“Best Day Ever”: A Chance Meeting at the Dublin Literacy Conference

This is Sreelakshmi. I met her at the Dublin Literacy Conference in late February. I was cooling my heels in the hallway of a cavernous high school, chatting with librarian Bill Prosser, waiting for the attendees to filter into the room before my session, cleverly titled “Meet Author James Preller.” A group of three high school girls who were working as volunteers stopped outside the room. One ducked her head inside, curious.
Bill asked if they needed help. Sreelakshmi told him that she was looking for James Preller. Bill jerked a thumb in my direction as if to say, “Sorry to disappoint you, but this is James Preller standing right here.”
Sreelakshmi turned to me, flustered and speechless. Disbelieving, even — her breath short and shallow. Tears began to roll down her cheeks. Finally, in fits and spurts, she told me how she still remembers reading those books, how much they meant to her,  how she had no idea that I would be at the conference.
How this was now officially the best day in her life.
I almost cried myself. As an author, I don’t normally (read: ever!) get that kind of reaction. A reader so moved. We hugged, took a picture, and talked for a few minutes. Later we were able to visit some more. A kind teacher, George the Humorous, bought a book for her — I stupidly didn’t think of it — and I signed it. I am sure that her reaction says more about Sreelakshmi than it does about me or my books. She was touched by literature, moved by books, and it will always be that way for her. She is, you see, a reader. The genuine article. I’m glad about that, glad that I somehow played a role in that awakening, glad to be blessed so.
Later that day, I received an email that included the photo above.
Hello Mr.Preller!

It’s me again, the girl from Dublin who cried tears of joy to meet the author of a book series she loved as kid. It was amazing meeting you at the Literacy Conference today. Who’d have thought a day of volunteering for NHS would become the best day of my life thus far? I certainly did not.

I want to thank you, again, for writing those books. Honestly, it was books like yours that made me love reading so much. I clearly remember reading The Case of the Rainy Day Mystery in third grade. It was such a good book that I went to the library for more, and every time I’d go to a new library (unfortunately, I’ve moved around a lot.), the Jigsaw Jones books were among the first books I’d look for. Your books made me smile and think about the mysteries — I always had a hard time figuring them out 🙂 . I still have a bit of a soft spot for mystery novels because of Jigsaw.

You know, I opened up The Case of the Double Trouble Detectives again, and I still found myself reading it through cover to cover. It’s been nearly ten years since I first read one of your books, but I still love them. Thank you for writing stories that I will love for the rest of my life. Jigsaw has been as real to me as my classmates in elementary school.

Thanks again for inspiring me to read,
Sreelakshmi

No, thank you, Sreelakshmi. I will always remember you and your incredible reaction, I’m so happy we got the chance to meet.

9 comments

  1. I love this. Thanks for sharing, JP.

  2. Shannon says:

    Love this — what a great story!

  3. Casey says:

    What a touching story! Its so precious to see how an author can change someone’s life!

  4. Amber says:

    AWWWWWWWW, sreelakshmi! you’re such a dork! but i love you anyway! 🙂 im SO glad this all happened to you by chance. Life is good. 🙂 It’s evven better hearing this story for the third time from the authors pov. lol. oh gosh, you’re just so cute!Crying and all. lol. and i can’t believe you’re still reading these books! if i had my junie b jones books (my favorite series that got me into reading when i was a kid), i’d still be reading them too! lol. okay…. well, if you are reading this Sreelakshmi, i’ll see you in AP bio! 😉

  5. jimmy says:

    Thanks.

    You know else makes that kind of an impact?

    Teachers.

  6. Cynthia Maloney says:

    It was a great day. Jigsaw was her lifeline to continuity in all her moves. This is a story to treasure, just as she does your books.

  7. Mary Lee says:

    This is a great story. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Juliana says:

    Ah…this sounds like one of those ways being a writer is better than being a lawyer. Amazingly, in 14 years of practicing law, no one has yet cried tears of joy upon “finally” getting to meet me! 🙂

  9. Sreelakshmi says:

    That day was absolutely amazing, I know I’ll always remember it too. I really hope you come to Dublin again next year!

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