I don’t make it a habit to share fan mail, but this is just too awesome to keep to myself…
—– MESSAGE —–
From: Abbey Jones
To: Paul Acampora
Subject: Defining Dulcie.
Dear Mr. Acampora,
Hello! My name is Abbey, and I recently finished your book “Defining Dulcie.” It was a magnificent short read, and I enjoyed it very much. I thought it had an amazing plot line, and I could visualize the setting and characters very well. I am doing a project involving six word memoirs between Dulcie and her mother. However, I was telling my Language Arts teacher about your book, and she is having me email you for some clarifications of specific details of your book.
On page six, Dulcie is remembering a quote from her father. He said that “As far as jones, it’s a slag for avid desire or burning hunger. It’s also the most common, ordinary, and uninteresting name in America.” I would like to know why you say this, because my last name is Jones. My heart broke a little when I read this sentence so early in the book.
My Language Arts teacher, fellow students, and I are also very concerned about a detail you gave in Chapter 12 when Dulcie meets Sister Clare in Maria Stein, Ohio. On page 83, Dulcie states that “If I ever have children, they will not go to public school in Ohio.” I have lived in Ohio my entire life, and plan on staying here for quite awhile. Also, we only live a few counties away from Maria Stein. It’s Possible Dulcie drove through my town while going back home.
Please don’t think I didn’t like your book, Mr. Acampora. I liked it very much. It had an amazing plot line and it was hard for me to put it down. However, I am slightly worried about the fact that my last name is “common, ordinary, and uninteresting,” and that Ohio is not worthy of Dulcie and her children. If you could tell me why you put these opinions in your book and clarify this information, I might understand Dulcie and Co. better. Thank you!
—– REPLY —–
From: Paul Acampora
To: Abbey Jones
Subject: Re: Defining Dulcie.
Thank you for your really kind note. I’m glad you enjoyed Defining Dulcie. I’ll do my best to answer your questions satisfactorily. Here goes…
Regarding Jones… I wanted to create a character who was lovable and remarkable and also normal. I hoped that her name would capture all those attributes. Dulcie means sweet. Morrigan is a Celtic goddess/queen. And then there is Jones.
Jones is a very common name, which I hope indicated some normalness. But it’s also connected with lots of really interesting people and places and stories. When I picked Dulcie’s last name, I was thinking about folk heroes (Casey Jones) and cartoons (Chuck Jones) and a Counting Crows song called “Mr. Jones” which, according to the band’s lead singer is “… about all the dreams and all the things that make you want to… (do) whatever it is that seizes your heart.” So Jones is excellent and perfect.
The important piece of the Jones sentence on page six is the part about avid desire and burning hunger. These are Dulcie’s driving forces. She is willing to go to great lengths for the people and places that she loves and for things that she thinks are right. At the same time, she’s worried that she is not very special at all. SHE IS WRONG. In some ways, she is not a very reliable narrator because she doesn’t see always see herself very clearly. In retrospect, learning to see herself more clearly is an important part of Dulcie’s story/journey. I wasn’t thinking about that when I wrote it, but I think it makes sense now. Personally, I think that it is not uncommon for teenagers – especially girls – to have difficulty seeing what’s special and good in themselves.
As far as Ohio… Dulcie’s remark is really directed at the unhelpful teenage gas station boy she meets a few pages earlier. Ohio is awesome, and Maria Stein might be her most important stop (unless she stopped in your town, that is!). Also her snarky tone comes at a point in the story when she is very tired and cranky. Speaking as the dad of a high school student, it’s been my experience that tired and cranky teenagers can get that way sometimes.
It’s also important to remember that the opinions expressed in a book are not necessarily the author’s. In this book, those opinions belong to Dulcie, whose world view is shaped by her own knowledge, limits, relationships, personality and experiences. Even though I “made” her, she’s a lot different than me.
So to sum up: Jones is an excellent name. Ohio is awesome. And I sincerely hope this helps your heart mend. Good luck with your school project!
PS If your email is a good example of your writing abilities, then I look forward to reading books by you one day! Thanks again.