Fan Mail Wednesday #33: Friday Edition

Holy mackerel, Andy! I think I’ve got one! Hold my soda pop while I reel this sucker in . . .

Dear James,

I am a second grader in an elementary school in San Diego. I like your Jigsaw Jones books very much. I am doing a report on my favorite author and I chose you. I visited your blog and found out a lot of information about you. I have a question for you: have you faced any challenges in your life or career? I hope I can get your answer as soon as  possible.

Thank you,


I went back and forth on this one, wondering if I should just skate the surface or jump into the ice cold water. My feeling about kids, in general, is that they are capable of handling all levels of information, so long as you take your time and tell it straight. I happen to live with a pretty smart second-grader myself. And clearly, Andrea had some adults around who could help with the ‘splaining, if necessary. So I wrote:


Wow, you are an excellent researcher for someone so young. I am impressed.

You have asked a very deep question, one that is difficult to answer without going on a great length. Yes, challenges — challenges all the time. Some are simple, some are very hard.

Writing the first Jigsaw Jones book was a challenge, because I had never written anything that long before. Six thousand words! Could I do it? And of course, when you face a challenge, there’s a part of you that is afraid. It is easier to NOT TRY than to try and fail. The great thing is that feeling you get when you succeed. It seems like the harder the challenge, the greater the satisfaction when you achieve your goal.

It’s the hard stuff that makes us happiest. Isn’t that strange?

Does that make sense to you? In gymnastics, my Maggie — also a second-grader, like you — has been working very hard to do back-handsprings. She keeps working at it, practicing, working, practicing. And I know, I KNOW, that one day she’ll get it, and she’ll feel so proud and happy. In that moment, all the hard work will be worth it.

On a much deeper level, my oldest son got very sick once. It was scary and so hard. But it was another challenge — life throws them at you all the time — and we all rallied to face that challenge TOGETHER. So you learn strength, and love, and faith, and hope. It’s important to remember that you are never alone. There’s always help near by, there’s always somebody who loves you.

I guess challenges mark the most important moments in our lives. How do we respond? What do we do when we face a challenge? It is in those moments that we discover who we really are.

Great question. I know you are young, Andrea, but you asked a deep question and I tried to answer the best I could. Good luck on the report.


I was happy to get this note in return:

Dear James,

Thank You for your letter! I got to read your letter to my class! My class was surprised when I read your letter. They were surprised when you wrote different challenges that happened in your life. My teacher was happy that I emailed you.

I do gymnastics too. I’m working on my back walkover. I just started, but I almost can do it myself! By the way, I got EVERYTHING CORRECT which is EXCELLENT!

Best Regards,

P.S. I forgot to tell you that EVERYTHING CORRECT means that I got all checks on my report score sheet, and I got EXCELLENT on my report! Thank you so much!

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