Archive for April 30, 2014

Fan Mail Wednesday #178: Crayola’s Dumb Mistake

Yes, we’re gonna do this again . . .

This sweet letter came from Ohio!

I replied:

Dear Alexis:

Ah, you read one of my favorite books.

Quick, sad story: That book came out in 2008, was named one of the top 100 books of the year by the awesome folks at The New York Public Libraries . . . and it went out of print three years later. Just like that, poof, gone.

Hard to find these days, especially in paperback.

Can you imagine how that feels for me?

Anyway, ah, pish and tosh. I like ALONG CAME SPIDER for the same reasons that you did, for the mixed feelings it gave you. Friendship is a complicated thing, and it’s not always clear what’s the right thing to do. I do believe, personally, that we know the answers in our hearts, or in our stomachs, if you prefer. Unfortunately, the right thing to do is often not the easiest.

Anyway, favorite books? That’s tough. I’m liking BYSTANDER a lot, and feel that might work for you, too. Lately I’ve been having a blast writing the “Scary Tales” series. So much fun. Right now I’m trying to create a toxic swamp creature.

Could anything be more fun than that? I don’t think so!

Of course, I’ll always love my favorite character, Jigsaw Jones.

I wrote a new book, THE FALL, due out in 2015. It’s a tough, sad book set in a middle school and I’m really excited about.

Be well, take care. Sorry, I don’t have any photos that I can send out – consider yourself lucky!

James Preller

P.S. As a reader of the book, you might enjoy this recent photo I discovered. I guess the folks at Crayola finally wised up. Good for them.

For readers of this blog who don’t know the book, Trey is a boy on the spectrum. He enjoys drawing, especially with his crayons. At one point, Trey muses, accurately:

There used to be a color called Flesh, but in 1962 — the same year that Wilt Chamberlain scored one hundred points — the name got changed to Peach. Trey had read about that once. It made perfect sense to him. People were different. They came in all colors and shapes. You couldn’t say that one color was Flesh, and Trey thought it was really dumb of the Crayola people to make that mistake.

Hudson Children’s Book Festival: May 3, 2014

Like the song goes . . .

“It’s the most, happiest time of the year!”

Truly a wonderful event, with just a staggering list of talented authors and illustrators, new faces and old faces and — best of all — young faces.

Eager faces. Kids who are excited about books, stoked to meet “real, live” authors, to have a book signed, to have that great literary moment.

If you’ve never gone, it’s time to straighten that out. Come to Hudson. Bring the children, from picture book readers to your outwardly cynical, eye-rolling YA book-lovers.

Celebrate what you value. Reading, books, education, fun.

Then go hang around in Hudson a little bit, eat dinner, chill. You’ll have a great day, promise.

Here’s the link, go experience the awe.

And then come. Stop with the excuses. Everybody is busy. There’s a million reasons why not to go. But this is “make a statement” day. This is “put your house in order” day. This is” show ’em what you think is important” day. This is “go have a great time, together, as a family” day, centered around books and a lifelong passion for reading.

It’s a beautiful thing. I’m blessed to be a small part of it. You can be, too. Come.

Okay, here’s a partial list: Ellen Jensen Abbott, Nora Raleigh Baskin, Jennifer Berne, Ann E. Burg, Bryan Collier, Bruce Coville, Debbie Dadey, Bruce Degan, Diane deGroat, Chris Grabenstein, Ellen Hopkins, Ty Allan Jackson, Sylvie Kantorovitz, David A. Kelly, David Kirk, Ann Haywood Leal, Jeff Mack, Wendell & Florence Minor, Jane O’Connor, JAMES PRELLER (!), April Jones Prince, Hudson Talbott, Mark Teague, Jane Yolen, Michelle Zink, and many more! And by that I mean, lots more. Seriously, lots.

Setting the Scene for My Next “Scary Tales”: The Importance of Place

I’ve had a semi-solid idea for the next “Scary Tales” book (number 6, untitled), for a while.

But nothing real specific.

I’ve been fleshing out characters, still debating the introduction of a third character, wondering if she’s necessary or not. Definitely going with twin boys.

As for place, I always thought — without giving it much thought — some kind of swamp. Down south, I assumed. Had to be, right?

Lately that notion of place has gotten more specific. I’m zeroing in on Southeast Texas somewhere. Still have more research to do, more looking at maps, more figuring and fact-checking. And, of course, all that in turn effects my characters. How they talk, how they live.

I recently spent time on Google, looking at images, checking maps, gaining inspiration. It seems to be something I’ve been doing of late, part of my writing process.

Here’s a few you might enjoy . . .

And last but not least . . .

Photo: Cat Eyes

I took this photo of my fat cat.

For an author of a series called “Scary Tales,” it impossible not to feel a little inspired.

A Very Busy, Happy Week: Albany, Demarest, Parsippany, and San Antonio

I’m in the middle of a hectic stretch that has me running around.

On Saturday, I was invited to visit Giffen Memorial Elementary in downtown Albany for their 2nd Annual “Author/Illustrator Day.” It turned out to be a beautifully organized and attended event, sponsored by the good, kind folks at the First Presbyterian Church who have sort of adopted Giffen as their community school, as they try to positively impact its children and parents on many fronts.

It was an honor for me to be a part of it, along with Rose Kent, Myles & Sandra Pinkney (those Pinkneys pop up everywhere, like mushrooms after a rain storm), and Joseph Bruchac.

Probably not wise to play favorites, but Joe Bruchac — wow, wow, wow. He is a master storyteller and such a dignified gentleman and artist. Big respect.

I signed a lot of books, many of them purchased for the students by the folks at the First Presbyterian Church. In this case, the children came with their names written on Post-It Notes. By the end of the day, I had a stack of them and shoved it into my book bag. Look at these beautiful names!

On Sunday night, I drove to Tenefly, NJ, in preparation for a busy Monday.

I spoke with students in grade 6-8 at Demarest Middle School early in the day — great kids, terrific staff, beautiful area of NJ — then drove west on 80 to Parsippany Public Library for a truly lovely memorial event, the fifth so far, hosted by the family of Elaine Galliker, a former 2nd grade teacher who, by all reports, loved bringing books and readers together.

It was touching to be a part of something so heartfelt and community-focused. I gave a presentation to a group of adults and a few dozen young readers, and later, once again, signed a bunch of books. Special thanks to Roberta Abel for managing all the emails and small tasks that make these visits possible.

One cool thing about this library — they have a little door leading to the children’s section. Sure, there’s an ordinary big door for us taller, wide-bodied types. But there’s also a magical door for the wee folk. From what I saw and heard, the kids love it.

Tomorrow morning, I am taking a 6:00 AM flight to San Antonio, Texas for the TLA Conference. I have a late dinner date with a gaggle of teachers and librarians — as well as a few fellow authors and publishing types. Should be fun, not to mention filling. On Thursday, I’m participating in an afternoon panel discussion: “The Graveyard Shift: Programming Around Mysterious and Scary Books.” When that’s done, I’ll be racing off to the airport again.

Should be home by midnight, Thursday, tired and grateful and inspired to write.