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Meg's Blog

EVEN MORE MAIL

YES! MORE MAIL!!!!

I don't know if it's because it's so hot out or what, but I am getting tons of mail. Not to bring anyone down or anything, but some of the mail I've been getting has been a little crabby in nature. In my opinion, we all need to go grab some iced tea and chill. Seriously, people: It's going to be all right! I swear to you! Take a deep breath and say to yourself: “It is just a book. It is written to entertain. It is not the end of the world.”

And then go and watch some TV. I recommend House Doctor on BBC America. That always cheers me right up.

Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:

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Why are like AAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL of your books have about almost the same personaliy??? (I have not read all of your books yet.) It gets annoying.

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You know, it is very heartening to know that someone who has not read all of my books feels that they are all the same.

Really, the only characters I can think of who she might be talking about are Jess from 1800 and Suze from the Mediator, since they both don't mind beating people up. But as far as personalities go, they could not be more different. Suze wouldn't be caught dead with Jess's hair, for instance.

And yes, maybe Mia and Sam both wear combat books. But Mia would never eat a cheeseburger, just as Sam would never eat a veggie burger.

Maybe what the author of this letter means is that my books, most of which are written in the first person, all have the same TONE. Of that, I am, of course, guilty. But unless I turn into Nicholas Sparks all of a sudden, the tone of my books are not going to change.
Because that tone is my personality.

Which reminds me:

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Why don't you pick a book by Nicholas Sparks as the next book for your bookclub? He's a REAL writer.

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QUIZ TIME:

Okay, here is a quiz you can take to tell if you should read books by Nicholas Sparks or not. Just pick the best answer for you:

1) When it comes to crying, I

a) love a good cry
b) hate a good cry
c) don't know what you're talking about.

2) Presentations by the Hallmark Hall of Fame:

a) Never miss'em!
b) Snoozefest!
c) I still don't know what you're talking about.

3) I think of my life as

a) super fun
b) mostly sucking
c) Wait. What?

4) When a commercial for antidepressant medication comes on TV, I

a) think to myself, “It must be terrible to feel like that.”
b) freak out over how many of the symptoms I have
c) change the channel

5) When it comes to stories where people die at the end, I

a) love them. The drama! Nothing beats a good tragedy
b) am reminded of the people in my own family who have died, and feel sad
c) don't care. Why can't you leave me alone?

Okay! Tally your points!

If you answered mostly As, Nicholas Sparks is the author for you! What are you doing reading my blog? Go read his! I am sure it's filled with tons of pathos! Hurry, you might be missing out!

If you answered mostly Bs, you are like me. You have enough tragedy in your life. You don't need to add to it by reading a book where one or more of the characters bites it tragically at the end. You need to read something funny. May I recommend my new book, Teen Idol?

And if you answered mostly Cs, you are just so cute, I can hardly stand it.

My theory on Nicholas Sparks is that people who have mostly happy lives, with only occasional drama—the kind of people who “love a good cry”–love his books.

The rest of us, who have lives that mostly suck, need to stay away from Nicholas Sparks the way Superman needs to stay away from kryptonite. Otherwise, we'll all have to walk around with towels around our necks to catch our tears, the way Robert James Wallace did when he was writing Bridge of Madison County, another book I can't say I totally enjoyed, or even got past page 10 on.

Phew. I'm glad I got that off my chest.

More mail:

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I am FURIOUS with your mention of Aspergers Syndrome in your Princess Diaries Series: Princess in Pink. My brother has Aspergers Syndrom. It was wrong of you to have Mia keep thinking that everyone she knows has Aspergers. This is supposed to be funny but it really isn't. Not everyone who has Aspergers has all those symptoms and the disorder ranges from being a light case to a serious one. My brother gets straight As and has lots of friends. People who has Apergers are STILL PEOPLE!!!!!

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I am totally sorry if anything I wrote caused anyone pain, since, obviously, it was never meant to be anything but funny, and in no way intended to be hurtful.

However, this letter kind of proves Mia's point: The fact that this person's brother gets straight As and has lots of friends—JUST LIKE MANY OF THE CHARACTERS IN THE PRINCESS DIARIES—shows that Asperger's is a disorder anyone—EVEN ME—could have.

The point I think I was trying to make is that we ALL have symptoms of Aspergers—every last one of us—from time to time, and that often, when you are reading a list of symptoms, you can imagine yourself or people you know having the disease you're reading about. This is an actual phenomenon, called Medical Student Syndrome. First Year Med Students are notorious for reading about diseases and disorders and becoming convinced they are suffering from them. I know when I was a Psych minor in college, I thought I had every single disorder we read about. Looking back on it, I probably did. And still do. But a steady diet of funny books has helped. I hope they help the author of the above letter, as well.

***Special Note: This reader wrote back to say that she understands I didn't mean anything against people suffering from Asperger's. She said it upsets her when people make fun of her brother. I know exactly how she feels, because people used to make fun of my little brother, too, because he was adopted and African-American. Sometimes, mean kids would call him the N word. Then my other brother and I would have to go beat them up. The worst was when a TEACHER's kid called my little brother the N word. When I told the kid if he did it again, I'd make him sorry [he was too little for me to beat up, so I settled for threatening him instead] he went and told his mom, a teacher in our school, and I ended up being the one who got detention, for threatening to beat up a kid so much littler than me—even though I fully told the kid's mom what he'd said! Only of course she didn't believe me. Which is ironic, because kids generally learn words like that from their PARENTS. Hello. I still think about that detention sometimes. I think that teacher will be showing up in one of my future books. And not in a good way.***

Here's someone else outraged over something I wrote:

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Dear Ms. Cabot,

I have just finished reading your book, “Princess in Pink”. I was disappointed and disgusted that Mia's mom implied that having sex, even safe sex, at age 15 was ok (pgs.103-109). I'm 13 and I love your
books. And I know a lot of other girls love your books, also. But if they read about it in this book and think that it's ok to practice safe sex, than they are likely to go out and try it, since Mia's mom said/implied that it was ok. I also felt that it went a little too far when Michael touched Mia in an inappropriate way (pgs.246-247). Girls this age should not be thinking about sex and guys touching them. They should be out having fun with their friends, and spending time with their family. I'm disinclined to read the next book in the series, because if it went as far as it did in this book than it will most likely go a lot farther in the next book. I will not be recommending this book to my friends.

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This letter concerns me. The reader implies that 15 year old girls should not be thinking about having sex. But when I was 15, that's all I thought about. That's all I thought about when I was YOUNGER than 15, as a matter of a fact (well, maybe not sex. But boys. And kissing. Those of you who have heard my Prince Collin speech know what I'm talking about). So what does that make me? A bad person? According to this reader, yes.

But I don't believe that. I don't think there's anything wrong with thinking about sex. I think this is part of being a human being. Teens in particular, with their raging hormones, have sex on the brain quite a bit. That is NORMAL.

I also think Mia's mom responded in a very normal way. She said she would PREFER Mia not to have sex until she's in her thirties, but that she realizes this is not likely to happen. The fact that Mia and her mother have a relationship that allows them to speak openly and honestly about sex shows how healthy they are, and how lucky. It is so much better for girls to learn about intimacy in a warm and truthful environment with accurate information, than to have that information withheld, and pick it up on the street (usually inaccurately) from friends. By talking to Mia about sex, Mia's mother shows that it is not a dark and dirty secret, and insures that if her daughter decides to move in that direction, she will do so safely and wisely. It also shows the respect that Mia's mom has for her daughter, a respect that Mia has earned but must continue to warrant.

Everyone has a different level of comfort with intimacy, and this book seems to have passed this reader's. While I do think there is a big difference between 13 and 15 (as the reader will discover for herself someday) I am impressed with her strong feelings on this issue, and with the very strict boundaries she has drawn for herself. I know I would never be able to keep myself from thinking about boys, no matter how many hobbies I had.

I just wonder if this reader will feel the same way when she's got HER first boyfriend.

More:

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i am black and the characters you write about are nothing like me. So i was wondering whether you could try writing about a black or of an ethinic background. So that if a film was to be made I could try for the main part. I would really want to make it big in the acting industry.

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Okay, here's the deal: I wouldn't attempt to write a book from the point of view of someone whose race I do not belong to. Why? Because I have no idea what it's like to be anything but a white girl, because that is what I am. Sure, I have a black brother: I can IMAGINE what it would be like, just like I IMAGINE what it would be like to be a princess.

But I am sure if any princesses—such as Eugenie and Beatrice, Fergie's daughters–have read my books, they're all, “She got this wrong, and this wrong, and this wrong.” So the same thing would happen if I tried to write a book from the point of view of an African American or Asian character. Only there are A LOT MORE of you than there are princesses to catch my mistakes. So there is NO WAY I am ever going to try this. I don't think I've got the talent.

As for the second part of this reader's letter, if you want to be an actress, don't write to your favorite author, asking her to write a part for you. This is not a very practical way to break into show biz. My advice to the author of this letter would be to get some headshots, some practical acting experience, and an agent.

Then, if all else fails, she should write the kind of book she'd like to read herself. That is what I did, when I noticed a dearth of books about people like me: girls who are convinced they are really a princess. I suggest she do the same.

It's very hard being an author and tackling such sensitive world issues. Sometimes I wonder how I've managed to stay sane all these years. Possibly because of letters like this one:

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I would just like to tell you how much I look up to you. I have read many many books and have had many favorite authors. But you are BY FAR the best.
You're so… normal. It feels like we're best friends. I love that.
Anyway ~ I just wanted to let you know.

Cortney

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Hey wait a minute—this letter isn't crabby! How did that get in there????

Ha, just kidding. I snuck a happy letter in, because I get far more letters like Cortney's than I get of the crabby variety, and I wanted to make sure we ended up a positive note. Thank you very much to Cortney and all the people like her who write to me to say they like my books. You are what keep me going. So big thanks and a kiss to all of you.

Everybody else–go drink some iced tea and chill out already!

More later.

Much love,

Meg

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