Spam and the Children's Author

by Hazel Edwards
The Internet Writing Journal, April 2004
This morning I had thirty-nine offers of anatomical enhancement in my email, five offers to be a millionaire, four ways of making my female companion happier, three appeals for my bank card number and two genuine fan emails headed "Hi" and "Your Birthday."

As a self-employed children's author, I've got a special problem with spam which I don't think Bill Gates can fix. Obvious spam headings are easy to delete, but many children email authors with genuine queries, praise or requests and they tend to use simple headings, rather like the spammers. Many business requests to speak as an author internationally also come via email from librarians or literary festival organizers. I can't use the usual electronic blocks or I lose serendipitous contacts.

I almost deleted the "Your Birthday" message, because mine isn't in this half of the year. However it turned out to be two very polite American children who had been given a literary project by their teacher to find an author who shared their birthday, (not the same year of course) and who had written a book they had enjoyed. Proof that they had done their homework, was a reply from the author confirming date of birth. I replied and sent them to my website which has FAQs and the answers, set up with biographical details and book discussion resources to save time for an author who cannot afford employ staff like Bill Gates.

"Hi" or "How are you?" is a very common address from spammers, but lots of children think this is a polite way to address a correspondent. Children's authors tend to regard replying to fan mail -- whether it comes via snail mail or electronically via an author website -- as one of the responsibilities and/or pleasures of being available to readers. Isn't Mark Latham trying to get kids to read? In a quiet way, we've been helping for years. My particular challenge is that some email is addressed to my cake-eating hippo character and has to be answered in character, so the email is important to retain the child-like fantasy, but not the sexual fantasy which some spammers are offering.

Please remember that children's authors have been available in print and electronically for some time, and the part of the readers' anatomy which most needs enhancement is the brain. Authors are providing that. Spammers are not.

www.hazeledwards.com has photos and notes about recent launches of author Hazel Edwards' titles.

Hazel Edwards**Hazel Edwards is the Melbourne-based author of 150 books for adults and children including the classic, There's a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake. Antarctic Writer on Ice is in its fourth reprint, and is available on audio and in Braille, a YA eco-thriller Antarctica's Frozen Chosen (Lothian 2003) and an Antarctic play in Right or Wrong (Phoenix Education) are some of the writing based on her Antarctic Division polar resupply Voyage 5 to Casey Station in 2001. My Dad's Gone to Antarctica,(Lothian 2004) a picture book, is in progress. Recent children's books include Stickybill TV Duckstar The Cyber Farm with Hobbit director Christine Anketell. You can visit her website at http://www.hazeledwards.com. Married with two adult children, Hazel's hobbies are swimming, belly dancing and asking questions.

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