Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.

I just got back from a wonderful week on Cape Cod -- swimming, sunning, kayaking, watching Wendell chasing seagulls -- and opened up this email:

Dear Ms. Weiner:

About three weeks or so ago, I e-mailed you a fan letter about your book GOOD IN BED, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I waited for your reply.......

Over the years, I've written to many authors, including Michael Douglas' mother. All of them, including Michael Douglas' mother, have written back!!

I cannot understand why I have not received a reply. Nor has my daughter, (NAME DELETED), who also e-mailed you in June. If you are publishing your e-mail address, I am assuming that you'd like to hear from your readers. Even if you have a staff member respond in a form-like e-mail, at least it's a response.

At this time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I really don't want to form a judgment about you. Therefore, I am giving you the benefit of the doubt that you are busy promoting your new book....which I am anxiously awaiting to read.

However, a quick thank-you to your fans would be appreciated and in good taste. And how easy now that there is e-mail!!!

Best wishes for the New Year.

Oy. Nothing like coming back home to the threat of God's wrath and/or eternal damnation (plus the unfavorable comparison to Michael Douglas's mother.)

So here's a condensed of what I wrote back to Anonymous Correspondent:

I basically have way more email than I can handle at this point -- way, way more email than I ever thought I'd get. And I try to respond to all of it. But, because I don't have an assistant, and because I'm trying to write another book and have some semblance of a life, I've had to institute a form of triage. If someone writes with a specific question -- about the book, about writing in general -- I try to answer. If the correspondent is a teenager, the letter gets moved to the top of the pile.

If the letter is sort of a general appreciation, it gets less priority. If someone writes with a this-is-who-should-play-Cannie-in-the-movie, I'll rarely respond (because, truthfully, that decision will have nothing to do with me). Likewise, if you're sending me your headshots. I am a novelist, not a casting director, and, cute as you all are, there is very little I can do with your headshots.

And here's the regretful decision I've come to. Starting next week, I'm going to have to figure out a way to automatically respond to email with the dread form letter -- a brief missive that will basically say thanks for writing, but I'm on the road with IN HER SHOES, and I don't have time to respond right now. I really do appreciate everyone's emails, and I will still read everything you send me. So many of your emails are so moving, so touching, and I really value everything you've shared with me. I just have to be realistic, especially with a new book coming out in three days and a fourteen-city tour on the horizon.

I never thought I'd have to do this. Then again, I never thought that GOOD IN BED would have this kind of impact, or that I'd get to the point where I've got over a thousand unanswered emails piled up in my in-box, a stack that continues to dwarf the hundreds I've managed to answer.

So there you have it. And I feel lousy about it, especially now that I've got the whole damnation thing to worry about, but I figure that a form letter is better than no letter at all, and I also figure that my writing time is best spent on my books.