Tuesday, June 17, 2014

lord of the letters: the letter: an unexpected journey

for decades- no, centuries- it has been long argued whether email or letters are more powerful. by powerful, i mean the chance someone will write back. the answer will now be revealed. it turns out to be letters. this is the story about how i learned this. for my cover story assignment, i was forced to write a letter to a famous person(SASE included). i wrote it to Daniel schwanbauer. this is the letter.

March 24, 2014

Dear Mr. Schwanbauer,

 How are you? I could find no one else to write. I could not pin down Chuck Norris’s address, and Nitrome headquarters would never write back. So since you told me to in my Cover Story assignment, I wrote a letter to somebody. That somebody is you. I have a few questions. First, can Cover Story be used to make more than books? How about video game and sit-com plots? Second, I want more companies to write back to me in emails. The only way I can contact them is through live chat. Can you give me some tips? Finally, do you make other things beside books? Do you make movies and TV shows too?

I have a cute cat named earl. He likes sleeping and being petted. We are not sure who owns him, he roams the neighborhood, and when he comes to our house, we let him inside and play with him. I can send you a photo of him if you would like me to.

And, I would really like it if you wrote back. You see, if you wrote back, it would give me some hope that other famous people might write me back. I enclosed a S-A-S-E.

Sincerely, Andrew

P.S. We are deprived of the outtakes!!! Please put them in more Cover Story episodes!!!

as many other juvenile letter-senders who grew up with email like me, i did not expect to be written back. but i got a surprise one day...

April 28, 2014

Dear Andrew,
Thank you for the time to write to me. I am sorry I could not respond more quickly.
I enjoyed reading your letter, and am honored that you picked me as the subject of lesson 25’s fan mail assignment, even if I was third on your list behind Chuck Norris and Nitrome. (I think it would be cool to get a letter from Chuck Norris too.)

in answer to your questions, first, I suppose one could use Cover Story to write a book, but the book would probably feel very disjointed. The program wasn’t designed to teach novel writing, though technically a “book” could be a collection of short stories and essays. You can probably learn from the lessons on short stories many of the structural techniques used in video games (such as character change and conflict). Maybe something in the lessons on humor would be helpful in writing a sit-com, but I don’t think cover story would teach enough to really get you started. Movie and television scripts are formatted differently, and expectations for different programs can vary quite a bit.

Getting companies to write back to you will probably depend on what you write. If you are really serious about getting a response from a company, then, yes, I can give you some advice about how to do so. I can’t guarantee my method will work, but I suspect you will have better luck than with live chats or email.
First, look up the CEO of the company on the internet. This might take some digging, but you should be able to locate their name somewhere. I found the CEO of State Farm by simple typing “State Farm insurance CEO” into the Google search bar. (his name is Edward B. Rust Jr.)

Next, forget about live chat and email, and don’t try to call on the phone. Instead, write a physical letter like the one you sent to me and mail it to him at the company’s address.

Third, make sure you mention your name and age in your opening sentence, something like,

Dear Mr. Rust,

My name is Andrew Lapain and I am 13 years old.

…or however old you are. Then go on to explain or ask for whatever you are asking for.

The reason I think this will work is because of your age. If you send a letter to BIG GAME COMPANY asking them when their newest video game is going to be released, you may not get an answer. Instead, someone in the mail room will have to decide whether your letter is important enough to pass on to somebody else. The answer might be, “Yeah, I’ll give it to Bob,” or it might be, “Nah, he can just wait till July like everyone else.” But even if he passes your letter on to Bob, Bob is then forced to make the same decision. Does Bob take the time to answer your letter, or does he pass it on to someone else? Depends on how busy he is. And Bob doesn’t have any real motivation to write you a letter. He can ignore you and no one will know. Even you don’t know that Bob has your letter.

But  if you send it to the CEO, it is possible (not necessarily likely) that your letter will strike the big important boss guy as unusual. CEOs like to think in terms of marketing and public relations. And they are often moved by letters from kids, because no one likes to say no to a kid publicly. (it makes grownups look like jerks.) so the CEO will get a letter from a kid, and he might say to himself, “Huh. This is an unusual kid. He wrote an actual letter. I’m impressed.” And then he might write you back an answer to all of your questions. Of course, he might also throw your letter away because he is too busy. But I’m guessing the most likely thing that will happen is he will give your letter to his secretary and tell her what to type. This will only take him about ten seconds, and he will feel good about doing it, and his secretary will like doing it because she is writing something unusual and interesting. the boss will sign it. And you’ll get your letter.

Or not. And even if he does write back, it might take a while.

Still, I think this is your best shot.

As to your other questions, I have written for television, and I did write one screenplay (which wasn’t produced). Yes, I would love to see a photo of Earl. I like cats, but am terribly allergic, instead we have two terriers, Dutch and Bella.

Sorry Cover Story doesn’t have any more outtakes. Maybe if we reshoot it someday….?

Thank you for your patience waiting for my reply!

Best wishes,
*insert Daniel’s signature here*

Daniel Schwabauer

of course, being the communication-deprived kid i was, i went bats. days pass, and i have a clubhouse magazine in my bedroom. the issue is January 2013. the high voltage review section has a area on brave and gravity falls. i am too cowardly to read the part on gravity falls. when i first tried to read it, i saw the word "eerie". the reason is this- nobody wants to hear an angry christian reviewer rant. finally, when i muster up the courage to read it, i see the following 3 words: POSSESSED. LEVITATING. GIRL. i decide to send it back, along with a letter and a SASE. the letter says this:

May 16, 2014

Dear Bob,

My name is Andrew Lapain and I am 13. I have sent back my Clubhouse Magazine because I am too cowardly to read your review of Gravity Falls. Whenever I try to read it, my legs get shaky and my heart beats harder- no joke. 

I’m sure I can read your review of Brave with ease, but it is almost impossible to read your review of Gravity Falls. That is why I have sent back my Clubhouse Magazine. 

Please do not think I dislike High Voltage. It is critical when it comes to media discernment. In fact, I look at it right away when my Clubhouse Magazine comes. It is just that I cannot pull myself together to read your review of Gravity Falls.


Andrew Joseph Lapain
*** *. ********* *****
********** *****, MI

P.S.: I have included a self addressed stamped envelope. Feel free to write back a response if you want. Also, can you give me some tips on media discernment?

however, the response from Daniel did not boost my confidence. i still thought that the response from him was just plain darn luck, and that bob would never answer. i was right. someone else did.

*clubhouse logo*
June 11, 2014

Dear Andrew,

Thank you for writing to us. Bob is pretty busy working for Adventures in Odyssey now, so he asked me to respond to your letter for him.

You’ll notice I have returned your copy of the January issue (along with some extra Adventures in Odyssey cards). You might still want the cool stories and the Cut-and-Fold Whit in there…And while you may think you’re “too cowardly” to read Bob’s gravity falls review, I think you’re probably braver than you let on.

I’ve got three verses I’d like you to think about as you decide whether or not you’re going to read Bob’s review:

Everything is permissible for me,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible for me,” but I will not be brought under the control of anything.
–1 Corithians 6:12

If your heart races and you become shaky at the thought of having your favorite show challenged, you’re being controlled by that show.

Wholeheartedly following Jesus means being willing to give up anything for Him. That’s what Jesus was talking about when He told us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). For some, that means risking their lives. For the rest of us–thankfully–that means letting god control our entertainment choices.

So make sure you’re being controlled by Jesus, not by your favorite show.

Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.
–Colossians 2:8

Have you ever had a friend lie to you? A friend is supposed to be a good thing. That’s why it’s so disappointing when you discover one isn’t trustworthy.

Sometimes our favorite show can be like that. It can seem like a good thing. But if we look closer, we sometimes discover that it’s actually filled with “empty deceit based on human tradition.” It isn’t trustworthy.

I went through this once. I liked a show that seemed smart and funny and well-made. But when I looked closely, I realized that the show made light of some dangerous things and made fun of other things that are important. In other words, it was lying to me.

I’m not saying Gravity falls is like that, but you need to make sure. Otherwise, you’re being lied to too.

…We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.
–2 Corithians 10:4-5

We publish High Voltage because we want you to have discernment. But discernment doesn’t mean you only watch things High Voltage says is OK. That’s not discernment, that’s legalism.

Discernment means “taking every thought captive.” It means you think seriously about what you watch, you listen to input from people you trust (like High Voltage and your parents) and then you make a decision based on what is most obedient to Christ.

So ask yourself these questions:

• Do the themes of this show reflect reality? Do they reflect truth?

• How do the messages in this show compare with the values you’ve learned at home or in church?

• Do these messages affect on how close you feel to your family or to God? Why or why not?

• What do you think Jesus would say about this show?

• Does this show have an opinion about God? What is it?

• What would happen if you imitated the choices of these characters?

• What are the major, minor and subtle messages being taught in this show? Do you agree or disagree with them?

I hope you’ll consider these verses and that they help you to feel braver about reading Bob’s review.

At 13, you’ll be faced with challenges like this more and more often. But with faithfulness, humility, and discernment, I believe you’re up to the challenge.

Thanks again for writing. We hope you’ll continue to enjoy reading “High Voltage” and Clubhouse magazines!

*insert signature here*
James Holt
Assistant Editor
Clubhouse magazine
8605 Explorer Dr.

Colorado Springs, CO 80920

this letter sent a letter to me saying: "letters have a better chance of being read than emails". so if you want to be heard, avoid the cluttered digital nonsense of emails and stick with good, old, snail mail.

one more thing- spread the word! share this post with your friends and tell them to share it with their friends! may letters overcome email!



  1. What a great discovery!!!

  2. Those Are Such FANTASTIC responses!! What great advice from Mr. Schwabauer and Mr. Holt!!

  3. the master of allJune 18, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    who're you, mister?

  4. Great thoughts for discussion. I love "snail mail". I'd answer your letters.

  5. I'm encouraged by the responses you are getting in your letter writing efforts! Perhaps, old-fashioned email is more effective in getting replies!