I’ve posted about this at least once before, but I thought this letter deserved a reply. Number one: the writer took the time to write to me rather than just putting up a screed on Amazon (which she may have also done, but whatever). And two, the writer used this cool, glittery orange ink. And so there’s something about glittery orange ink that takes the sting out of someone talking about burning your book. These will be my final words on the whole homeschooling issue! See notes in brackets.
I read your book Alice, I Think. You’re an excellent writer and very talented with lots of potential. [Thanks! Hey! A fan letter. I love fan letters!] But your description of homeschools was so far-fetched in my opinion that it was hard to believe the otherwise funny homeschool freak parts. Maybe homeschoolers are like that in Canada, and a couple in America, but not all of them. I should know. I’m a homeschooler. [Darn. Not a fan letter.]
Sure, I’ve met a couple of those homeschool families with a dozen kids who all wear denim jumpers (the girls) or nice slacks and button-up collared shirts (the boys), and all the girls wear their waist-length hair straight, parted in the middle, with maybe a headband or a low braid, and they all graduate from college at fourteen or something, but seriously, not all are like that. Most homeschoolers I’ve met are normal; they (can) use bad language, be aggressively mean, talk about boys, and some are the opposite. Sure, some are really weird, but so are some public school kids. [You know, Erin, you have a good eye for detail and a way with description. I hope you write stories. Oh, and as for your point about both homeschoolers and public school kids being weird, point taken. But when you read Alice's descriptions of homeschoolers, consider the source. Does Alice seem like an entirely reliable narrator to you? No. She's kind of strange and so is everyone in the book. She makes equal fun of homeschooling, public schooling and alternative schooling. She's just like that. But don't worry, as she matures, as she does in my third book, Alice MacLeod, Realist at Last, which will be out in May, she's considerably less judgmental. Please be assured that I know not all homeschool kids are weird. Although it is my inner conviction that all the most interesting people are a bit weird, no matter what type of schooling they receive. My favorite family of all time homeschooled: the Durrell family from My Family and Other Animals. Man, I was so jealous of Gerry Durrell. And my husband and I would consider homeschooling any offspring, at least until it was time to teach Grade 8 math, at which point I'd have to call in a professional because my skills would be tapped out. We would probably homeschool until our offspring decided we were too irritating and demanded to be sent to a regular school. So yeah. Anyway. Sorry.]
After I read your book, my first impulse was to tear it up so I wouldn’t be able to read it again, namely that whole tent of womanhood thing. [I'm not sure what to make of this. What's the problem with the womanhood tent? Oh, never mind. Sorry about that too. But you have to admit it has nothing to do with homeschooling!] I did that. [You mean you tore it up? Geez. I wish you just gave it away to a charity. Maybe one with people that you don't particularly like. That way you'd be getting rid of my book AND taking revenge!] Then, since you presented homeschoolers as psychos, I thought about burning it and sending you the ashes, something I can imagine someone from your book doing. [I'm thanking my Big Daddy Chakras that you didn't send me an envelope full of ashes because that would have freaked me out. I might have thought it was anthrax and called in a Hazmat team and then our entire house would be swathed in white plastic right now and we'd have white plastic tunnels all over. But at least the white plastic would stop that woodpecker from pecking our siding. So there would be a silver lining. Still and all, I'm glad you didn't send me an envelope full of ashes. Because that would be so negative.] But then I changed my mind and chose instead to just write you a letter like a normal person would do. [Excellent call on your part. Thanks.]
Okay, before I end this letter, I’d like to add that although homeschoolers aren’t all locked up in their houses (I hate that type of stereotype!!) the thing with the Miss Something [that would be Miss Homeschooling, whom you will note is the outgoing Miss Smithers, proving that homeschoolers are a diverse group that includes antler wearers, religious people, beauty queens, good letter writers and incredibly lucky junior naturalists like Gerald Durrell, and everybody in between] at the beginning of the book after Alice was really funny, because it was more realistic. Not totally, but closer, and that takes your mind off how wrong it is so you can think about the humor instead. [Fair enough. I have to tell you, after the backlash I received from Alice, I Think I was sweating about even mentioning the word homeschooling in Miss Smithers with anything other than reverential respect. There's only so much angry mail one writer can take!]
Keep up the writing, and I look forward to seeing what you’ll come up with next. [Thanks! I appreciate you taking the time to write to me. I think it's quite interesting that you could be offended enough to tear up my book, then burn the pieces but still write me a thoughtful letter with quite an insightful critique. It's a mark of a sophisticated mind that you are able to hold opposing thoughts in your mind and look rationally at your reactions and why you are having them. Seriously. It's actually a good quality for a writer to have. Also, I like your pen.]
[Thanks, Erin. Keep in touch.]