How One Reader's Comment Changed How I Thought About Writing

Asking a reader a simple question resulted in a profound response.

When I asked students at a local elementary school for feedback on the first book in the Waldameer Mystery Files series, I didn't realize I'd get such a profound response.

The school had done a grade-level read of The Long-Lost Locket, and we even had a field trip to Waldameer with activities related to the book. I wanted to get a sense of what readers thought: what drew them into the story, which parts engaged them, and any suggestions for future books.

However, the most profound response came to my simplest question: Who was your favorite character and why?

A reader named Parinita wrote, "My favorite character is Anh because she is from somewhere far away (Vietnam) and so am I (India)."

After teaching English to students in Vietnam and then immigrants and refugees in Erie, I wanted to incorporate my experiences into my writing. I decided to include characters like Anh, a Vietnamese immigrant.

I knew representation in literature mattered. I understood the importance of representation as a concept, but until Parinita's comment, I hadn't thought of representation in practical terms.