I once knew a famous author, but for complex reasons I lost the privilege of his acquaintance. In trying to begin a writing career concerned with many of the same subjects as his work, it occurs to me that he might not be the only person of his ilk that I could ever hope to meet, and that what I'm after is simply some personal acquaintance, some counsel, some support.

How can I write to a big-name essayist or poet whose subjects I have something serious to say about? Any tips? And first and foremost, how do I find out where to send my letter? Is it best to just send it to the publisher asking them to forward it, or best to track down the individual's mailing address?

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    Why would a big-name author be interested in mentoring you or providing some counsel or support? I'm not being snarky. What would you be bringing to the table? Why you out of everyone else in the world clamoring for Famous Author's attention? It's a bit like asking "How can I find Martin Freeman's home address so he can take me under his wing and teach me the business?" It's one thing if you want to write a fan letter, but you're asking how to create a personal teacher-student relationship with someone you literally only know from his/her fame. Jan 27, 2013 at 22:57
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    @LaurenIpsum: ...and that would fall under "What should I write about?" which is one of few writing topics considered off-topic here.
    – SF.
    Jan 28, 2013 at 4:48
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    I agree that this is somewhat off-topic. Does not pertain to writing in any particular sense-- could just as easily be asked with regard to any profession by changing only a few words in the question. "How can I write to a famous director? Politician? Starfish breeder?" Jan 28, 2013 at 6:48

3 Answers 3


My personal opinion? Don't write. They'll never be able to tell you're not some hack just from the letter, and they will not bother to check by replying.

Meet them in person at some book-signing or a conference or wherever they meet the public. Talk face to face. Answer their questions. Build a personal relationship. And primarily, value the person for who that specific person is, not for being a celebrity. You won't get far by picking one "because she's famous".

  1. There are many good and great writers in the world to learn from. You need not track down Faulkner. It is most likely a quest that will result in much wasted time and little gain.

  2. Many very great writers are easily accessible in their posts as college professors, where they have offices on campus you can find without any special effort, and get a chance to speak with them.

  3. Do not walk in and ask to be their mentee. It won't work. Like a raindrop addressing a storm, you will be dropped and forgotten among many others.

  4. If you can get into a good conversation with them, however, one where they're not looking at their watch and waiting for you to leave but are actually engaged and interested, you may be able to convince them to take a look at something you've written and give feedback.

  5. If it works out, try to keep in touch. Continue asking for feedback as you write. Do not become an annoyance. People are very, very busy. The more well-known they are, the busier. College professors especially barely have time to grade their class essays, let alone take on extra work. Respect that fact.


As a teenager I once wrote a letter to my then favourite author. That was before email and internet, so it was written on paper and travelled across the atlantic by ship.

A month or two later I received a friendly and lengthy reply to my many questions about that author's work and life.

I would guess that just as I am overwhelmed by spam email today, that author might no longer find the time and will to reply to most fan mail. Some of my favourite authors today have websites, and in their FAQ they explain why they can no longer reply to email and that all inquiries should go to their agents.

The basic problem of your idea to write one of your favourite authors is that at least ten other fans will have the same idea each day. Most authors spell it out to their fans: If they would reply to even a small part of the fan mail they receive, they would no longer find the time to write new books.

Those authors that even still read all those emails will usually answer the most common questions on their websites and blogs. And in fact writer's blogs offer almost all the information and more that you could have received in a personal email. So make Google your friend and find what is already out there. It's a lot!

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