The letter seemed like a normal fan letter. She said she loved my books. She hopes to be a writer and I am her role model. She asked for a signed bookplate to put in her own copy. I inscribed a bookplate to her, and mailed it. A week later Google Alerts sent me a link to a group of autograph collectors. There was a photo of the book plate with her name inked out, and a post telling how she had “scored” an autograph from Peg Kehret.
That opened the flood gates and requests for autographs poured in from Spain, Holland, Canada, and many other countries, as well as all across the U.S. Many came by e-mail, and none sent return postage. I ignored all of them.
Next I got a letter containing two first-day-of-issue envelopes, which are issued when new U.S. postage stamps come out. One was an envelope with a stamp honoring Edna St. Vincent Millay; the other was for Louisa May Alcott. A polite letter mentioned my books and asked me to sign the two envelopes. The sender included a self-addressed-stamped-envelope. I suspected this was yet another scheme to sell my signature, but he had chosen women writers, and he’d sent the SASE, so I signed the two envelopes and returned them. The Edna St. Vincent Millay envelope is currently for sale on a Hollywood Celebrity Autographs site for $10.50.
I’ve always mailed autographs to kids who request them but the Internet has made it harder to know which are true fans and which are people out to make a buck. There is currently a request in my Inbox from a young woman who says she is an English Literature major, hopes to be a writer, and wants my autograph to hang by her desk as inspiration. There was a time when I’d have filled her request by return mail. Now, I hesitate. Her comments are too close to what the girl said who inked out her name and gloated over acquiring my autograph.