Archive for April 29, 2009

Hudson Children’s Book Festival: May 16th

Come join us for the 1st Annual Hudson Children’s Book Festival on Saturday, May 16th. I’ll be there along with actual luminaries, such as: Donald Crews, Michelle Knudsen, Fran Manushkin, Emily Arnold McCully, Coleen Paratore, Charles Smith, Seymour Simon, Hudson Talbott — and many, many more. The event will feature the usual book signings and book buyings, but also hands-on workshops, individual author presentations, and panel discussions on a variety of topics: the creative process, female characters by female writers, reluctant readers, first amendment rights, and getting published.

I’m always discovering new authors at these events — completely amazing, talented folks whom I’ve never, ever heard of. But then: It’s not my job to keep track of this stuff. So while there are some more established names that might be more familiar, here’s a great opportunity to catch some rising stars.

A lot of people have put in a tremendous amount of work in an effort to pull this off — starting something from nothing always takes guts, and more time than you ever expected — so come on out to Hudson and lend your support. Bring the kids! Bring the grandparents! Bring the checkbook!

And please, say hello.

My Life as a Fashion Trendsetter: Brad and I

On our recent family vacation to the Southwest, we hit some unexpected nasty weather in Taos, New Mexico. Middle of April: Snow. Yuck. Our plan for that day had been to see the Taos Pueblo, take a hike down a gorge to some hot springs beside the Rio Grande, and generally bask in the environment.

But we soon realized that it was cold and wet and miserable. What to do?

Answer: Go to K-Mart, buy some ponchos for $5.99 each, and make the best of it!

We called ourselves “The Blueberry Gang” and had a great time, all things considered. Next day we headed out of town in search of better weather (and we found it).

Little did we realize that we would become fashion trendsetters. But I guess that comes with the territory when you live a life of fame and glory. People were going to copy us. Famous people. Like Brad Pitt, as evidenced by this recent snap taken at Niagara Falls:

I have to say — and I hope this doesn’t come off as too vain — but I don’t think Brad pulls off the poncho look as well as we did. The thing is, you have to wear a K-Mart poncho with confidence. You are making a statement. You have to believe. And, yes, even strut. Whereas Brad, to me, it just looks like he’s afraid of getting wet. What’s more, when buying a K-Mart poncho, you have to pony up for the $5.99 model. It looks to me like Brad went cheap and tried to get away with the $1.99 special. A classic “What Was He Thinking?” moment.

Even so, you have to give Brad credit for doing the tourist thing, pretending to be a regular guy. But you won’t see me returning the favor: I wouldn’t be caught dead with that handbag.

Friday Fun Clip

Just some nutty, creative fun on a Friday.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Hat tip to Dennis Cass for bringing this clip to our attention.

Husbands and Wives: A Quick Story

My daughter, Maggie, age eight, had a long-standing appointment with the orthodontist (note to self: write faster!). But as the date neared, my wife, Lisa, realized she’d be unable to bring Maggie to the appointment.

So she called the receptionist.

Wife: “Hi, this is Lisa Preller. I’m calling in the hopes of changing my daughter’s appointment. It turns out I have a work conflict. I’m sorry, I know it’s been in the book for a while. My husband could still take her, but he’s not, you know, detail oriented and, um, I had just hoped that maybe if it wasn’t too much trouble . . .”

Receptionist: “Say no more, dearie. I have a husband, too. How’s next Tuesday work for you?”

Fan Mail Wednesday #39 & #40

Okay, it’s time for my lovely, sleek, sequin-bedazzled assistant, Bert, to crank that handle on the big wheel and we’ll see what letters rise to the top this week.

I am writing you an email with my student, Ryan, whom you met when you visited Jefferson Elementary School.  (Ryan was the one who told you about the missing ‘r’ in Along Came Spider blog).  In working with Ryan, he was very excited by your visit and talking to you in the office while you were signing books.  He wanted to think of and pass along some ideas he thought you might like for future books or stories, and he asked me if we could email you.  So here they are:

1.  A family vacation – kids in the back of the car; having to share a DS or DVD player…hitting…stealing each other’s things, candy,…etc.  Could be a good setting or premise.

2.  This one is for Jigsaw Jones:  The Case of the Missing Remote Control…(boy wouldn’t that make people mad!)

3.  Also for JJ:  Case of Missing Play Station 3.

4.  A story involving “Killzone 2” (this is a PS3 game that involves aliens; but you could make it funny for kids…Ryan says)

Hope you like the ideas.  Ryan loves reading your books.  He likes how “He does his books”.  He is currently reading Six Innings with one of his teachers.

Thank you for taking time to read our email.  Also, we are glad to see you fixed the “r” on your website.

Ryan and Karen

My reply:

Dear Ryan:

I remember meeting you, and I’m grateful that you pointed out my typo on the blog. I was surprised: That was the only misstaak I ever made!

Thanks for passing along your ideas. In exchange, I’ll do your homework for a week.

Um, not really.

About your ideas:

#1) Your instincts are very good. Since Jigsaw has three brothers and a sister, I’m sure there are many times when sharing becomes difficult. I could see that as being a good way to explore some family relationships before getting into the mystery proper — or maybe it could tie into the mystery in some way.

#2) A missing remote control? I bet you Dad is sitting on it! Or maybe Mom took it,  tired of all the bickering over video games? Or perhaps it fits into your first idea — a little brotherly revenge. Interesting.

#3) This would be tougher to pull off — such a large, expensive item — and not quite in keeping with the types of mysteries I like to write about. Not that it wouldn’t work for a story, but probably not a Jigsaw Jones mystery.

#4) Honestly, I hear this kind of idea a lot. A boy gets sucked into a video game, or whatever. And while aliens are always a good time, the Jigsaw books are Realistic Fiction, where I strive to keep things, er, realistic. Not that it’s a bad idea, just that I’m probably not the right guy to make it work.

Thanks again, Ryan, for all your ideas. Feel free to keep some of them for yourself — and maybe one day I’ll be writing a fan letter to you!


Letter #40

Hi I’m Jason and I’m doing a report on you. I could not find any answers to some questions so I am emailing you.

Will you make any new mystery series?

Will you make new Jigsaw Jones books?

What do you like to write the most?

What kinds of books or authors did you like as a child? Why?

When and how did you discover you wanted to be an author?

Thanks for your time and answering my questions.


My reply:


A report? On me? Wow. What happened, was Lyme Disease already taken? To answer your questions:

Right now, I can’t foresee undertaking another mystery series. But I am thinking about something more along the lines of a Thriller, which is sort of a sub-genre of Mystery. It’s an idea that’s looming on the horizon, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. And one thing I’ve learned as a writer: Don’t talk about it, write it.

The Jigsaw Jones series is in a strange place right now. My publisher, Scholastic, wants to put new ones on book clubs only, not in stores. That sort of bums me out. But I do have a new one coming out this September, called The Case of the Secret Skeleton. I’m very happy with it. If Scholastic wants more, they know my phone number.

As a writer, I enjoy trying many different things. Each genre, from humor to mystery, presents its own challenges. Right now, I’m trying to write a funny book, and some days I just don’t feel all that funny. A rabbi walks into a deli and orders a ham on rye . . .

As a boy, I didn’t read many books. But I did enjoy sports stories. I vividly remember reading a biography called, Seeing It Through: The Story of a Comeback, about Tony Conigliaro, a Red Sox ballplayer who was badly beaned in a game. Wow, what a story!

The first writers I loved were the sports writers in the newspapers who covered my beloved New York Mets. In that sense, columnist Dick Young of the New York Daily News was possibly the most influential writer in my life. I loved his style: fast, punchy, sharp, lively, opinionated, and he knew his stuff — even if he did turn into a crabby old man at the end, writing a mean-spirited series of articles that helped drive Mets pitcher, Tom Seaver, out of New York.

In my view, people don’t start out wanting to be “authors.” Or, I guess, I don’t think they should, exactly. We begin as writers. And for that, you don’t need permission from anyone else; you don’t the approval of publishers or even the eyeballs of readers. In my early teens, I started writing in journals, scribbling my thoughts and feelings, poems and ideas, and at the same time I became an avid, careful, studious reader. I mean, I really started to pay attention to writers, trying to notice what they did and how they shaped their sentences, built plots, made characters vivid and alive. I learned how to write by reading — slowly and carefully. I’m still a very slow reader. What’s the big hurry, anyway?

Thanks, Jason. Good luck on the report.