Fan Mail Wednesday #81 (Thursday Edition)

Woo-hoo, it’s Fan Mail Wednesday! Wait, no. Today is Thursday. It can’t be Fan Mail Wednesday. Can it? That’s impossible. No recurring feature on an author’s blog could possibly be so powerful that it transcends the laws of time and space!

But oh, yes, faithful readers. Witness the power and majesty of Fan Mail Wednesday. It doesn’t care what day it is . . .

Dear Mr. Preller,

My name is Gizela. I like your Jigsaw Jones Mystery books. They are so awesome. I always want to solve the mystery before I read it. But it is so hard for me. Most of the mysteries are so interesting.

I just like it when the mystery is solved. Why do you write these books? What made you write these books? When did you first write your own book?

Why did you make these characters? Where did you get all these ideas? Why did you put a dog in these books? Why did you name the books Jigsaw Jones?

I like your Jigsaw Jones Mystery books because it has a problem and they solve it. I like the dog too. I like your books because they have funny mysteries. I hope to hear from you!

Sincerely,
Gizela

I replied:

Gizela,

Boy, I love your name. It’s a name I want to sing, not say. So much more melodious than, oh, Frank or Bert or even Prunella. Gizela, Gizela . . . GIZELA!

I love books. I love reading. Now maybe as a young kid, that wasn’t so much the case. I read, but I don’t remember totally loving it. I loved physical things like baseball and wrestling and eating cinnamon Pop-Tarts. But I was lucky. I had four older brothers, two older sisters, and most of them read books. It seems like such a minor detail, but I think it’s important: I SAW them reading! It looked like a reasonable activity, something a boy might do and enjoy. In fact, my brothers often pressed books into my hands, telling me I’d love them.

But the next question is . . . how did I cross over from reader to writer? It seems like a wild leap across a great distance. I guess it felt natural. I liked to draw. I filled notebooks with dice games and baseball statistics. That is: I happily spent time alone with a pencil or crayon in my hand. Writing became a natural extension of that physical activity. There’s only so much you can do when you’re alone with a piece of paper and a pencil.

How can I explain this? I love music. It’s a big part of my day, every day. Yet I can’t play an instrument. I never had a lesson. I’m in awe of people who can do it. Growing up, I came to understand — wrongly, of course — that OTHER, MORE TALENTED PEOPLE did that stuff. That was the message I got: Leave the music to the professionals. Step away from the tuba. But for some reason, when it came to books, I thought to myself, I can do that.

That’s an important sentence right there, Gizela, so let’s say it again:

I

CAN

DO

THAT!

And because I believed it, so it was true. If I could wish anything for you — or for my children, or my friends — it’s that they can feel the same way about things they care about. I want you to look at a beautiful painting, or the achievements of an athlete, a dancer, a doctor, whatever, and say to yourself, “I can do that.”

Because I really believe you can.

JP

P.S. Oh, yes, the dog. As a kid, I never had one. No dog. I lived for years in a sorry state of doglessness. As an adult, dogs came into my life and I’ve (mostly) enjoyed sharing my house with them. When I make up stories, I sometimes give characters little gifts. Jigsaw has an awesome tree house — another thing I never had as a kid. How I wanted one! Because I like Jigsaw, I gave him the tree house I never had. I also gave him . . . a dog. It felt right.

This is our family dog, Daisy. She drives!

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