freeman, she’s always talking about how much time she spends assiduously answering the letters her readers send her. I mean if Rachel Carson could answer her mail, then what’s my problem?

I don’t know. I don’t know what my problem is, but I’m going to accept it and move on. I’m going to remove all these kind, thoughtful, witty, intimate messages from my inbox, unanswered. And I’m sorry.

And then I’m going to move on to this basket of snail mail, books, zines, CDs and minicomics.

bushel basket

Is there any point in answering a letter six or eight months late? Isn’t that almost more insulting than no answer at all? Again, I don’t know. I pick one letter up and start composing a reply in my head, and then I realize there are dozens more, and I’m immediately overwhelmed. So I’m going to file this stuff away unanswered, too. I can’t quite convey how bad it makes me feel. But I would never get any more work done if I answered all my mail with the care it deserves.

Actually, that might be a good solution: stop doing new work. Then eventually people would stop writing, or my DSL would get cut off, and I’d languish in obscurity for a while and die. End of email problem.

I guess what troubles me most about not answering mail is that it’s always been important to me to be accessible to readers. Yet the simple mathematical fact is that the more readers there are, the less of me there is to go around. Again, perhaps there’s something grandiose about my conception of the whole predicament. Perhaps it’s unseemly of me even to mention it. If I’m going to ignore people, isn’t it more graceful to just do so quietly, without flagellating myself publicly about it?

Okay. If you’ve read this far, thank you. I guess the first step of my spring purge was not getting the email out of my inbox, but getting this off my chest. Writing it out has opened up some psychic space which makes me feel more able to move forward. Now I’m going to get the shovel and work on the physical space.

71 Responses to “purge”

  1. Maggie Jochild says:

    The work of a writer is to write. Not letters, unless you are famous for being a letter writer, but instead the kind of writing you have chosen. Artists draw. We don’t ask painters to please send us a small oil because I saw your work in a museum, it touched me so deeply, please respond to me, now do we? (Well, okay, there are the delusional among us, but you might feel justified in saying no to them.)

    Do what you want to do. If people like it, good. If they don’t, they’ll go away, and if THAT bothers you, there’s time to rethink it then.

    And, of course, if you never read this, that’s fine too.

  2. little gator says:

    I think you should be aware that many people are so infatuated they’d forgive you for far worse than unanswered mail.

  3. Ellen Orleans says:

    Rachel Carson didn’t have email to respond to. Also, she may have had a form letter which you could also have:

    Dear Reader,
    Thank you for your thoughtful, witty, and mind-expanding letter regarding my work. I was deeply touched by your words and appreciate you taking the time to write to me.
    Sincerely and personally yours,

    Maggie said it best. Go write.

  4. Tom says:

    You could even install an Applescript in Mail that will reply with your “I’ve read your message – thank you” message automatically when you hit Ctrl-Shift-Command-L or whatever. After you’ve read the message, of course.

    Alas, I’m exposing myself as a hopeless computer geek.

    But – as the above responses seem to say (and I agree) – the reply would be more for yourself than for 676 people who know you’re very busy and that it would be super-human to keep up with all of the fan mail, much less respond personally to all of it.

  5. kate says:

    i know, in the interest of space both on your computer and in your home, you need to get rid of these letters. i’d however recommend considering how these might be of use to archive glbt history because Fun Home has made an unusual impact in glbt history. maybe a glbt center could recommend or assist with this (or possibly, it’s not anything in which you’re interested)?

    for the future, you probably need to develop a system to deal with mail/e-mail so you don’t always feel overwhelmed. this blog is a very good way to keep in some kind of touch with your readers. doing anything more than that isn’t really needed. happy spring cleaning!

    now more importantly, what’s up with that pen/pencil contraption-thingy?

  6. zemarkable says:

    i love your work, and i just want to say that if you read an email that expresses something positive in a way that is more touching or amusing than “i love your work” that you might want to save that email in a file marked “PRAISE” so that in any low moments you can look in there and know you are lifted, somehow, by the regard of strangers.

  7. reed_maker says:

    Like they said, just do a form letter. I’m sure those who have written to you would be thrilled with an answer of any kind and also totally forgive your silence.

    Re: the idea of renewal in spring, last year on Easter Sunday I was in Rome basking in the religious spectical of mass at the Vatican. Everyone should know that the Vatican has several jumbotrons placed around St. Peter’s Square so that everyone can enjoy a closeup of the Pope reciting Easter mass. Today, I’m sitting in my sleeping bag in my freezing apartment while it snows outside. This does not feel like renewal.

  8. shadocat says:

    Don’t feel bad about deleting. But maybe for the future, the form letter would be a good idea—and a staff person to cover the fan mail, maybe?

    P.S. Like the snow peeps!

  9. Rohmie says:

    Reading this, I am reminded of one of your fellow Vermonters, the late, great journalism legend George Seldes. There is an Academy Award nominated documentary about him narrated by Susan Sarandon and Ed Asner called “Tell the Truth & Run.” It opens with him talking about this mountain of fan mail on his desk that he doesn’t have time to answer. “This one says, ‘please to respond,’ but did I respond? Of course not. Not with 2,000 letters, you don’t respond to *any* of them.”


    That said, It’s always a thrill to get a reply from you, however late. As far as rudeness is concerned, I think the “better late than never” adage applies with the caveat that never is the norm. Most sane people don’t expect replies to the fan mail they send, and the fact that you do reply is ridiculously admirable and appreciated.

  10. NLC says:

    First, I don’t know the Rachel Carson book, but I’m betting that, however good RC at was answering mail, the rate probably fell off significantly while she was effectively in the middle of just getting a book out and/or doing book-tourish things. [Put another way, it’s only two months[!] until the paperback edition of FH comes out. You’re not going to have any time to spare for a while.]

    (If you really want to respond all to all these letters, but them aside and do them when/if you have time.)

    — Second, let’s do the math: Even if you could answer 10 letters an hour, there *currently* almost 70 hrs of answers
    pending in your inbox. You don’t have 70 hrs right now.

    (There’s only so many hours in a day/week/month. As I’m constantly reminding my own boss, the laws of physics are not my fault.)

    — Finally (is it weird to send you a messge telling you to curb reading your messages?) as Maggie pointed out above,
    the only thing you owe your readers, in any sense, is the excellent, superb work that we all come to expect.

    I understand how important to you it is to keep up with these responses (and I think it’s safe to say that “grandiosity” has nothing to with it –I think this concern shows a deep mark of simple decency and caring).

    But it’s just not to be (at least for the time being) And everyone recongnizes –and understands– that.

  11. another helene says:

    Hire someone – a high school or college kid just home for the summer, or a professional paper-tamer or organizer – to process the correspondence. Get a rubber stamp with your signature, get a form letter, and get help. It may well be that you’ve got more going on than you can personally process.

    or just let it go.

    Happy Spring.

  12. liza says:

    I used to be the kind of reader who would write to authors, politicians, designers. Pre email, of course. I treasure my responses from Robert Kennedy (1965 about the war in Viet Nam.) 1969 Robert Heinlein’s wife wrote, “Mr Heinlein is busy with a new novel and I fallen heir to his correspondence”) Lily Tomlin wrote thanking me for my review in the Village Voice in which I had compared her to Diane Arbus. Bea Arthur sent me a short note in 1975 saying “Thanks! I loved it.” I have no idea what I did, sent or said, but it’s kind of a thrilling response. Bud Yorkin, producer of the Tv show “What’s Happening!!” wrote me a sweet note om 1977.

    Lorenzo Music, producer of Rhoda (the Mary Tyle Moore Show spinoff) wrote in 1975 saying, “Dear Liza, the idea of a television shop about a nice Jewish Lesbian is kind of intriguing. Do you have any ideas about what stories we could do? Maybe some character sketches, the likes and dislikes of nice Jewish lesbians.. I don’t know any personally so I’m somewhat in the dark. Hope to hear from you soon.”

    I can’t put my hands on a wonderful letter from Bill Blass who was really annoyed at what I’d written to him about women’s fashions.

    And my favorite, from Bobbi Ann Mason in 1977 – and this speaks to Alison’s question about time –

    “Dear Liza, I’m embarrassed that I’ve neglected to answer your letter for so long, but I appreciated so much your warm response to The Girl Sleuth.”

    She ends a longish letter with, “I’ve just finished a novel based on my childhood — it’s about a little farm kid who reads too many Nancy Drew’s and fantasized trailing the swindlers in the cornfield. Hope I have some luck getting it published”

    So, yes, getting a response is wonderful, no matter how late, and I’m sure that many people are like I am and will keep a note from an artist they admire for many many years.

    An email response, well I dunno. I suppose that’s great too. But get some help for the backlog.

  13. liza says:

    Sorry, typos. Lorenzo Music wrote about a television show,not shop.

  14. little gator says:

    For those who don’t know, Lorenzo Music was also the original voice or Garfield the cartoon cat.

    And of course, CarltonYourDoorman.

  15. liza says:

    And obviously had a sense of humor.

  16. liza says:

    I mean, he must have known Bea Arthur in those days.

    Or maybe she’s not Jewish.

  17. cybercita says:

    liza, my curiosity overcame me and i googled bea arthur. according to the website i checked, she is jewish.

  18. Deena in OR says:

    Alison…on the off chance that you’re reading this, I concur with another helene. You *need* a personal assistant/intern/something. Someone who could wade through the emails, acknowledge the ones that require nothing more than a simple “Thank you”, and handle/forward/cull the rest. Is there a college or university nearby with a women’s studies department that could provide an intern, or a possibility of a graduate student that needs a bit of part time work? Writers need to write. Secretaries/PA’s need to secretary. If writers are too busy dealing with clerical stuff, how can they write? Or maybe your agent could figure out a way for your publishing company to fund/provide some assistance?

    I know, too much unsolicited advice. Take what you want, leave the rest.


  19. lulumay says:

    I never write letters. Never never. I haven’t written to my dear old mother in approximately twenty-five years. I don’t answer the phone, either, or return messages. Before my younger brother married and settled down people used to send him out on long cross country treks to find out what had become of me. He’d hunt me down, check things out, and buy a slew of postcards that he made me sign. They all said, “I’m fine, just don’t feel like writing.” Two things you can say about this email: 1)it’s the only one from me you’ll ever get and 2) you sure in hell don’t have to answer it.

  20. Aunt Soozie says:

    Don’t despair. You don’t have to waste away and die in obscurity to resolve this…it’s okay to file things away for another day…you are too conscientious. It’s okay. This too shall pass. Really. No guilt.

  21. Ruth says:

    Dear Alison,

    Neal Stephensen has a piece on answering letters from readers at http://www.nealstephenson.com/content/author_bad.htm. To summarize, he says that he can answer correspondence from people respondng to his work, or he can work. He chooses to work.

    I enjoy reading your blog, and I like the fact that you occasionally respond to us, but if I have to chose between your blog and DTWOF or more memoirs, I’ll chose DTWOF and more memoirs. Of course, it’s your choice, not ours.

    There are half a dozen times in my life that I’ve written an artist or author to say thank you. After the first one wrote me back, I stopped putting a return address on my letters. (That’s harder to do with email!) Just because we feel a need to share our response to your work or grattitude for your work with you does not mean you have an obligation to us!

    I have loved DTWOF for a very very long time: 20 years? While I’m delurking, THANK YOU.

  22. cybercita says:


    i confess i’m confused because i thought you already did have a personal assistant. would you be able to allow katie take care of things like that for you? i once emailed natalie goldberg and received a response from her assistant, jean leyshon. i was a bit taken aback at first, since i didn’t know anyone else was reading her email, but then i realized that she was busy doing all those things that made me {and a zillion other fans} want to write to her in the first place.

    i agree with maggie and aunt soozie… no guilt… but you might feel better knowing that it was being dealt with. some things really can be delegated!

  23. mcquaidla says:

    My advice? Delete, but don’t trash. Instead, store. You never know, but at some point, you might have the time to sit back and cruise through a few hundred or so fan letters.

    What the hell when a CD takes up so little space?

  24. Gatsbyfemme says:

    Liza, I have a letter from Bea Arthur too! 1976, navy marker on cream paper with the Maude logo. I’d written to let her know she resembled my Grandma Blanche and my cruel gym teacher, Dorothea Holzer.

    I also wrote Gloria Steinem in 1973 to complain about the key signature mnemonic “Every Good Boy Does Fine.” She sent a wonderful reply, which she signed again when I met her at a luncheon in 1998.

  25. Maggie Jochild says:

    Lize, firstuvall, you definitely should publish yr letters out, not just the responses you got. You with yr moxie, yr singular voice, yr insider’s knowledge or assumption you can acquire it, yr (forgive me for the phrase) rage for change — good reading. Like Shmuley Pepys (to make a pun on the photo above.)

    Secondly, the producer of Rhoda saying he didn’t know any nice Jewish Lesbians? Helloo — Julie Kavner? (When she was still zaftig, before Marge needed her voice.) Unless he’s saying Julie isn’t nice…

  26. Jo says:

    Dear Alison,

    As a reader who has sent one or the other email to different authors, I want to say that – of course- it would be nice to get a reply, BUT that’s really not the reason why I sent those messages. I guess, something they wrote touched me so deeply, that I wanted to get that off my chest and just tell them. And that had more to do with me, than with them.. I don’t mean to speak for all of your readership here obviously, I am just saying: Don’t worry about the unanswered mail. And I for one think it’s really wonderful that you care so much about your readers. Plus, I am sure most readers would rather want to read another comic strip, book, .. by you, than get one letter, but never get to read anything else that you wrote/drew, because you were swamped with your mail.

    On that note, really looking forward to reading the next comic strip, book, … Thank you for your wonderful work, you cannot imagine what a big difference it made in my life.

    Best wishes,

  27. liza says:

    I’m getting that so many of you don’t care about getting a response to your lettters, but I, on the other hand, always look forward to a response. And cherish it when I do get one.

    Here’s another quick story before I run the kids to school-
    Many years ago Alix Dobkin wrote a letter to the music director of Rockford Files. She told him something like, it is a cheap shortcut when the music directs your emotions when the script can’t provide the storyline. Something like that. But nicer and probably wittier. I can’t remember if he wrote back but some time later my brother was at this guys house and saw Alix’s letter, framed, on his study wall.

    Hey, said, Bro, That’s my sister in law. And much hilarity ensued. He had really taken the letter to heart, and I’m sure dined out on that story for years to come.

    Fastforward many many years. Last year my then ten year old daughter wrote a fan letter to JK Rowling. And you know what? She got a written response. Probably not really by JK, but on her stationery, with an autograph, and a signed picture. Cool? You can imagine what it meant to my kid.

    So, again, yes, writing back is polite, means a lot to many people, and is worth hiring someone to help take care of. Sorry, but it comes with the territory.

  28. Silvio Soprani says:

    I think what is happening in the Internet age is that people have learned to enjoy the gratification of seeing their (“fan”) thoughts in “print” (on blogs, but it’s still print.)
    There is a more democratic sharing of the “conversation” between writers and readers.

    And yet the very traditional exchange of fan letter for written reply still exists as a possibility. (A remote one, but still a concept.)

    Forty years ago I wrote a letter to Ringo Starr telling him it was okay with me if he married Maureen. At the time I hoped he would read it and be glad I was glad for him, but I didn’t expect a reply.

    Today if Ringo had a blog the way Alison does, it might actually be probable that he would read it, and other people would certainly read it, and I would feel acknowledged in some way.

    I don’t really need to be acknowledged–but I cannot deny that there is something quite valuable in receiving a personal written reply, whether it is from one’s niece after having sent her a present, from a friend on an opposite coast, or from a writer one respects.

    So I still send thank you notes and hello notes to all sorts of friends and family. Occasionally I send one to a congress person. I think personal writing has a lot of power; that’s why we revere our creative authors.

    So I think it is imperative that a writer arrange things so they can spend their time writing, but I also think having an assistant and a plan (even if it is this blog) is definitely part of the toolbox of continuing to have a rapport with one’s public. (In the construction trades we used to say “Work Smarter, Not Harder.”)

    Of course, J.D. Salinger did not think so. He was a recluse for 30 years or so. (Don’t know if that ever changed. But times certainly have!)

  29. Pooka says:

    I don’t feel qualified to give advice, but I’m a professional organizer. I help people free themselves from hoarding behavior and clutter. I guess I’d work for free for a week, you know, for a good cause. My full name is japooka and I have a hotmail account, if you need me.

  30. Erica says:

    Hire an assistant, seriously!

    Think of it this way: Somewhere out there, at a College Near You (or even not near you – it’s email!) there is a smart, articulate, funny young artist/writer whom you are unjustly depriving of a great job. Answering letters is somewhat chore-like when you have many other things to do, yes, but compared to waiting tables or answering phone calls from people not nearly as cool as DTWOF’s fan base, it’s a pretty sweet gig.

    And by doing so, you would not so much be depriving your correspondents of your voice (since you can’t realistically answer all those emails anyway) as gifting them with “Natalie’s” voice. She’s a great writer, you know. You should really hire her.

  31. Deena in OR says:


    Thank you! You said what I was trying to say…only so much better. Yeah. What she said.

  32. Andrew B says:


    I don’t know what’s going on in your head, but your dismay at deleting all those emails does not in itself imply grandiosity. Perhaps you are only suffering from the conflict between your deeply civilized belief that each person who tries to contact you deserves to be taken seriously as an individual, and the fact that doing so would take more time than you can possibly spare.

    Or maybe you think the whole world is hanging on your responses. I don’t know. I just hope you’re not jumping to that conclusion.

    Now if you want to talk about delusions… You don’t have time to answer your email but you do have time to read my response to your posting about how you have no time. Um, sure, Andrew.

  33. dbradmom says:

    First time to respond. Thanks for being real, AB. You have created a space, as you said, by saying what was there to say about the operating state of your office. And you said it into a group of committed listeners. So it can disappear as a concern.

    Only scheduling & doing what you are committed to doing will sort out alot of the overage in your life. Easier to pitch, purge, and categorize. Which relationships are you really committed to? Those are the people with whom to respond and reply.

    Next, the opportunity to automate or delegate many things is there, and it will increase the amount of freedom you have, should you take the time to set it up. I recommend it, for what it provides.

  34. Aunt Soozie says:

    I hear people suggesting delegating work.

    and I know that Alison could probably get a young admirer to work cheaply but…my impression of her overly active mind is that she would not take advantage of someone’s admiration of her work.

    I’m thinking this writing gig isn’t all that lucrative. I mean, JK Rowling is making some cash but…if you write comics about Lesbians… Alison wasn’t making the big bucks…and then writing a wonderful memoir that gets lots of press and is read by lots of people…doesn’t mean that your packing in the doe-re-mi. Really, playing professional basketball is a much, much better gig.

    Okay, we all read that Alison got another contract but…uhm…I dunno…ya think she got paid the really big bucks for it? I don’t know. As an artist, you gotta think, when’s the next payday? You don’t know when the next check is coming. Are they gonna like the next book? Read the next book? You don’t know. So,you might want to be conservative with your spending.

    That’s all I was thinking.

  35. astronomick says:

    You should duplicate yourself–that way, while one of you sleeps, the other can work, or else you can write something new and respond to emails at the same time. You could even triplicate yourself, or quadruplicate yourself, but then you’ve really got to worry about all the space all of you are taking up, and the maintenance costs. Plus also all the duplicates might start generating their own work, and then you’d have to worry about responding to all THEIR emails. Or someone would have to worry about it. Best to keep the duplication multiplicity under control.

  36. mysticriver says:

    Funny that Silvio Soprani mentions Ringo Starr! I was just about to recommend that you go out and rent season two of The Simpsons and watch the episode entitled “Brush With Greatness”. In it, Ringo Starr (c. 1991) is sitting amid piles of fan mail from the early 1960s and systematically writing responses to every one. He says something like, “They took the trouble to write to me, and I don’t care if it takes me another twenty-five years, but I’m going to write them back!” Each letter closes with, “Please forgive the lateness of my reply”.

  37. louise says:

    Re the bushel basket of:
    >>snail mail, books, zines, CDs and minicomics.
    Wow I would love to know what minicomics AB has read and liked and would recommend. Or any books or zines or CDs for that matter, but particularly the minicomics. Oh-if this is a bushel of, I assume, unread media, she could tell us which ones she’s considering and then we’ll read them *for* her, and let her know which ones are worth her time? 🙂 added bonus: we’ll be reading more and posting less compulsively on this blog so there is that much less fan communication that she will feel obliged to read.

  38. liza says:

    Basically an artist is running a cottage industry. Gertrude had Alice, but most of us need to hire our Alice’s. Sometimes we need many of them.

    Sooz, it sounds to me like you are recomending that AB, or I suppose any artist, should make financial decisions based on emotional suppositions. Fear of loss, or something akin to that. I don’t think this is a savvy way to make business decisions. Why wouldn’t the readers love the next book? We love Alison. She’s bril. With 20+ years of work she has proved herself to be consistant and consistantly exellent. Now the world loves her. That’s great. And I think Alison should absolutely count on it. The sky’s the limit, in my opinion.

  39. The Cat Pimp says:

    I think it’d be a nice internship opportunity for some collegiate type to sort the email out into categories. One could be just to delete crank mail, another to send a FAQ response, another to deal with fan mail, and the businessy one from people who give AB checks.

    A few years ago, I sent AB mail because I thought we had the same birthday. I was surprised and delighted to get a response, but it was not crucial to my well being.

  40. Deleted from Germany says:

    Hey, I was one of those deleted emails. I’m not going away. I’m just going to resend it. How’s that! Just joking and I understand.

  41. Maggie Jochild says:

    cybercita was kind enough to write me privately, so I could save face, which I so appreciate, but — in my earlier post, I must correct misinformation. Julie Kavner is NOT a Lesbian. (gasp) She has been living with a man named David Davis, creator of the Bob Newhart Show, for 30 years. (sob) She is Jewish, though.

    Must go pull myself together somehow.

  42. liza says:

    Julie Kavner didn’t have much of the dyke vibe for me, at least not as Rhoda’s little sister. It was Rhoda and Mary. You just knew they’d be better off together, that they knew it, and that Rhoda being Jewish really stood for her being queer.

  43. silvio soprani says:

    In that Simpsons episode with Ringo, did you happen to see my letter? 🙂 too funny!

    Be of good cheer. Good chutzpah knows no gender preference.

  44. shadocat says:


    A few years ago, “Mad TV” did a skit about finally airing the “lost” episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”. It was about—you guessed it—Mary had fallen in love with a woman. As I recall, there was some conversation as to who the woman was, when Rhoda bursts in the newsroom saying, “Well, didja tell ’em about us, kid?” The skit ended with Rhoda taking Mary’s hand and saying, “We’re heyah. we’re queyah, so get used to it! (Oh, and Murray came out too!)

  45. little gator says:

    Ringo has a website, but it doesnt give his personal email address.

    But you could always write him again and tell him you’re still ok with him marrying Maureen.

    So now should we go through the My Favorite Beatle game?
    Mine was George.

  46. Joanna says:

    Alison – Here’s another morsel of unsolicited advice, I’m moved to share it because this process has significantly changed my life for the better. Cheesy but true.

    When I’m in ‘all or nothing’ mode about something it helps when I challenge myself about my beliefs around the perceived dichotomy(aka the story I’m telling myself about the situation). An inbox with 600+ emails is undoubtedly overwhelming. I would suggest that it is completely possible for the process of responding to those emails to be 100% stress and guilt free.(If you decide it is something that you *do* want to do, which of course is completely up to you) You can choose to change the story you are telling yourself about the process. If you decide that it’s important to you to go through/respond to the emails, try saying to yourself the next time you are contemplating the hugeness of the task, “I am going to answer x number – (whatever feels do-able/realistic and does not cause you stress) of emails today”, and if you decide you want to answer more, fine – if not, fine – if you stop after one – totally fine. The way I see it, it’s about doing what feels good/right, in a way that feels good and that is not sapping you or further stressing you out.

    Just completed my third read of Fun Home – better and better every time!! Thank-you!

    Be well,


  47. Maggie Jochild says:

    little gator — mine was yoko.

    I loved MTM but she was not right for Rhoda. I had more fun pairing her up with Emily Hartmann (Suzanne Pleshette), even wrote some Lesbian porn about it once for an anthology. The background music would of course be the theme song as done by Joan Jett — when I did community women’s radio, I used her version as an intro.

    For Rhoda? Zelda on Dobie Gillis, Miss Hathaway on Beverly Hillbillies, or, catch me while I swoon, Honey West.

  48. Some stray responses:

    1.) I do have an assistant. But I don’t see the point in having her answer my mail. I think I’d feel a little annoyed to get a letter from someone’s assistant.

    2.) I’d feel even more annoyed to get a form letter. At one point, though, I did draft one. I never used it because it seemed too obnoxious. But I’ll post it here:

    “Though the notion of an impersonal form letter is abhorrent to every fiber of my being, I find that I must either resort to one, or spend the rest of my life doing nothing but answering my mail with the properly minute attention that it deserves.

    I hope that you don’t mind terribly much. It means a lot to me that you shared your [thoughtful insights/deep feelings/disturbing threats] about [Fun Home/DTWOF/my personal appearance].

    [And/or] that you were so kind as to [attach/include] your [URL/CD/thesis/novel/zine/unpublished manuscript/muffin].

    It was excellent!

    Seriously, I’m very honored that you took the time and trouble to not just read my work, but to write to me about it. Thank you.”

    3.) Don’t worry, I’m not deleting all the emails, just moving them out of my inbox. I never delete ANYTHING.

    4.) As far as I can see, Astronomick’s suggestion that I duplicate or perhaps even quadruplicate myself is the only real solution.

  49. little gator says:

    Hire the DTWOF to help you answer mail.

    Oh dear, they’re fictional, so you’d have to write the replies for the. Never mind.

    “Dear Reader,

    I am taking time from whatever I’m doing in the story like to tell you that(whatever)

    Watch for (something coming up in the story line)

    Imaginarily yours,

    One of the Dykes To Watch Out For”

    Uh huh. That would save you heaps of time.

  50. Jana C.H. says:

    I think AB’s form letter is so totally “Alison” that it’s practically personal. I would be delighted to get one.

    I never in my life have expected to get personal answers to fan mail. Fan mail by its nature is a one-way communication. I don’t even expect form letters.

    My exception to the rule: When I was eleven or twelve I got a postcard with a hand-written note from Stan Lee. He was apparently amused by my letter packed with great story ideas.

    Does anyone really have to ask if I still have the card?

    Jana C.H.
    Saith Stan Lee: Excelsior!

  51. --MC says:

    Jana, I heard that the makers of Excelsior sued Stan back in the late 90s for misuse of their trademark, so now he has to shout “Fibrous packing material, true believers!”
    Watched “The US Vs. John Lennon” last night, and concluded that during her life with John, Yoko’s primary goal in life was to get a word in edgewise. Nobody let her finish a single sentence!

  52. liza says:

    Alison – your answer is perfection.

    Jana- do you still have the card?

    gator- John 4ever!

    mags-yoko doesn’t count. Although she’s a shero of mine.

  53. little gator says:

    John’s my very close second.

    Sorry Ringo, you’re last.

    All of my mother’s family go back to Ireland. She says the older Paul gets, the more he reminds her of her mother’s relatives. Which is odd, cause they all had huge noses and Paul doesn’t.

    My mother and I have small noses. Only one of her kids got the big one, and it wasn’t me.

    current cake plan: Myabe the numerals 50, but more likley 50 cupcakes, in varying sizes. Of course guests will be expected to decorate.

  54. Deena in OR says:

    Alison…maybe not have an assistant *answer* your mail, but process/sort/prioritize it? If you strongly feel that every piece of correspondence deserves your personal attention, then it does. But at least, maybe, you could get it organized in terms of priority, so that you could attend to the important stuff first, then get to the less pressing correspondence later. But I’m sure you’ve thought of all of this already.

    My little ADD self should talk, anyway…I have boxes in my bedroom that I haven’t opened since my separation four years ago. Plus more boxes with 8 years of old city council agendas and supporting materials from time on Council. I don’t need this stuff, and I’m not sure if I’m hoarding, or perserving ephemera. Probably some of both.

  55. cybercita says:

    little gator, right behind you – i’ll turn fifty in july. friday’s mail brought an invitation to join aarp!

  56. Aunt Soozie says:

    I didn’t mean to imply that it’s good to be ruled by fear. I hate to see anyone function that way. I’m all for adventure, taking the plunge for your craft…whatever that calling may be. I tend towards pathological optimism.

    Personally, I’ve been able to land on my feet…mostly…so, I think the risks that I’ve taken, both financial and otherwise, have been well worth it.

    I just meant that it costs money to hire someone and that we (the blog readers) shouldn’t assume that recognition equates with compensation. I think it does take a good business sense, a belief in the value of your work, a good manager or your own personal Liza to make a living as an artist.

    I’m all for the cloning. Why didn’t someone think of it sooner? Though yes, the overhead costs would go up and the infighting could get ugly. The meetings, potlucks with yourself, waiting your turn for the toothbrush, fighting over a limited wardrobe, consensus building with yourselves…it could get tedious.

    I do love the form letter though…it’s wonderful.

  57. Feminista says:

    Aunt Soozie–hilarious 4th paragraph above.

    Re: the Beatles: Paul was first,then George. Ringo was too goofy and not that bright and John,while brilliant musically,was too macho for me. I understand his son with Yoko,Sean,is gentler and more sensitive. And I hate the way people used to villify Yoko.

  58. Jaibe says:

    Er Alison, not to cause trouble, but I’m pretty sure Gary Larson said that he just about gave up cartooning (after tons of rejections) when he got an email from some cartoonist he really admired about 2 years after sending him some cartoons saying they were great and sorry for the delay but to keep at it. It’s a story in one of his collections.

  59. Jaibe says:

    I meant a surface mail — this was obviously a story from the 80s. Sorry its late and I don’t really have time to be doing this either 🙂

  60. Jana C.H. says:

    Ringo. I even learned to play the snare drum because of Ringo. I still know how to do flams, and paradiddles, and flam paradiddles, and paradiddle-diddle-diddles. I do not, however, remember ratamacues. And my rolls are pathetic.

    Jana C.H.
    Saith Ringo: We all live in a Yellow Submarine!

  61. Deb says:

    Alison, I am so moved by how much you really do care about your work, your fans and those of us on this blog. I think one of the reasons we love you so is because you are so approachable……..human…..and you really do give a damn about how we all feel. Thanks for just being so caring about everything from your deluge in the ‘inbox’ to trying to care for all of us. You are a very sweet person.

  62. shadocat says:

    Liza–John forever, then now and always!

    Maggie–I always thought I would be the best partner ever for Rhoda! I think Zelda would be a lot happier with Ralph, the lesbiam plumber from “Green Acres”…

    And although Miss Jane always acted all swoony over Jethro. I think she secretly dreamed of skinny-dipping in the CEE-ment pond with Ellie Mae on those hot California nights…

  63. shadocat says:

    OH NO! Can you believe I spelled “LESBIAN” wrong???

    Hope this doesn’t mean they’ll revoke my “L” card…

    Guess I was too busy thinking about Ellie Mae in the Cee-ment pond…

  64. Sabversive says:


    Maybe you can personally respond to most of those letters and emails if you make your response simple and short.

    I’m sure that as you read each letter, you draft aclever and heartfelt response in your mind. But since that is not practical, just even in terms of time, you might try just a simple thank you note.

    A note from you would be thrilling for them, but most of all it might ease your mind to know that you acknowledged someone who took the time to tell you what your work means to them.

    As time goes by and your fanbase beging to number in the legion, you will have to re-think even the short thank you note.

  65. Birka says:

    Alison, to know that you have this blogg and that you write your thoughts, share moments and “talk” to us is so rewarding that I could, without doubt, accept the fact not getting any personal reply if I had written fan mail to you.
    An other thing: have you heard of clear your clutter with feng shui of Karen Kingston? she has some wonderful usefull suggestions how to handle things that build up over time!
    It was eyeopening!

  66. womynrev says:

    let me share with you the phrase I use as my personal mantra when I am overwhelmed by my to-do list and email and laundry and ironing and and and and and…

    I remind myself that:

    I can only do what I can do.

    It may sound circularly logical or obtuse or totally vapid. But it is true.

    Alison, you can only do what you can do.

    and that’s OK. Not only is it OK, you remain good and right and beautiful regardless of how much you find yourself able to accomplish on a given day.


  67. Aunt Soozie says:

    Sometimes Ringo, sometimes Paul…it depended on my mood.

    One of my sisters saw Paul on the street in NYC a few years ago, around Christmas time…her story made me regain my old crush on him. (sorry, Ringo darlin’)
    My sis went to NYC with her daughter’s youth group. They were getting off of the tour bus onto a very, very crowded street corner. One of the other mothers recognized Paul as she was stepping off of the bus. She put her hand on his arm and gasped…my sister said she just stared at him with her mouth hanging open. He smiled at them and said something like, shhh…c’mon now, there are a lot of kids here, we don’t want to cause a fuss. And then he walked on…

  68. silvio soprani says:

    Aunt Soozie,

    Never Paul.

    First Ringo, later John and George.
    At the time (12 yrs old), I felt I had the best chance with Ringo because he was down-to-earth and not “too cool” for me. At The Concert for George (commemorating the 1st anniversary of his death), Ringo was just great–what a showman! What a sweet soul. And when Paul walked on the stage, you could just feel the coldness, the lack of love, from everyone else, including Clapton, Petty, and others. But Ringo made a kind gesture towards him. That’s just the kind of person he is.

    I always loved John’s and George’s wit. When George finally came out with his triple-disk first album, I was flabbergasted to realize what I’d been missing.

    Strangely enough, I have never watched the Mary Tyler Moore show. I don’t know why. Perhaps there was some competing show on at the same time? Perhaps I was in college? )During the 70s I did not watch tv.) I also never watched LaVerne and Shirley. Later when Penny Marshall started directing (did I get her name right?) I figured out who she was.

    womynrev – good mantra!

  69. Suzanonymous says:

    I’d rather read comics by a talented cartoonist than even think about a talented cartoonist spending much of her time reading and responding to reader mail.

    And anyone reading this blog for long realizes that she is way behind on her email.

    I have written to a few other people (mostly snail mail), though. Some of them have postcards they jot a note on, though it probably takes longer to transcribe the person’s address than the note, and of course there’s the postal expense which must mount up. Emailing someone who has an online outlet, it was actually nice to get no response, but find an entire new article on their site about what I had recently asked about.

    Oh, Jeez, I’m writing a long response..

    I imagine people write expecting no response but hoping for one. Actually, I imagine some of the snail mail people are hoping just for an autographed note, or even an autographed sloppy small sketch.

    I’d save the emails and postal stuff for an imagined happy old age where it makes for a contented sort of review of my life. I suppose there would be times I’d really want to respond (despite the arthritis :-)), but that’s a risk perhaps worth it. Pack them up, stow them away, I say. 🙂

    Aunt Soozie, I totally agree with your sense of things in the post starting, “I hear people suggesting delegating work.”

    Andrew B, I think she may mean “grandiose” in the sense of expecting/hoping to get a remarkable amount of things done? I agree it’s not terribly arrogant to come on here and talk about grappling with this problem between the sheer number and wanting to convey a value of the individual to each one. That is a problem.

    Oh well, I have not had the time to read all the responses (I have to go for an eye exam) and I am expecting Alison to read this one? WTF?

  70. Annie in Hawaii says:

    Ditto Alison!
    Am in the same purge and horde mode–must be the season or hormonal. Yours in creeping slothlike solidarity.

    Aloha and a hui hou Annie (BTW don’t reply!)

  71. runnermo says:

    my first post here, wondering just what all the chatter is about… i try to follow you all, but it’s overwhelming.
    loved Fun Home, especially since i knew some of the characters way back then in LH PA….jeez.. Alison really nailed them..