Archive for Fan Mail

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #243: From Johanna in CT

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I recently turned 56. That’s 8 in dog years, or time you start thinking about getting a new puppy. You know, to ease the transition. It’s disconcerting to discover that I’ve been getting a little weirder over the years. A tad stranger. Or maybe that’s just the liberation of time, of caring less what might be misconstrued, of feeling free to speak my (scattered) mind. It might be a good thing, writing-wise. Anyway, I sometimes feel a little sorry for the poor kid who sends me a beautiful letter and receives whatever I might dash back. When it comes to answering fan mail, I’m not a machine. There’s no brilliant strategy here. I just start typing and try to keep it real. For better and for, I’m sure, worse.

Here’s the opening of Johanna’s two-page letter, followed by my reply:

Scan 3

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I replied:

Dear Johanna,

Thank you for your well-written (typed!) letter.

While reading it, I found that I admired you quite a bit. Not because you liked my book. I’m not that shallow. But because your words revealed a pensive, inquisitive, open mind. An admirable brain & spirit!

I don’t know. I’m fumbling. What am I trying to say?

I’ll never forget when a friend in college said to me, in a casual, offhanded sort of way, “Oh, I learned that question yesterday.”

41m-cvcfcxl-_sx337_bo1204203200_It struck me as funny. The idea of learning a question. Aren’t we supposed to learn answers? Figure stuff out? Know things? And now I think . . . well, yes and no. A big part of life is learning the questions. And one of the biggest is, What do I do with time here on Earth? How should I spend my days? How do I treat others? What does it mean?

I don’t think a book, or an author, or anyone else can provide us with the answers. We find those inside ourselves. We discover, we learn, we grow. And it all begins with the search -– the seeking, the quest! –- the quest/ions –- the inner desire to think and learn. You’ve got that, I could instantly sense it, and that’s a great quality to have. It’ll take you far.

Anyway, I’m sorry; feeling weirdly philosophical today. Maybe it was the tone of your letter. You seem to be the kind of person who enjoys that sort of conversation.

Oh, hey, not to turn this into a commercial, but you might also very much like my book, The Fall, which touches on some of these same themes but goes to a darker place. Check it out at your school or town library. Or hey, go buy it in paperback for $6.99 and line my pockets with gold.

I really appreciate your (deep!) thoughts, thanks.

James Preller

 

Fan Mail Wednesday #242: Letter from a Father Who Reads to His Teenage Daughter Every Night

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Today’s “Fan Mail Wednesday” is a little unusual. It’s a note from Ed, my teammate on the “Whiz Kids,” an old men’s hardball team. To date, he remains the only catcher who believes in my change-up.

 

Mighty Preller at the Bat.

Mighty Preller at the Bat.

 

Jim,
I hope you’re having a great off season. My daughter and I have a reading streak. My wife saw an article in the NYT about a father who read out loud to his daughter every night from grade 4 to her freshman year in college for at least 10 minutes. Kelsey and I decided to take on the challenge when she was in third grade. She is now a freshman at AAG . We have not missed a night. It the most special thing between us. We have read all kinds of books. We both get to make picks so I picked The Fall.


9781250090546.IN01It is a great book. As we read it I expected Kelsey to have strong opinions about Sam and Morgan and the actions of the other kids. Each night as we read the book she was very quiet and just went to sleep.


This all changed when Sam bought the jewelry for Morgan and dropped it off the tower. When I looked up Kelsey was crying. She had never done that before. At this point all her feelings about Sam and Morgan tumbled out. We had a great talk. She loved the book.

I know at times writing must be hard as you wonder who will read your book and how will it impact the reader. At our house The Fall was a perfect game. ED

 

I replied:

Ed,
Sorry it’s taken me a couple of days to respond. It’s hard to know what to say except for thank you for those kind words. It’s the nicest gift you can give a writer: 1) reading the book, and 2) saying something nice about it.
 
I remember reading about the young woman who read with her father that you referred to in your note. I think I might even have blogged about it, years ago. It’s amazing that you and your daughter have managed that same feat. I’m blessed to have (sort of) shared that experience with you, through my book.
The article was published in March 2010, written by Michael Winerip, titled "Father and Daughter Bond By Years of Reading." The daughter, Alice Ozma, eventually wrote a book about it, THE READING PROMISE: MY FATHER, AND THE BOOKS WE SHARED.

The article was published in March 2010, written by Michael Winerip, titled “Father and Daughter Bond By Years of Reading.” The daughter, Alice Ozma, eventually wrote a book about it, THE READING PROMISE: MY FATHER, AND THE BOOKS WE SHARED.

 
Thanks again,  Ed. I was moved by your letter. And I look forward to another season of baseball.
 
My best,
 
JP

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #241: From Zeynep in Istanbul, Turkey!

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This email traveled a long way . . .

 

Dear James Preller ;

Hello my name is Zeynep. I am writing you from Istanbul – Turkey. This year I am a 5th grader in Hisar Schools and my teacher gave us one of your books to read for a project and I just finished reading your book.

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First of all,I read “The Case Of The Bicycle Bandit”. When I started reading the book it made me excited immediately because the book starts with dialogue which makes it easy to read. Two pages after I understood what the story will be about. I like that there isn’t so much description in the book however It sometimes makes us hard to understand the characters. For Example, I don’t know so much about Jigsaw, is he a nice boy or naughty boy? How is his relationship with his mother and father? Or where do they live? I looked for these questions answers but I couldn’t find them anywhere.

I always liked this moment in the book when Mila consoles a distraught Ralphie. He looks around and the outside world reflects his inner emotions: "His eyes followed a bird circling in the sky. It circled once, twice, three times. Then it flew off. Leaving behind an empty sky."

JP COMMENT: I always liked this moment in the book when Mila consoles a distraught Ralphie. He looks around and the outside world reflects his inner emotions: “His eyes followed a bird circling in the sky. It circled once, twice, three times. Then it flew off. Leaving behind an empty sky.” Lovely illustration by Jamie Smith. Just right.

Finally I have to say that when I read that it was Ralph’s brother who stole the bicycle I was surprised! I couldn’t believe it. I think you did a great job by writing this mystery book because I couldn’t guess and solve the puzzle myself while I was reading.

I hope that you can continue your series in a successful and fun way.

Thank you,

Zeynep

I replied:

Zeynep, 

Greetings from Delmar, New York!

It’s exciting for me to hear from you, all the way from Istanbul. I’ve never been there. And despite books and movies, I still find it difficult to imagine your world. I wish you could have sent me a picture of your school or family or something/anything.

Or your cat! How do you say “meow” in Turkish?

It’s amazing that a book can bring us together like this. I’ve been lucky enough to have some of my books translated into other languages — Spanish, German, Korean, Japanese, Greek, Arabic, Indonesian, and more — but it always leaves me in awe.

Could there really be a young man in Turkey turning the pages of a book I wrote in 2001?

I guess so!

Thank you, friend.

Books are small objects that we read alone, usually in silence, often away from others. But they are also connectors, portals, ways of bringing people together. A shared experience. Pretty cool when you think about. We go off by ourselves to connect with other people, across time and space.

I was inspired by my own childhood for the “Bicycle Bandit.” I’m the youngest of seven children, with four big brothers who were 7-12 years older than me. I watched them as if they were creatures from another world. Neal, Bill, John, and Al. Well, behind our house we had a shed that was packed with battered old bicycles in all sorts of disrepair. Missing tires, rusty chains, torn seats, twisted fenders. They’d love to patch the bicycles together from broken parts and pieces. That’s where I got the idea from Ralphie’s bike, “Old Rusty.”

This is my family, minus Maggie, who is the prettiest of all. Gavin, Lisa, JP, and Nick. These are not our normal clothes. We are headed to a wedding.

This is my family, minus Maggie, who is in the all-time “Top 5” Best Looking Prellers. From left: Gavin, Lisa, JP, and Nick. These are not our normal clothes. We are headed to a wedding. And we’re going to dance. Badly.

 

This is Maggie.

This is Maggie.

I am married and we have three children. Our oldest, Nick, lives in nearly Albany in an apartment with two friends. He’s 23 years old. My other two kids, Gavin (17) and Maggie (16) live with us. Tonight Gavin has to work as a busboy in a nearby restaurant. Maggie is at crew practice; she is an athlete who rows on the Hudson River. Very strong! My wife is still at work. I think I might order a pizza pie tonight. But I’ll have to bundle up. Last I looked, it was 19 degrees fahrenheit outside. Brrrr.

Sound good to you?

Thanks again for your note. I tried to give you a little better sense of my world. Feel free to write back if you wish.

My best,

James Preller

POSTSCRIPT: I am thrilled to report that this book, long out of print, will be re-released this summer by Macmillan, along with these other Jigsaw Jones titles: The Case of the Smelly Sneaker, The Case of the Mummy Mystery, The Case of the Glow-in-the-Dark Ghost, and the brand new title, The Case from Outer Space.

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #240: Here’s Hannah (Sorry, No Bananas)

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I got a little absurd with my reply to this one. Poor Hannah.

Hey, it happens!

At least I’m not a robot spitting out form letters.

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I took two silly pills and replied:

Dear Hannah,

I am going to try my best not to call you “Hannah Banana.” You’ve probably heard that a lot from other people, and I guess you might be sick of it by now.

bananaYou know, the whole “Hannah Banana” thing.

It rhymes. Fine, okay, but people need to get over it. At a certain point, a serious person –- such as yourself – can’t go around being called “Hannah Banana.”

So I’m saying to you, I respect that. I will not call you “Hannah Banana.” Or hardly ever.

You asked six questions:

1) I had a dream that I wanted to write books. I felt I had something inside of me that had to get out: ink spilled on white paper.

2) I started thinking about a character, a boy, with a huge imagination. In one scene, he pretended to be a detective. The rest is history. 41 books in all!

3) No, I’ve never been to Madison. But I’d love to someday.

Here's an illustration by R.W. Alley from the upcoming book, THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE. The mystery revolves around a note found tucked into a book at a "Little Free Library." I know: genius!

Here’s an illustration by R.W. Alley from the upcoming book, THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE. The mystery revolves around a note found tucked into a book at a “Little Free Library.” I know: genius!

 

4) I don’t have a favorite book, but I find that I’m usually most excited about my newest book. In this case: The Courage Test (grades 4-7). I have a new Jigsaw Jones coming out, The Case from Outer Space, and I love how it turned it. Very funny. Look for it this summer.

5) I have a dog, Daisy, she’s a golden doodle; and two cats, Midnight and Frozone. They are both black. One is fat, the other not so much.

6) I loved college. The freedom! The books! The fun!

Thanks for your letter, Hannah Banana! Oops!

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #239: No Cash Prizes for Hashi!

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Every book gets its first piece of fan mail. Eventually! This one is from Hashi after reading The Courage Test. If we gave out automobiles or cash prizes here at Jamespreller Dot Com, Hashi would be a big winner . . . but I’d be broke.

So, oh well, tough luck, Hashi!

Ain’t life cruel?

 

hashi

I replied:

Dear Hashi,

I am glad to receive your letter. My book, The Courage Test, is fairly new to the world. As an author, I often worry about new books, freshly sent out into the world. Will anyone read them? Will anyone care?

Well, Hashi, you did. So thank you for that. I’m truly grateful.

Yes, you are right, the book featured a blend of nonfiction and fiction. There’s the made-up story of Will and his family, his road trip across the country, but there’s also the historical truth that they are traveling along the Lewis and Clark Trail.

couragetestfrontcvr-199x300When I started the book, I didn’t expect for that much of Lewis and Clark’s journey to seep into Will’s story, but as I did the research, I became more and more fascinated. I felt compelled to share what I learned and sought creative ways to push that information across. That’s when I hit on the idea of weaving those two main strands together, fact and fiction, past and present, like the braiding of long hair.

Readers often ask about what happens to characters after a book ends. I take that as a compliment. It means you are still left thinking about them, wondering. I like that about books and don’t feel that authors should attempt to answer every question. It would be like closing a door, and really it’s the opposite that we’re after. We want to open windows, knock down walls. That said, readers should see that Alejandro is a good cousin to Maria, a good man, and I believe he will help Maria and the baby in many ways. As for Will’s parents, my guess is they will stay divorced. Friendly, respectful, kind –- but no longer married.

Thanks for noticing the “good traits” in Will and the other characters. I came to like them quite a bit myself!

EDIT: Click here if you want to see 18 photos of real places featured in this fictional story. It’s pretty cool, trust me. Okay, here’s one photo, just because:

This is from around page 85-85 of THE COURAGE TEST. Same spot, more or less.

This is from around page 85-85 of THE COURAGE TEST. Same spot, more or less.

 

This summer I have a new book coming out, Better Off Undead (Macmillan, Fall, 2017), that’s set in the not-too-distant future. It is also interested in facts about the natural world . . . bees and bullies and climate change . . . and a bit of fantasy too. Okay, there’s a zombie. And a detective-thriller thread, too. And billionaire bad guys. I’m super excited about it. Weirdest book I ever wrote!

My best,