As someone who writes nonfiction for young readers, I do a great deal of research. My dives into history have taken me to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Library of Congress, the National Archives (good for research in person, but they have a horrible internet presence), the JFK Library in Boston, and many other points on the map. My internet searches have taken me to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Ku Klux Klan, the National Rifle Association, the FBI, the CIA, the White House, and other interesting destinations, not to mention newspaper sites from across the nation. I have often wondered, should anyone from the government or governments beyond our shores be tracking my online activity, what they think. And because I am usually gathering information for one of my books, I often receive mail from these various locations and organizations. I wonder what goes through the postal clerk’s mind as s/he puts these various envelopes, packages, and boxes into my mailbox–and what stories, if any, circulate about me. Am I a spy? A terrorist? An advisor? Somebody looking for a job?
In the past few months, I have received official looking mail from the FBI, Naval Investigative Services, the CIA, a representative of Congress (no, not a political advertisement), and a former Secretary of State (again, not a political advertisement). Most recently–day before yesterday, as a matter of fact–I received a box large enough and heavy enough for a statuette. The cover of the box was emblazoned with a gold foil replica of Oscar and a return address of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The following conversation ensued:
Post Office (PO): I see that’s from the Oscar people.
Me: Yes. I’ve been expecting it.
PO: Sure is heavy.
Me: It is that.
PO: I suppose you’ll put it on your mantle or some place important? <asked as a question so I would clarify the box’s contents, no doubt>
Me: Probably just my office. (And I zipped out the door.)
One of my dearest friends (HFJ) accuses me of being mysterious. I say a little mystery never hurt anyone. I don’t believe in telling people more than they need to know. And being a bit on the superstitious side, I refrain from discussing a work-in-progress until it’s finished, or nearly so. Besides, it’s great fun to speculate what stories might circulate when you leave people with a thumbnail sketch, rather than the fully executed painting. After I collected my mail that day, I chuckled, wondering what the postal clerk’s story about me might be.