for release Friday December 03, 2004
by Melodie Davis
Keeping in Touch
Have you ever written to a columnist? Most people never write to a columnist in the newspaper, but I am very glad some people do!
This is a down and dirty, “taking care of business” column about mail or e-mail that doesn’t arrive. I don’t know how else to reach people who are having problems reaching me, without taking a column to do it. I’m sure it will apply to dozens of other situations as well, so I hope it is instructive for more than just reaching me at Another Way.
I was appalled recently when I received a letter that was 10 months old. It seems to have sat at a newspaper office all that time. There were other letters that were two and three months old which is way too long to wait for a simple response to a letter. We usually try to answer within a week. In the newspaper’s defense—most of the papers who use Another Way are small, way understaffed, and sometimes it takes awhile for someone to get around to dealing with mail.
That’s one reason I recently went back to using a post office box number for mail to Another Way (see end of column.) So the mail should now come directly to me (but I do appreciate it if you take the time to tell me what paper you read the column in.)
The other major problem is with e-mail. I prefer to get e-mail (because it is so easy and cheap to e-mail right back) but of course spam has presented a huge problem for office e-mail systems everywhere and I was forced to use a spam blocker to ride herd on the 100-200 pieces of spam I get every day. Unfortunately, spam blockers sometimes make mistakes, and I am sometimes appalled at what the system didn’t let through. Just today I rescued a bonafide e-mail from an individual reader that had been tossed out as “spam.” I try to check it everyday but sometimes the subject lines don’t help, and I end up not opening it anyway. Anything with a subject line of Hi, Information Requested, or blank, is going to be tossed, because too many viruses or junk e-mails are addressed that way. It helps if you put something very concrete and descriptive in your subject line such as: “Response to Another Way column for Melodie Davis.” Use the same principle when writing to other companies or individuals.
On the other end, I know that unfortunately spam software gets into my own e-mail and uses my e-mail address to go to other people, so perhaps some of you have received e-mails that look like they are from Melodie Davis but are for pharmacy items, mortgages, or worse. It happens, but it is not from me.
Sometimes people forget to give me an address to mail a booklet. That is no problem with e-mail—I just e-mail right back and get their mailing address. But a letter: well, it just sits there if someone forgets to include their address. A reader in Ohio wrote for the booklet on “Bearing the Special Grief of Suicide” last July and forgot to include any return address. Robert, write again and send your address!
Then there are people who write a question and want me to answer in the paper. Usually I don’t respond in the paper—I don’t want the content to be controlled by anonymous letters. But this person signed her letter, and just didn’t give a return address. It was from a 16-year-old girl, and in order that adults don’t disillusion her—let me respond here. When I was writing the columns about suicide this summer, her grandmother apparently thought that since I was writing about suicide, I was somehow thinking of suicide or planning to leave my family. (What a terrible thought!) This girl didn’t think that could possibly be right because she remembered me writing another article, about a mother who died leaving children behind, and that I wrote about how terrible that would be. She wrote, “I would like to hear your response. I cannot imagine suicide for you. Or were you thinking of leaving? Grandmother thinks so. Please be honest.” She signed her name, Janelle.
Janelle, I am touched that you would be concerned, and let me hasten to say that especially after working on the TV documentary on suicide, I would never consider suicide. I also do not plan on ever leaving my dear husband or our children. I know people can say one thing and do another, but that is as honest as I know how to be. They’re stuck with me. We’re far from a perfect family (sometimes it helps to say that, too,) but by the grace of God, we have learned to get along and love each other through bad times and good (as trite as that sounds). I hope that reassures you, Janelle.
So, I do love hearing from people; it’s one way for me to know when articles or subjects hit home with people. Don’t forget your return address and if it takes forever to get a response, perhaps your e-mail got ditched by the spam blocker and I didn’t catch it, or perhaps it really did get “lost in the mail.” And like I said, I’m sure this is true for many other people you may be trying to contact.
To test our newly changed communication process, I invite you to write for a free Christmas gift from Another Way: a special booklet featuring all of the scripture passages in the New Testament that reference “Nazareth” in some way. You’ll hear more about this booklet and why I’m offering it later this month in Another Way. Ask for the free “Jesus of Nazareth” scripture booklet and indicate what paper you read this in.
Send to: Melodie Davis, Another Way, Box 22, Harrisonburg VA 22802 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your paper's name in your response.)
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 1000 words; end material = 105 words
We would appreciate it if you would include the "Globe Syndicate" bug at the end of the column.
©2004 by Globe Syndicate, all rights reserved.
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