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An Open Letter to JK Rowling: Please Don't Stop Writing

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Dear Ms. Rowling,

I wanted to write you a letter so that you'd know there are writers, as well as readers, who think Lynn Shepherd is wrong. On their behalf, I beseech you not to give up writing as she suggested. I hope this missive doesn't arrive too late...

Like many authors, Ms. Shepherd is frustrated at the rocky, dusty, and rock-dusty path we writers tread. Success seems so far away and despite our efforts to pen works of art and then peddle them to our readers, the best-seller lists contain mostly the names of the already-famous. James Patterson, Michael Connolly, Donna Tartt. You. I mean, where's my castle in Scotland?

But don't feel bad, because Ms. Shepherd is wrong. You haven't stolen any of my readers, nor bumped me from the front table at Barnes & Noble. Your book hasn't "sucked the oxygen from the entire publishing and reading atmosphere," as she claims. Rather, you have been a life-giver. Concrete example (and we all know anecdotes are more scientific than comprehensive, peer-reviewed data): my son is nine. He's been a soccer-playing, basketball-throwing, skateboarding, tag-monster his whole life. The only time he stops is to read, and that's thanks to you. He has each of your books and they are in tatters because he's read them so many times. And not just your books: F.T. Bradley can't churn them out quick enough, Rick Riordan the same... the boy's now a reader. In the car on the way to school, on planes, trains, and... oh, I said cars already. Point is, his mind is as active as his body now and it's thanks to you and your wonderful books. He now plays one more sport, by the way: Quidditch (which is pretty hard to do given, you know, gravity).

And so you see, Ms. Shepherd needs to understand that the authors like you actually bring more readers to our books. More books from you means more readers for us, not fewer. We may not end up with as many readers as you. But that's okay, I'll settle for Grisham's sales numbers (and just a wee castle).

I would also venture to guess that when a publisher rakes in money from your books, the pie available to less well-known authors like me looms a little larger. In other words, your guaranteed sales allow an editor somewhere to take a chance on a new writer, and for that we should all be grateful. And urge you to keep writing.

Ms. Shepherd's article implies that some talented people get overlooked when you (and presumably other famous) authors publish. But there's room for us all, and readers, too. You see, when a new J.K. Rowling novel comes out, people head to the bookstores and guess what? They don't just see rows and rows of your book, they also see my books and Ms. Shepherd's books. Probably more of hers, actually, since R is closer to S than it is P. So please, keep writing.

One more thing. Ms. Shepherd should understand that writers don't sit down and write books to make money. Any author setting out to do that is on a fool's errand (except maybe you, Patterson, Tartt, etc). We write because we love to share our stories. Is there anything like being in an airport and seeing someone clutching your book, or devouring its pages amidst the maelstrom of Gate 23? Seriously, I'm asking, is there anything like it? I don't know because it's not happened to me yet. Oh, it will, though, I know that, and when it happens I'll have you to thank, in small part.

I'm done now. I don't want to take up more of your time because I want you to get back to writing. And lest someone take this letter as some kind of supercilious, sycophantic self-indulgence, I'd leave you with a thought, something (else) maybe you can do for me. How about you write your next book under the name J.K. Prowling? A little closer to me than Ms. Shepherd? Would that be okay? Because, unlike the good Ms. Shepherd, I'd be honored to be on a bookshelf next to you.

Mark Pryor

P.S. If you're not up for that new nom-de-plume, I'd be fine with you nipping out to buy me a castle directly. I don't need a big one, 15 bedrooms would be just fine. But it'll need a study because whether I sell one copy or a million, I'm still gonna keep on writing books. I truly hope you are, too.