A Labour of Love: A Christmas Present to Feedback-Givers

By Wendy Richards <wendymr@lcfanfic.com>

Rated: PG

Submitted: December 2003

Summary: Sometimes writers just need to say thank you…


"Hey, honey." Lois slid her arms around her husband's neck, pressing against his side as he sat at the desk in their study. "What'cha doing?"

He turned to smile at her, dropping a kiss on her jaw before returning his attention to the pile of paper on the desk. "Just catching up with some correspondence."

Lois glanced down at the letter Clark was writing. "A thank-you letter?" she queried. "I thought you took care of Superman's mail last weekend?" She nipped at his ear, hoping to distract him.

"I did." He squirmed slightly as she blew into his ear; after two years of marriage she knew all the ways in which his phenomenal abilities did not render him completely invulnerable. "This isn't Superman's mail."

"It's not?" Her curiosity piqued, Lois reached around Clark and picked up the first letter on the pile. "What is it, then? Who are these from?"

"Our readers."

Lois's eyes widened. "Our readers? What, you mean the people who read our stories?"

"Sure do." Clark grinned. "We have *a lot* of readers, you know, honey."

"Of course I know that! The Planet has a huge circulation. And now that we've gone online millions of people read it every day."

"Yes. And some of those people actually write to compliment us on our work. They say they love reading our stories. And they can't wait until the next one appears. They say they love just about everything that appears in the Planet, but it's our stories which make them come back." He gave her what Lois recognised as a typically-Clark flattered, embarrassed smile. He was actually close to blushing.

She'd seen him reading his Superman mail: some of it general fan-mail, some requests for help and some thank-you letters. He always brushed aside the compliments people paid him in those letters, saying that what he did as Superman was easy. His abilities were completely natural to him and it would feel wrong if he didn't use them to help others. Those letters didn't make him blush — well, not with pleasure, anyway, she thought, remembering a small minority of the letters. Last weekend he'd gritted his teeth and carefully, gripping only with the tips of his fingers, transferred a pair of (worn) panties from the desk to the outside garbage can.

This was different. These letters, compliments on their news articles, really did make him happy. And, thinking about it, she could understand why. Clark never thought that his super-powers made him special in any way. He didn't see them as a talent or skill that he deserved credit or praise for. It was something, he said, that he was able to do because he had a natural advantage no-one else on the planet had. He hadn't had to work for it, hadn't had to prove himself in competition with other people, to struggle to get into the position he was in — Superman. There weren't exactly any other Kryptonians or super-powered beings around.

His writing, though, was different. That was a skill he'd learned, an innate talent he'd worked hard at and honed until he was as good as he was now. He hadn't always been the best reporter around. When he'd come to the Planet, he had been raw and relatively inexperienced, although clearly talented. It had taken a lot of hard work on his part, and not always with help from her, to get to the point where, just over a year after joining the Planet, he'd won his first Kerth.

These letters, the feedback, were complimenting him on something he saw himself as having striven for. Something he'd achieved through hard work, not through a natural advantage no-one else could compete with.

Though, knowing her husband, there was another reason why he was thrilled to get the letters and why he enjoyed reading them, she was sure. Because they related to *their* work. Something the two of them did together, as a team. He'd never been happier as a reporter, he'd told her long ago, than when working as her partner. He'd never been more delighted to win an award as he had been when they'd got their first joint Kerth, he'd told her the night they won it.

Secretly, too, Lois had been more thrilled by that Kerth than by any of her others, though it had taken her a lot longer to tell him that.

"So, who are these people? Where are they from?" she asked, now curious.

"Oh, they're from all over the world," he told her, a grin splitting his face. "Lots of them are from the States, as you'd expect, but from all over. And there's somebody from Puerto Rico — she writes all the time. She's very funny — her letters are always full of threats of what she'll do to us if she doesn't see another story from us very soon. If we haven't had anything in the paper for about a week she emails me and puts these little icons of marching men with pikes in the email."

Lois shook her head, laughing. "She sounds crazy!"

"Naah. She's great. Maria's a terrific lady and a great supporter of our work. I'm sure you'd love her."

"And who else?"

Clark picked up a printed-off email from close to the top of the pile. "This one's from Merry. She's American, and has a very busy life from what I can tell. But she never misses telling us how much she's enjoyed every single story we write. Her notes are always short, but I love getting them."

Lois took the letter from him and read it aloud. "Loved this story. Great as always. You two are wonderful writers. Can't wait for your next piece. Merry." She smiled. "I see what you mean. Short, but she gets everything in! She'd make a good reporter…" she mused aloud.

"I think she has enough going on in her life!" Clark pointed out. "Did I tell you that we have fans in Australia?"

"Australia?" Lois stared at him incredulously. "All the way over there?"

"You bet! There's Tricia, for example. She's a teacher and another very busy lady, but she's never too busy to write to tell us that she likes our stories. There are a couple of other Aussies who write occasionally, too."

"Australia." Lois was still shaking her head. "And where else?"

"Singapore, would you believe? And Jordan."

"What?" Lois felt as if her jaw was dropping. "Really?"

"Yup. In Singapore there are two sisters, twins, who read our work. Now they can send really long critiques of what we do, and sometimes they really make me think. But they're very different — they don't always agree on what they say. Which is nice — I like that." He smiled again. "And then there's a student in Jordan. You'd like her, Lois — she's a college student, studying engineering."

"Engineering? But I didn't think women did subjects like that in the Middle East!" Lois said, shaking her head. "I thought those societies were very patriarchal."

Clark shrugged. "Unless you've been there, you couldn't know what it's really like. I had my perceptions blown to pieces too. But, yep, even though she's adhering to all the traditional customs of her society and of Islam, Jo's well on her way to a great career."

"That's great!" Lois reached for another letter. "Avia… who's she?" Without waiting for an answer, she began to read. "I read your last story twice, and then I had to go away and do something else before I could write to you. It was so heartrending, and so well written. I wanted you to know that you really made me understand the pain of those people you wrote about. I just hope that everyone who read the story felt the same way, so that something could be done about it."

Lois looked up from the printed email, meeting Clark's gaze. "I remember the story she's talking about. It was harrowing, all right. But it makes it all worth it to know that our words can move other people too, people who didn't see what we saw."

"That's exactly how I feel," Clark told her. "Avia's from Israel — she's one of two Israeli people who write to us from time to time. She's terrific — her comments often give me a completely fresh insight into things I thought I completely understood. She and Hazel are both from Jerusalem, but from different parts of the city, I believe. And then there's Maisa from Palestine — we don't hear from her as often, but it's good to know that she's out there."

Lois leaned against the side of Clark's desk, shaking her head. "I had no idea! All these people writing to us, telling us they love what we're doing… I mean, Israel, Palestine… they're living in a *war zone* and they still have time to send us feedback?"

"Pretty amazing," Clark agreed. "It does put a lot of things into perspective." He reached across and hugged her lightly, brushing a kiss across her lips before looking back at the letters.

"There are so many more, too. Carolyn's in Peru. Raquel's from Brazil. There's Jose in Spain, who writes very regularly — actually, he's one of the few men who writes to us. And Cristina too — she's also Spanish. I'm not sure, but I think she and Jose might have something going on." He grinned. "And there's Ursie in the Netherlands — Saskia's from there too. There's Anna in Greece. Gabriele's in Finland, and Julia and Christiane are from Germany. There's Sarah- Jayne and Loriel in the UK. There are people in Macedonia and Italy and France and all over Europe — there's even someone in Norway who I only know as 'Pelican', would you believe!"

"Pelican?" Lois couldn't resist a laugh.

"Yeah. I think she just doesn't want to use her real name. Lots of people prefer not to on the internet. Anyway, get this — last time Pelican wrote, she sent a little video she'd made based on one of our stories. I meant to show it to you. It's just amazing."

"Make sure you do," Lois said, intrigued and completely bowled over by the thought of complete strangers, people she had never met and probably would never meet, actually taking the time to write to say that they enjoyed Lane and Kent's writing. "I still can't get over this, though — people writing to us from all over the world!"

"Yeah. Canadians too — there's Gerry and Julie and Jocelyn and Carol and Irene, just to start with. And I haven't even mentioned most of the Americans we hear from regularly," Clark added. "There's Laura in New York — she keeps telling me she loves my picture -"

He broke off as Lois swiped his thigh. "You have women readers *ogling* you, Clark?" she demanded.

He really did blush this time. "Not really. And anyway, I haven't told you about Tank yet!"

"Tank?" Lois blinked and stared at him. "You have a fan called Tank?"

He laughed aloud. "No, you do," he told her once he'd regained a straight face. "He's apparently a bass player from the wilds of Minnesota, and he thinks you're both beautiful and amazingly talented, and he wants to know what on earth you're doing with me!"

Lois raised an eyebrow. "So that's why you haven't shown me these letters sooner! Afraid that I'd run off with him, were you?"

Clark grinned. "Somehow I'm not sure I could see you living in Minnesota. And besides, he also thinks you'd look even better with your hair shorter — the way it was in your photos two or three years ago, he said recently."

Lois reached up to pat her carefully-styled hair, which fell in soft waves to just above her shoulders. "I like it just the way it is, thank you!"

"And so do I." Clark leaned over and kissed her lingeringly. "Anyway, I wouldn't worry. He seems to be a bit of a softie really — not a stalker or anything like that."

"Well, maybe you should show me one of his letters some time," Lois said, giving her husband a challenging look.

He tut-tutted at her. "Anyway," he said quickly, obviously anxious to move on, "there are two Vickis — I think they're both from America, though I only know that one of them's in Arizona. She writes wonderful, long feedback which is a joy to read. I haven't heard from her properly for a while, but I know she's been swamped at work — she sent me a card just this week to apologise for not being in touch." He shook his head. "It just amazes me that people actually feel they have to apologise for not having time to tell us they like our work!"

"Most people wouldn't even think of writing to tell us they like it," Lois said, thinking of all the citizens of Metropolis, let alone elsewhere, who read the Planet every day and never sent any kind of feedback. "The fact that these people do is amazing!"

"Absolutely," Clark agreed. "And there's no feeling like opening a letter or an email — or the newspaper bulletin board — to find more wonderful comments."

"Bulletin board?" Lois queried. "Since when?"

"Since the last website revamp — last April, I think," Clark said. "Actually… yeah, I remember. It was April 9 — I remember it opened officially on Pam's birthday."

"I've never seen it! You'll have to show it to me."

"Sure!" Clark promised. "Anyway — there's also Rivka in California and Shelley in Portland — oh, and Roger's from Portland too. There's Annette in Pennsylvania — now, she's wonderful. Jana in Washington State, Liz and Wanda in New Jersey, Sherry and Joy and Laurie in New York, Jen in Florida — and another Jen in Ohio, Barb in Michigan, Linda in North Carolina, Blayne in Indiana, Malu from Texas. Breanna from… somewhere. I don't know where Karen's from, either, but she always makes me laugh. And then there's KathyM — she's from California too, and she writes these terrifically long and thoughtful letters of feedback. Allison's in Arkansas — now, she's funny! A lot of the time she doesn't really agree with what we write, but she still writes to tell us that she enjoyed reading it. And there's Jeff — I think he's actually from Kansas. We must look him up some time when we're visiting the farm."

"You really sound like you know all these people!" Lois exclaimed.

"Well, it gets to feel like that after a while," Clark explained. "I mean, they keep writing us this amazing feedback and comments, and I write to thank them, and they write again — after a bit, it does start to feel as if I know them. And that's a terrific feeling."

"I think I can imagine," Lois said thoughtfully as she sifted through the pile again. "Here's a very long one!"

Clark looked at the letter she was holding. "Oh yes, that's Ray. Now he's amazing! Every single story we write, he sends us a really detailed analysis of it, telling us in detail what he liked about it and what was different about it and how it relates to other work we've done. He's got some great insights too — I know I've sometimes borne in mind things he's said when I'm writing something."

Lois leafed quickly through the letters again. "But there's so many here — I mean, it's just amazing and I'm deeply flattered, but when do you get time to reply to them all?"

Clark grimaced. "I don't always. Much as I want to, sometimes it takes a while before I get around to it, and I often have to make a much more cursory response than I'd really want to. I mean, take Ray's letter — and you should read that, Lois! — I'd love to spend an hour or more and answer each of his points in detail, but even using super-speed I can't do that every time, much as I'd like to. And that's the only thing I worry about — that these wonderful people might think we don't appreciate their great feedback."

"I'm sure they must know that we love getting it," Lois suggested. "And as long as we do our very best to reply, even if it's only a short note and even if it's sometimes a little later than we might like, it's a start, isn't it?"

"Yeah, though I always know I could do better. Should do better." Clark grinned at Lois. "Though now, actually, you can help me. Can't you?"

"Hey, I can't write as fast as you can!" she pointed out. "But you're right. I should be writing some of these thank-you letters. You should have told me before!"

She could make a start right now, she decided. Lois took a pen from the desk, seized a piece of paper and wrote, in large letters, "To our readers: THANK YOU ALL. You make everything we do worthwhile."


This story was inspired, sort of, by Ursie's suggestion in the Beta-Reader Appreciation Day thread (http://www.lcficmbs.com/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_t opic;f=5;t=000321) that perhaps all those fantastic feedback-givers out there should also have their own appreciation day. Well, we don't have a day yet, but I hope that this short story goes some way towards expressing my own appreciation of all your kind, helpful, encouraging and constructively critical comments. Fanfic would soon have fizzled out if it wasn't for the FoLCs who take the time to tell writers that they've enjoyed what they've read.

I know that there are lots of people I haven't included. As far as possible, I left out people who are actively writing themselves, since this is aimed at the wonderful FoLCs who give such great feedback on our stories. Though there were a couple of writers I couldn't resist including! And to all those other feedback-givers whose names aren't in this little piece, I assure you that you're included in spirit. For all of you who send feedback on fanfic, whether on the boards, the fanfic list, in email, on IRC or in any other way… THANK YOU. You make everything we writers do more than worthwhile.

Wendy :)