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AuthorIamA Writer that turned my blog about a pronoun into a bestselling book called I Wrote This For You - AMA!

Oct 29th 2016 by pleasefindthis • 15 Questions • 1055 Points

My short bio:

Amongst other things, I wrote this:

"Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place."

  • Not Kurt Vonnegut, despite rumors to the contrary (I did get into a fight with LeAnn Rimes about it, as documented in The Daily Mail and elsewhere).

My name is Iain Sinclair Thomas. In 2007 I started a blog anonymously under the pseudonym, pleasefindthis, with a friend of mine named Jon. Wherever Jon is in the world, he sends me a photograph and I write a short piece of prose and/or poetry around it. In 2011, we got a book deal and thanks to the support of our readers, the book has gone on to become incredibly successful.

I've written a whole bunch of other books since then including a book created using the list of words the NSA tracks over email, called 25 Love Poems For The NSA, a collection of short stories and prose called How To Be Happy, a science fiction novel called Intentional Dissonance, several other I Wrote This For You books, and my newest book - 300 Things I Hope, which is a collection of things I hope in the form of a book long poem.

I'll be around for the rest of the day here in Cape Town, South Africa.

[EDIT] Jon the photographer for I Wrote This For You is hanging around if you've got any questions for him.

[EDIT] It's 10pm on a Saturday night here which means because I am incredibly boring, I'm going to bed, I'll happily answer anymore questions in about 12 hours from now - Thank you everyone and go and ask your local bookstore for my new book, 300 Things I Hope, as that's how I pay the bills.

I Wrote This For You

My Proof: https://twitter.com/IWroteThisForU/status/792353771896602624

Q:

Hi Iain, I'm such a huge fan of everything you've written, and can credit you with having helped me get through so much in my life. Every time I reread your books (which way is more often than I'd like to admit), I find new ways to connect to them and have them help me work through things. Especially right now, while I'm in the lowest time of my life, your words are one of the only things constant and comforting.
So my questions is, what books or authors have this effect on you, or do you find your comfort in writing as opposed to reading other works? And thank you so much for everything you've created, for in a way, it's saved me.

A:

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Ablom. I read it in college, around the time I first got a big scare about my father dying - he was sick most of my life with Multiple Sclerosis and when the threat of him dying became very real, that book offered me a lot of comfort. He ended up living another 15 years and I gave it back to him as an audio book (he couldn't read by that point) as a gift right before he went.

The album August & Everything After by The Counting Crows. Considering Bob Dylan just won the Nobel, I think it's ok to answer with music in this instance. There's this complete innocence in the music, a kind of purity in the lyrics and I believe it's the kind of album you only get to write once.

There's some kind of genius in the writing.

Thank you for your kind words, and for reading.


Q:

I love Mitch Albom! Great book :) 5 People you meet in Heaven is great too. Have you read/seen it?

A:

I have, I thought it was great! I still need to read his latest, I think it's called Faith?


Q:

Thank you for your wonderful work! It has helped me through so many tough times in my life to not give up hope. What poem means the most to you? Like if you had to pick one to represent you and your work, what would it be?

A:

I'm in my mid 30's and it's kind of this strange nexus point in the middle of life - my father died about 2 years ago and my daughter was born 4 months ago. People are dying, people are being born, the friends I thought I'd have forever are gone, and what 'normal' or 'forever' actually is seems to change too fast for me. So right now this one:

"I hope that in the future they invent a small golden light that follows you everywhere and when something is about to end, it shines brightly so you know it’s about to end. And if you’re never going to see someone again, it’ll shine brightly and both of you can be polite and say, “It was nice to have you in my life while I did, good luck with everything that happens after now.” And maybe if you’re never going to eat at the same restaurant again, it’ll shine and you can order everything off the menu you’ve never tried. Maybe, if someone’s about to buy your car, the light will shine and you can take it for one last spin. Maybe, if you’re with a group of friends who’ll never be together again, all your lights will shine at the same time and you’ll know, and then you can hold each other and whisper, “This was so good. Oh my God, this was so good.”"


Q:

What inspired The Circus is Cheaper When it Rains? Have you ever noticed your poem The Blue Lines goes well with Masks by Shel Silverstein?

A:

You should know that the more I explain where things come from, the less magical they'll appear.

I wrote that about a girl I was seeing that I also worked with. The job stopped being fun and I got quickly disillusioned by it - she was the best reason I could see to keep coming in every morning.

I know only too well how those two poems go together and after I read Shel's I almost deleted it - I don't know why we both chose blue, maybe because blue just seems like an alien colour. I had a dream about someone covered in the blue lines you might find in a note book and it came from there.


Q:

Where did the title (of Circus) come from?

I'm glad you didn't delete it! I think they complement each other well. It's even more thought-provoking when you consider the meaning behind both together

A:

I think it was useful because when you're young, a circus is something magical and as you get older, it loses that luster, you discover that the elephants are mistreated and it spoke to being disillusioned. The local circus when I was growing up was actually cheaper when it rained.


Q:

A Counting Crows theme. It's Raining in Baltimore. A reminder that Chelsea exists, too, Iain. Adam Duritz didn't release it outside Live Across A Wire.

A:

Chelsea is great, and they've got some amazing singles - Colourblind, Angles of The Silence, Long December, Millers Angels and so on - but they've never been able to put together an entire album as well as August & Everything After. "You have your entire life to put together your first album and only a few years to make your second." You can hear Adam Durtiz's entire life on that first album.


Q:

I agree. In a thousand albums. You know, I've listened to August and Everything After for a hell of a long time. I really wanted to feed you a lot of music. I love this song from Recovering the Satellites. It's a horrible pang of regret I feel that, you know, after this exchange, I will never talk to you again. You've the locus of a body of correspondence, like I am - was - and untouchable in that immensity, in the busy-busy crash of the everyday.

A:

I'm around and hopefully I will be for a while - it's a good song.


Q:

In the first year of the blog we had, according to google analytics, about 10 readers

Thanks for the answer. Curious how you got to ten readers a day? I've known people who've blogged for years and would kill for even that.

Edit: just to clarify. In my experience, the jump from 0 readers to 10 a day is the hardest part. Any tips for that process?

A:

If I remember correctly, a friend shared a link to it on her equally small blog.

If I were to start again today, I would share whatever I was doing on my own personal Facebook page, and hope that friends and friends of friends saw something in it. Start a twitter page and post links to what you're doing, be descriptive so people searching for specific keywords come across what you're doing.

I'm nervous of 'networking writing' as in getting in touch with other writers who do similar things and agreeing to crosspost whatever you do, it just seems very disingenuous and I worry that that, the act of including one another constantly in your blogging and tweeting and 'shouting each other out', becomes too much of a focus. In short, fuck networking, focus on making great stuff regularly - that's been my approach. Someone smarter than me once said, "Let the joy be in the hunt." Which basically means you have to try and enjoy the process as much as possible because for a long time, that's all there is.


Q:

In that vein, here is my 10-reader blog. :)

http://wendria.blogspot.com/

A:

16 years! Well done! It's strange to see a blogger blog these days, considering anything contemporary is done on wordpress.


Q:

Thanks! I started on geocities lol.

I'm sad to say I hadn't heard of you before, but I adore your writing and am now following you on Twitter.

A:

I remember geocities, but I can't remember what... "neighborhood?" (There were neighborhoods weren't there?) I was in. Thanks!


Q:

People LOVE you. On their recommendations, I just ordered your book from Amazon. I haven't bought a physical book in a few years. I'm kind of excited!!

A:

I am too! And not just because you paid for my next cup of coffee! Thank you!


Q:

great answer, thanks

A:

It's a pleasure, good luck to you, hang in there and keep going. Ninja from Die Antword used to hang out at the same parties as me in Cape Town, back when he was still calling himself Max Normal, about 10 years before him and his wife became "Die Antword" - I remember him saying in an interview when asked about his overnight success, "If it's an overnight success, it's an overnight success 10 years in the making." It's been about 10 years since we started the blog. My point is, start now, and keep your eyes on the thing directly in front of you - ignore the rest, it comes if you're persistent.


Q:

One my favourite pieces of writing is 'The Arrivals Lounge'. I've often gone back and read through it when people die.

Do you have a photograph that you find yourself going back to?

A:

We went through this phase of using really damaged photographs that I really liked, I have a thing for glitchy photos, so anything from that period, in particular this as an example.


Q:

Yeah, I am in Australia and one of my former friends, Shanaaz Adams, was an Australian girl who moved here from South Africa. One of her best friends was shot in the head next to her. The corruption, unlike the money, trickles down.

How does it feel knowing that ZA is [unfairly.] represented by Die Antwoord, the verb 'jackrolling', reverse segregation and this boertjie!

A:

Jack Parow used to work with me! Don't forget Neil Blomkamp of District 9 and Chappie, Elon Musk or Trevor Noah. Or The Dave Mathews Band. And J.R.R Tolkien. And Charlize Theron. We get around.


Q:

Here's a song from the latest genre, Vaporwave. The theme is... nostalgia.

Aweh!!! No way! How did you work with him? You know, Australian culture and ZA culture really click in that guy's raps. He's like, you ever played with Pokémon Cards? Know a guy who thinks that if he smokes fancy sounding cigarettes, he's great? Well, listen to me tell you that he's a f_)cking loser and Pokémon Cards are great.

A very small story: a girl called Anneke Vo went to a festival, called Dragon Dreaming, and she passed away tragically due to a drug overdose. But even now, people still quote her blogger - however campy that might be -

"You are not a reflection of those who cannot love you."

A:

We worked in the same business - he was a web designer originally. Thank you for sharing the story.