Fangirl Thursday: We Can Do It!

As we approach the two-month countdown until the January 1 deadline for submissions for The Fan Mail Project (the book of letters to female characters that I’m compiling), I wanted to devote a little time on a Fangirl Thursday to thank all of the fangirls (and fanboys) who have sent in letters so far. Fangirl Thursday posts are usually places to share excitement, so it seems fitting for me to use this post to tell you that there’s nothing like the excitement I feel when I look into my inbox and see a new letter. (There’s also nothing like the tears I cry while reading almost every single beautiful letter, but that’s another story for another post…)

I’ve received letters to characters as varied as Scarlett O’Hara, Cristina Yang, Claire Underwood, and Hermione Granger. These letters are already painting such an amazing portrait of why female representation in the media matters—because, for as diverse as the characters have been, the people who’ve written letters to me so far are even more diverse. It’s been a true pleasure to read your stories, and it’s a true honor to be trusted with sharing this part of you with the world in a way that will make you proud to be involved with this project.

And if you haven’t sent in a letter yet (or you want to send in more), there’s still plenty of time to write! If you’re having trouble settling on a character to write about, here’s a shortlist of much-loved female characters still missing from Fan Mail right now:
• Lorelai/Rory/Emily Gilmore (Gilmore Girls)
• Dana Scully (The X-Files)
• Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)
• Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
• Sarah Walker (Chuck)
• Peggy Carter (Agent Carter)
• Sydney Bristow (Alias—but don’t worry, I’ll be rectifying this one myself soon)
• Arya/Sansa/Brienne/Daenerys/Cersei/etc. (Game of Thrones)
• Zoe/Inara/Kaylee/River (Firefly)
• Natasha Romanoff (Marvel comics/movies)
• Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter)
• Regina/Snow/Red/Belle/etc. (Once Upon a Time) (I’ve gotten a couple of letters to Emma so far but could always use more!)

If you’re looking for inspiration, maybe that list can help you get started, but that’s by no means a comprehensive list of characters worth writing about. Choose a character whose story moves you to write—which character do you think of when you need confidence, or when you feel lonely, or when you want to believe things are going to turn out okay? Which character has been a part of your life for so long that you don’t know who you are independent of their influence? Which character helped you navigate the rough waters of high school, or college, or parenthood? That’s who you should write to. And take it from someone who knows—the letter you’re most proud of might be one you never planned to write.

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Don’t Stop Believing: A Letter to Rachel Berry

This is the latest addition to my collection of letters to female characters who’ve inspired me throughout my years as a fangirl. If you have a letter (or letters) of your own you’d like to share, check out this post to learn more about the book of letters I’m compiling, and send your letter(s) to!



Dear Rachel,

When I first started watching Glee in 2009, I was struck by more than a few similarities to my own high school experience, which had ended three years before. I had been a theater kid, a member of my school’s show choir, and far from what anyone would call popular in high school. But the thing I related to the most was a line you said in the eighth episode of that first season:

I want everything too much.

In you, Rachel, I found a reflection of the ambition I often keep hidden in the deepest part of my heart, because too often I’m afraid to tell people how much I want my dreams to come true. What if they laugh at me? What if they tell me I’m not good enough? What if they think I’m ungrateful with what I already have for wanting more?

You didn’t care. You owned your big personality, your big dreams, and your big plans for achieving those dreams. Confidence radiated from you like sunlight, inspiring others to be their best just to keep up with your glow. And what was so important about your confidence was that it wasn’t delusional. Your theatrical personality and your over-the-top methods for getting what you want were things characters and the audience were supposed to laugh at or roll their eyes at, but your belief in yourself wasn’t a joke. And for a young woman who still—now a decade removed from high school—wishes she had your confidence, that matters immensely.

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Live Your Dream: A Letter to Rapunzel

This is the latest addition to my collection of letters to female fictional characters who’ve inspired me throughout my years as a fangirl. If you have a letter of your own you’d like to share, check out this post to learn more about the book of letters I’m compiling (tentatively titled Fan Mail), and send your letter(s) to!


Dear Rapunzel,

You came into my life when I was well past the age when girls typically want to be Disney princesses. I was 22 years old, a recent college graduate, and a member of the “working world” of adults. I thought I didn’t have any use for fairytales anymore. Sure, I’d be entertained by the them, but I tried to tell myself that I couldn’t be inspired in any profound way by them now that I was “all grown up.”

Thank you for showing me I was wrong.

Thank you for bringing magic back into my life. The moment I saw you and Flynn Rider on that boat, surrounded by floating lanterns, something changed in me—or, more accurately, something changed back. I’d spent too long trying to push down the part of me that looked at the world with wonder and wanted to believe in dreams coming true—because I thought that would make me look immature to the rest of the “adult” world. But in that magical cinematic moment, I let myself feel like a little kid again. I felt my heart open up in that moment to the idea that this kind of story might still have the power to change my life for the better—not just by connecting me to my past, but by giving me hope for my future.

Fairytales aren’t just for little kids or even little-kids-at-heart. They’re for all of us. They teach all of us, but only if we’re open to it. And with my heart newly opened to the possibility of learning from your journey, I discovered you had so much to teach me. And the things you taught me I could never have understood as a little girl. I might have liked your hair and sang your songs, but I wouldn’t have needed you as a child. I needed you as I became an adult—and I still need you now.

We’re all stuck in towers. Sometimes other people put us there, sheltering us from the world and keeping us from experiencing life for any number of reasons. But there are also many times when we keep ourselves locked in our own tower. Sometimes we’re our own Mother Gothel, and we need to find the courage to be you instead.

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Finding Faith: A Letter to Jamie Sullivan

This is the latest addition to my collection of letters to female fictional characters who’ve inspired me throughout my years as a fangirl. If you have a letter of your own you’d like to share, check out this post to learn more about the book of letters I’m compiling, and send your letter(s) to!



Dear Jamie,

I was 13 when I first saw A Walk to Remember on a snowy Sunday afternoon with my two best friends. Life isn’t easy for a 13-year-old girl. I was caught between desperately wanting to be “cool” and knowing in my gut that I could never really fit in with the “cool” kids. I was starting to ask the big questions about myself, my future, and my faith. Needless to say, you came into my life exactly when I needed you the most.

You were the rare breed of teenage character who genuinely didn’t care what other people thought of them. When you told Landon that, you didn’t say it to impress him or to make yourself look cool or better than your peers. Popularity simply wasn’t something that made you lose sleep at night like it is for so many teenagers—myself included at the time. Of course, you had bigger things to worry about (that pesky “dying of cancer” thing), but there was more to your place in “self-exile territory” than that.

When it comes to your character, Jamie, everything is a matter of faith. And you had enough faith in yourself and your principles to know that you were living the right life for you—regardless of what other people thought of it. The impact that had on 13-year-old me was immediate and intense. You weren’t naïve; you knew people made fun of your modesty, your interest in astronomy, and your religious beliefs. But you also knew something it would have taken me a lot longer to learn without your example: What mattered wasn’t what other people said; it was what you believed. So thank you for showing me that the coolest thing you can be is yourself—even if other people make fun of you for it or don’t understand it at the time.

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Choosing to See the Best: A Letter to Emma Swan

This is my newest addition to my collection of letters to female fictional characters who’ve inspired me throughout my years as a fangirl. If you have a letter of your own you’d like to share, check out this post to learn more about the book of letters I’m compiling, and send your letter(s) to


Dear Emma,

I’ve spent a lot of time writing about a lot of characters over the years, but you’re the one I’ve written about the most. Writing about you pushes me to be more vulnerable, more honest, and more open—even when it’s terrifying. You’ve made me a braver writer, which has made me a better writer. And somewhere along the way—as I started writing all those posts and essays about your journey on Once Upon a Time—I started becoming a braver and better person, too.

Writing about you demands bravery that matches your own. But one of the things I love most about you is that your courage runs so much deeper than vanquishing villains and traveling to unknown realms. Breaking the Dark Curse at the end of Season One wasn’t accomplished because you fought a dragon. It happened because you were brave enough to finally believe you could truly love someone and have them truly love you, too. I don’t face too many dragons in my everyday life, but I do know what it’s like to be afraid to open your heart to people. So thank you for giving me an example of bravery I can relate to.

Thank you, also, for giving me an example of optimism I can relate to. Optimism is a part of your genetic makeup. However, heartbreak made you believe that shutting down those parts of you that wanted to hope would protect you from being hurt again. You spent so long looking over your shoulder—preparing for another disappointment—that you didn’t let yourself see potential happiness when it was right in front of you. And when you did see that potential happiness, it scared you. You feared that for every good moment, a bad one was waiting right around the corner. It was impossible for you to believe things could simply be good.

I know that fear all too well. I’ve struggled with anxiety for many years, which means I’ve spent too much time preparing for something bad to happen, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was hard for me to appreciate good moments, because I was often worrying about the potential bad moments to come. My natural instinct is to be hopeful, but as you face the disappointments that come with growing up, sometimes it feels safer to just stop hoping.

That was the state of mind I was in when I discovered Once Upon a Time. Then, I started watching your story develop, and I started writing about that development. I saw someone who was scared to hope letting herself believe in the possibility of good things. I saw someone who was often too focused on bad moments starting to accept that things can be good. I saw someone choosing to be happy, and it didn’t make her naïve or weak; it made her stronger than ever.

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