A Postcard from Ursula

John Crowley in the Boston Review:

Leguin3In 1973, when I finished my first novel, the difficulties of the blurb-solicitation process were enormous, or would surely seem so to writers now who send digital files effortlessly to famous people through websites and email. The great new advance then was the Xerox machine; you at least didn’t have to produce carbons (hopeless) or photostats (expensive) to send out. But still, as often as not—or more often than not—your solicitations weren’t responded to, which could seem like a foretaste of failure: perhaps readers wouldn’t respond either. Now and then a query would get a curt reply asking that the manuscript not be sent, that the recipient didn’t read such submissions.

I once sent a large manuscript to Anne Rice, the vampire biographer­. What I got back was a postcard, filled edge to edge with typing, asking why I felt I had a right to send her this mass of paper, did I really think she had any reason to read it—she did not—and what was she supposed to do with it? I thought of writing her back to say that she might just toss it in the trash with the rest of the week’s paper, but I didn’t.

So for that first novel, I was amazed and grateful to actually get a few brief comments back. The one that meant the most to me, for several reasons, was a hand-written postcard from Ursula K. Le Guin. It was generous, kind, even humorous—the note ended with ironic congratulations on my impressively consistent misspelling of the word “guard”—and as a whole, the effect was her welcoming me into the fold.

More here.