A fresh copy of my upcoming book, Along Came Spider (Scholastic, August), arrived in the mail last week. That’s a righteous moment for any author/illustrator: the first book off the presses! And always it’s the same story. Your editor tells you how she could only get one copy, purloined off somebody in marketing, but there’s surely more somewhere in the warehouse, and pretty soon (maybe) they’ll find them.
And nothing happens for a few weeks, while you cling to your sole copy of the book, holding it out to friends for a brief sniff and greedily pulling it back, like Gollum and his precious ring.
On the cyberfront, Spider has gotten a couple of reviews from blogs. So far, so good. I think the reviewers are right in that it’s a simply-written story about complex feelings. I guess it’s noteworthy in the sense that these kinds of stories — basically: friendship under duress — are more commonly written about girls, as if boys suffered none of these emotional/ethical conflicts, as if, in fact, boys had no interior lives at all. (We just like trucks, right? And noises that go BOOM.)
They are also correct in that I didn’t do anything flashy with the writing. It’s funny, I feel like my entire post-college writing career has been a long process of learning how to get out of the way. Or, that is, un-learning much what they taught me in college! I’ve come to increasingly admire restraint, simplicity and austerity, sentences like, oh, “A minute later he was snoring” (Steig, Doctor De Soto). Unadorned, absent of any look-at-how-clever-I-am writing. I suppose I’m sensitive to this aspect of writing because, as a particular brand of male ego, I’m so vulnerable to it. When I’m at my worst, I gild the lily. So I’ve come to perceive that trait as the Enemy Within, the danger I need to purge against: overwriting, AKA, showing off. That’s where revision comes in, pulling the purple prose off the bone, like picking cotton candy off the cardboard cylinder.
Anyway, here’s some links and money quotes from the reviews:
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From Ignacio Guerra at Alan Online:
James Preller delves into the hostile and confusing world of adolescence and illuminates how yearning for acceptance and popularity can sometimes strain a friendship. This exposé on the complicated social dynamics of school is a fascinating joy to read with excellent readability and flow!
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From Nan Hoekstra at Anokaberry:
Preller tells an everyday story with eloquence and empathetic grace. These ordinary (amazing) kids are growing up — daily making their own way, raised by parents, guided by teachers and events. Often in groups, always alone, trying to figure themselves and others out. No under or overstated angst here, the author just tells us about it, and lets the characters speak . . . Thanks James Preller, for (another) outstanding contribution to literature for precious children.
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By the way, I’m amazed by book reviewers. How do they read so much?! You look at Nan’s site, or so many others, and it’s like, “Do they just read all the time? When do they eat?” I am genuinely grateful, and somewhat awed.