Tag Archive for Fan Mail Wednesday Preller

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #332: Carli Didn’t Dig the Ending

I received two quick emails from Carli . . . 

Hi James prellee I read your book bystander and I don’t really like how you ended it you should have ended it with more conflict but over all I really liked it and is there a second book

And what I really did like about the book I like that there was a lot of conflict and I like how Mary was a good friend to Eric and was introduced herself to Eric when he first arrived 

I replied . . . 
Carli!
Sorry it’s taken me a couple of weeks to get back to you. I blame the turkey!
You sent two brief emails and I’ll try to answer them both here, toggling back and forth.
Let’s see: the ending.
Ah, the ending.
I know, I know. It doesn’t wrap things up in a tidy bow and it doesn’t conclude with a dramatic flourish. In many respects, you are not wrong to wish for those things. I usually do, too. But in this story, I wanted it to be as true to life as I could make it. So I sort of sidestepped “drama” in favor of “truth.” For better and for worse! I actually did write a more dramatic and “satisfying” ending w/ Eric helping to get Griffin caught for stealing bicycles, but it felt false (and forced) to me, so I ditched it.
I think in real life we kind of endure these things. We move past them over time. That annoying kid in 7th grade moves on, time passes, and we realize it’s behind us at a certain point. There’s no tidy resolution. In terms of artifice, of a fictional story, maybe that’s not the most satisfying way to go. But, hey, to be honest, I like the open-ended nature of the book. That these characters live on in our imagination, and that it’s up to individual readers to speculate about where things will go after that. I do leave a number of hints along the way.
Yes, I love Mary, too. She’s a minor but crucial character in Bystander. And one that was, I think, underwritten. My primary focus was on Eric’s experience. But Mary has guts, stands up to her friends, suffers the consequences of that decision, and undergoes the greatest change in the novel. I liked her so much, in fact, I made her the main character in my recent book, Upstander, a prequel/sequel to Bystander. The book follows Mary closely, some time before the timeline of Bystander begins. We see her meet and become friends with Griffin. We learn about her troubled home life. We learn more about her uneasy friendship with Chantel. And halfway through the book, we pick up on meeting Eric on that basketball court (chapter one of Bystander) — this time told from Mary’s point of view. We also see that horrendous, painful moment with David and the ketchup.
Everyone has a story. And if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s to withhold our judgment on other people. We just don’t know what’s going on in their lives. For Upstander, I wanted to pull back the curtain and get to know Mary much, much better.
I hope you read it. There’s also an excellent audiobook available, if you prefer to read with your ears. 
My best,
James Preller

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #317: “Guess I’ll Go Eat Worms!”

Sometimes a letter from a reader makes me pick up an old book, leaf through the pages. Often there’s a surprise. This one reminded of a song we used to sing long ago on the Adelphi Road of my childhood. 
Hello my name is Ali and ı am 10 years old, I read your book the mummy mystery and I want to give my opinion:
The book was great because they have to find the mummy mystery and they never heard any mummies in their neighborhood. My favorite character was joey because he was so brave and smart but he was a child and a detective he could find and clue for the missing things. Thats why I loved your book.
I replied . . . 

Ali,
Thank you for your kind note. It is a gift to me — to hear what a reader like you thinks about one of my books. 
I’m glad that you enjoyed Jigsaw Jones: The Case of the Mummy Mystery
As a little boy, my brothers used to sing that song to me: 
“Nobody likes me,
Everybody hates me,
Guess I’ll go eat worms.
First you peel the skin off,
then you chew the guts up,
Ooey-gooey woooorms!”
I always remembered that (gross) song. Years later, when it was time to write this book, I decided to put that song into it. That’s how writing often works for me. The small memories, the little events, the details of our lives help us compose the stories that make sense of our past. 
Keep reading!
James Preller
And Ali wrote back with a correction . . . 
I am so excited to receive a response back from you, I never thought I would get a reply from the author of the book I read! I am thrilled! 
I am really glad that you liked my opinion. I had some mistakes in the email I sent. My favorite character was Jigsaw but i accidentally wrote Joey.
Kind regards,
Ali 

Fan Mail Wednesday #309: It’s Easy (and cheap!) to Arrange a Virtual Visit with Your Class

“That was amazing!
The students are beaming and can’t wait
to talk about you!
They also can’t wait to write!”
— Rachel M, 2nd-grade teacher

 

Here’s a correspondence that I enjoyed with a classroom teacher from Queens, NY. I wish I had more visits with classrooms or entire grade levels. They feel so positive, and cozy, and joyful. I especially believe in book-specific visits, where the class knows my work and we can engage in a lively Q-and-A conversation. I can do this with any title or series. 

Is it terribly expensive? No, nope, not really, no. 

Read on . . .

 

Hello there!

I work at a school in Queens, NY.  Currently, I am the teacher of 30 second graders…was previously the drama teacher:)

My students are fully remote, meaning that they are all home and we learn virtually during the day.

I have been reading your books to them as our read aloud, and they are LOVING them! We have created a class detective notebook, where along with Jigsaw, they write their guesses, clues, thoughts, and suspects.

They have just started their writing unit on realistic fiction.

I was wondering what your pricing was, and if you are still doing virtual visits?

I thought a virtual visit from you, where they can ask you Jigsaw questions, and get some creative writing tips would make them smile from ear to ear!

Please let me know, thank you!

Rachel 

 

I replied . . .

 

Rachel,

Thank you for this lovely note.

I would love to visit with your class.

I like to get $150 for a virtual visit — but if your budget is limited, I’d work with whatever you’ve got that seems fair and reasonable to you.

I appreciate that you share my books with your class.

James Preller

 

And shortly after our visit, Rachel wrote back . . .

 

That was amazing!

The students are beaming and can’t wait to talk about you! They also can’t wait to write!!! 

I may have to give them a whole afternoon of writing time because they are so excited!!

Again, thank you so much. Everything that you said was beyond perfect for them to hear.

Of course their first question was, when can they talk to you again…

So, you may hear from me again and next year and so on and so forth 🙂

I will of course share your information with other teachers and the parent coordinator at my school, who usually shares things with all other schools in the area.

Thank you again for everything, that was a wonderful experience:)

Rachel

 

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Fan Mail Wednesday #307: Hiccups in Hindi

 

Dedicated readers might recall a boy, Vivaan, who dressed up as Jigsaw Jones for Halloween.

Naturally, I tried to adopt him.

His mother resisted.

But over the course of a few emails, I’d like to think that we’ve became friends. Shivika recently sent this surprising letter . . . 

 

Dear James,
We have been you fans for over 4 years and we did not even know it!
I bought this book in 2017 during my visit to India. We have a collection of over 100 Hindi books at home as I read a lot to them in Hindi. I remember Vivaan loved it so much, we would read it many times and then act it out. Now, it’s Shivvank’s favorite book these days. 
Today morning, with my sleepy eyes when I read this to Shivaank for the third time, I read the authors name and connected the dots — you are the author! Now I wonder do I have any more of your books?
We are all very happy this morning with this discovery.
First pic is of your name in Hindi.

Shivika

 

I replied . . . 

Shivika,

Wow, I didn’t even know this translation existed!

– 

So nice to see, and it is lovely that we have a connection that goes beyond Jigsaw Jones. Soon we’re going to find out that we’re related!
I loved that book, wonderfully illustrated by Hans Wilhelm, and used to have great fun showing it on school visits — I’d enlist help from volunteer hiccupers. I’d get five kids to come up front and hiccup on cue. It was pretty adorable. That book sold almost 1.5 million copies in paperback on the Scholastic Book Clubs, so of course they let it go out of print.
Very sad.
I hope your family is in good health. We’re hanging in there.
Jimmy

Fan Mail Wednesday #302: Hard Beginnings, Saggy Middles, and Fizzled Endings

 

Here’s a short one from Helin — who thinks I am James Preller! — along with my saggy reply.

 

Hello! My name is Helin. I think you are James Preller. I read “The Case Of The Disappearing Dinosaur” book for my English project. I understood it very well and I liked it. I got the beginning, middle and end very well. I think it was fun and enjoyable. I am glad to read this book. 

 

My response . . .  

Helin!

Thank you for your kind note. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed The Case of the Disappearing Dinosaur
Beginnings are hard: that blank page staring back at me, waiting, as if to say, “Yeah, so what?”
Middles tend to sag. I work hard at middles, because nobody wants a saggy middle. I try to keep the plot/mystery zipping along, cutting away the lazy bits. 
And endings, well, a book has to have a satisfying ending. That’s the part everyone remembers, the last pages they read. If the ending fizzles, the whole thing is a fizzled book. 
Nobody wants to read a fizzled book.
I’ve written all types of books over my long career. I published my first book in 1986, at age 25: that makes me something like 136 years old! Go ahead, do the math. The trick with mysteries is that you pretty much have to know the ending before you can begin! Other books you can sort of meander there like a stream and gradually work your way to the ending, a discovery. For mysteries, I start with “the crime” and figure out what happened, who did what. Until I know that, I can’t begin.
That’s a pro tip right there, free of charge.
Thanks so much for writing to me.
I hope this letter wasn’t too very weird.
Did it sag in the middle?
James Preller