Inspired by Gerard’s inquisitiveness, I replied at length . . .
Inspired by Gerard’s inquisitiveness, I replied at length . . .
Let’s do this people. Here’s Nate from Haverford:
Thank you for your letter all the way from Haverford, PA. It’s an honor to be thought of as your favorite author.
Am I good at baseball? Ha, well, not particularly. But I do love the game, and I still love playing it. I now play in a ridiculous 55-up men’s hardball league. Imagine very old guys who can barely move attempting to play baseball — like trying to walk through a room full of Jell-O — and that’s us. But there we are under the sun, playing in the green fields of the mind, as if we were boys again. I can still steal a base, I can still break off a pretty good curveball (okay, it rolls in like a tumbleweed), I can still hit.
The other part I love is the competition. As a hitter, to come up in that big spot and try my absolute best to beat the other guy. And that feeling when the ball jumps off the sweet spot of the bat into the left-center gap? I love that. I’ll play for as long as I’m able. Why not?
Have you read my book Six Innings? I poured all my love for baseball into that book.
As the youngest in a large family, I always sought those quiet places, tucked out of the way. I did a lot of jigsaw puzzles (thus: “Jigsaw Jones”), invented games with dice, drew pictures, and read (a little bit). Reading didn’t come on strong until later. Making comics just happened naturally. I think creative people are like that. We can’t help but make things, throw ideas up into the sky just to see what falls.
This October I have a new book coming out, Better Off Undead, that’s set in the not-too-distant future. It might be right for a reader like you. To sum it up in one sentence: After becoming undead, Adrian Lazarus has to survive middle school. The book is also concerned with bees and bullies and spy drones and climate change, and there are “thriller/detective” elements and evil billionaires too. I’m excited about it. The book’s not scary, but I do hope it’s smart, timely, and wildly entertaining.
P.S. Thank you for the SASE, very considerate & much appreciated!
RE-POST: This was originally posted back in August, 2010, and I’m sharing it again because winter is on the wane. My thoughts turn to baseball. Maybe yours do, too. I wanted to tell this little behind-the-scenes story to my baseball book, an ALA Notable, Six Innings. You might even want to buy a copy (who am I kidding?).
I don’t like to brag, but.
Look at this kid, will ya.
That’s Gavin, right around his 11th birthday, back in June/July. We endured a heartbreaking All-Star experience and I had to let time pass before revisiting it.
This year, along with my friend Andy, I coached a team of ten-year-olds in the District 13 All-Star Tournament. We played five games and found ourselves in the Championship Game — a scenario not much different than what I wrote about in the book, Six Innings (now in paperback).
As it turns out, that was the problem. Six innings. Would it were five.
Somewhat unexpectedly, Gavin really shined in this tournament, played the best baseball of his life. Pitched a shutout, fielded great, hit a ton. He was focused and he cared and somehow it all came together for him.
As a parent, you love ’em whether they strike out or hit a double. And let me tell you — it’s easier when they hit the double.
So there he was on the mound to start the Championship Game against our talented arch-rivals. It was a tense game, all the boys felt it, and nerves got the best of many of them. Both sides made errors. By the top of the 6th, we were on top, 10-6. Gavin had pitched with poise and determination, but after throwing five full innings and 75 pitches, the Little League maximum for boys his age, it was time to turn the ball over to someone else.
We had a four run lead. We needed three more outs.
Never happened. Our rivals exploded for 11 runs (!) in the 6th — it was the longest, most brutal inning of my coaching career — and we fell, 17-10, with an ignoble thud. Gavin was seriously bummed. For my part, I slept less than two hours that night. Just tossed and turned and replayed it all in my head, over and over. It was a week before I could walk without a limp.
When you write a book, you can get that last out, the boy can kiss the girl, you can pick any ending you want. Real life, that’s a tougher thing.
So let’s look at that scene from Six Innings one more time . . .
Max takes the sign, nods, understands. He wants me to climb the ladder.
One last time, Max Young is alone in his daydreams, throwing against an imaginary hitter in a game of his own invention. He is the author and the instrument, the pitcher and the ball, the beginning and the end.
Max rocks back into his windup, he drives forward, the ball leaves his fingertips, comes in high and hard and true.
Angel Tatis hits nothing but air. Swing and a miss.
That’s it. Game over.
Max drops to his knees, flings his glove high into the sky. All the boys rush the mound, shouting, screaming, piling on . . . .
Okay, let’s roll. This one is from Kieran in Jersey, and in the interest of time I’ll only show an excerpt:
Thanks for your letter. Like you, I prefer The Case of the Snowboarding Superstar over The Case of the Groaning Ghost. There are 40 Jigsaw Jones books. I wanted them all to be brilliant and funny and entertaining, but of course no one can hit home runs every time they get up to the plate. Like the great slugger Ted Williams said, “I just try to put a good swing on the ball.”
As for your questions:
1) Yes, I am currently writing my first Jigsaw Jones story in seven years. I don’t have a title yet, still fooling around with it. I believe we are hoping that it will come out in 2017.
2) I have gone skiing in some of the same places as you. These days, I prefer cross-country. No lines, no crowds! I’ve never gone snowboarding because I’m pretty sure I’d die.
3) Sorry, I don’t have any photos to send out. That’s just not something that fits my personality. Just the thought of a stack of glossy photos on my desk kind of grosses me out. I think I’m happier in the shadows. You’ll find the autograph below.
Letter #223 comes from Spokane, WA . . .
Hey, thank for that most excellent, typed letter. As you might know, I also write books for younger readers, and it’s refreshing to receive a letter that isn’t stained with grape jelly.
Thanks for reading Bystander and Six Innings. If you aren’t completely sick of me, you might also like The Fall, which explores some of the same themes as Bystander, but from the perspective of the so-called “bully.” It’s written in a first-person journal format, which makes it relatively quick and easy to read.
Yes, I love baseball. I guess you are a Mariners fan? I grew up a Mets fan, watching the games with my mother, and let me tell you, we’ve endured some rough seasons. But things are looking up these days. Got to love those big arms. My dream was to be a pitcher, but no fastball. Didn’t have the arm. Stupid DNA.
Good luck with ball this season. From the evidence of your letter, you are well on your way to becoming a very accomplished writer. I hope you keep it up. Sometimes our talents surprise us, in that they don’t always come from the expected places. You might dream of becoming a great ballplayer, like I did, only to discover that you have an innate talent for architecture, or medicine, or writing.
You never know!
BTW, nice signature. It will come in handy when you’re famous.