On Friday, I received three handwritten letters from middle-school kids who had read The Hundred. They came from children in a school in the Bronx, who had been introduced to the book through their teacher.
I was so astounded and moved by these letters, and I wanted to share a couple of specific quotes. I trembled as I read the letters, for I knew that something I had done really mattered to a child. While a praiseworthy review on Amazon or Goodreads always makes my heart soar, these were different. These were handwritten. One was three pages long.
“I couldn’t stop reading page after page. I only stopped because my mom threatened to ground me, but even then I waited until everyone was asleep and took out my flashlight and read it to the end.” (From a girl)
“By the middle of your book, Mrs. Prescott, I had been walking around the floor without knowing it. Adrenalin is something panicking mothers and skydivers experience, not 14-year-olds who do little but walk around occasionally when the need strikes them. But as a reader, I feel adrenalin all the time. Lift a bus? I swear to you, Mrs. Prescott, I could have done seventy one-handed pushups right then and there. Nevertheless, to say, when I finished The Hundred, I was wrung out.” (From a boy)
So if I hadn’t published my book, even one child whom I may never meet would have lost a vital experience. Does one child matter? Do three? Twenty? How many before we say we matter? Success may be told in numbers, or in one simple story.
At moments when I feel weary and sad and too winter-tired to write the next chapter of The Hundred (Book Two), I think I’d like to tape up one or two of these letters and remember that someone, out there in the darkness, is waiting to hear the next story. I have to write back to to these kids who thanked me profusely for “introducing us to this fascinating world.” But how can I possibly thank them properly? I suppose the only way is by never giving up. And writing.