Tag Archive for Fan Mail Wednesday

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #327: Speed Reader Meets EXIT 13!

 

I was at the Rochester Children’s Book Festival over the weekend and had the opportunity to share some Advance Reader’s Copies (ARCs) with various folks: teachers, librarians, and some uniquely interested young readers. It’s exciting when there’s a new book to share, and a little scary, because you never know what the reaction will be. In this case, along with my table crammed with other books, I had a sign announcing EXIT 13, my new middle grade series that’s only available (for now) through Scholastic Book Fairs and Scholastic Book Clubs. We couldn’t sell them at the festival. Thus, the ARCs.

That same night, I received this email from a parent: 

 

Hi,
My daughter and I met you earlier today at the Rochester Children’s Book Festival. You gave her an advanced copy of your novel Exit 13. She finished it ALL today and LOVES it!!! And can’t wait to read the next installment! She’s passing it along to her twin brother (who was at baseball practice and we bought books for), and then her little brother (who was also there), and is going to tell everyone at school to be on the lookout when it comes out in February.
Thank you so much for sharing it with her and helping encourage her passion for reading!! You have definitely gained a huge fan, and we will recommend your books to everyone we know.
Thanks,
Kara
THANK YOU, SPEED READER! I’M SO GLAD WE HAD THE CHANCE TO CONNECT AND SHARE OUR LOVE FOR READING, MYSTERY, AND CREEPY THINGS!
P.S. THE SECOND BOOK, THE SPACES IN BETWEEN, COMES OUT IN AUGUST. SO, YEAH, THE WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART. I’M VERY LUCKY TO HAVE A READER LIKE YOU. 
– 

Fan Mail Wednesday Triple Threat #324-326: Oooooh, Secret Codes!

 

I received three letters from the same classroom, each including a SASE (thank you!). Two of the letters came with secret codes. All of them were fairly similar and signed using only an initial (for privacy, I gather). I enjoyed responding to them, not all that seriously. 

But first, the codes: 

Here are my replies . . . 

 

Dear N,

Just N, hmmm? That’s mysterious.  

Let me guess: Noah, Nadine, Neo, Nico, Nancy, Nigel . . .

(Stop me when I get it right.)

Natasha, Nehemiah, Nelson, Naomi . . . 

(I’m fading here.)

Nevan, Neely, Nori, Naadir . . .

(I give up!)

As for your code: “Can you figure out this pass code to read it if you can read it.”

Did I miss anything? 

I’m glad you enjoyed Food Fight’s satisfying conclusion!

My best,

James Preller

Dear T,

That’s it, huh? Just T. 

Wait a minute, I’ve got it!

This is Mister T!

“I pity the fool!”

Thanks for the SASE: Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope.

Saves me some money!

Be well and keep reading,

James Preller

Dear A,

I wonder. A what? A banana? A pizza pie? A really good book? A reader?

I’m a B, personally: baffled, bewildered, bamboozled!

Let’s see if I can crack your code. 

(This is fun, thanks.)

“James Preller I really liked the book the case of the food fight!”

Okay: 1) That’s good news! 2) Pretty sure this makes me a genius!

Have a great summer — not a bummer!

My best,

James Preller

Fan Mail Wednesday #323: A Great Teacher, A Wonderful “Thank You,” & Another School Year Comes to a Close

One thing I’ve noticed — and I bet you’ve noticed it, too — is how rarely we receive “thank you” notes anymore. In any form. Not handwritten, not via email, not even a quick text.

People are busy and otherwise preoccupied and that kind of thing seems to be vanishing. The world is a poorer place for it.

Not that I need a thank you, but I notice when it’s not there.

As a driver, when I pause to let another car into “my” lane, or allow a pedestrian to pass, I always look for the little wave. That simple act that says, I see you.

I’ll continue to do those small things regardless of a response. But jeez, people. Where’s my little wave? Would it kill you?

Enough of the preamble, let’s go to the main event.

 

This package came the other day. I recognized that it was from a second-grade teacher in Ohio, Rose. I had enjoyed a paid Zoom visit with her class about two months back (one of Rose’s old friends had gifted me to her — even though all she ever wanted was a motorcycle).

Oooooh, fancy paper.

It’s a handcrafted hamster! Rose had threatened promised to send one. Each year — I think I’ve got this right — Rose reads Jigsaw Jones: The Case of Hermie the Missing Hamster with her class. And each year they make their own hamsters. In Rose’s classroom, literature meets art. Rose probably includes science, too, teaching about real hamsters. It’s called cross-curricular learning. Or maybe just “fun,” depending upon whom you ask. 

 

That’s not all. The package included a card, signed by the entire class.

 

So kind — and what a warm activity for these young students to share. Reflection and gratefulness and thanksgiving. “We love books!”

 

I received photos, too. Can’t show them all.

 

But here’s another!

 

And lastly, maybe best of all, the handwritten note.

Pretty great, right? How lucky am I?

So here we are, late June, summer begins and another school year ends. As always, I am grateful to every teacher who shared my books with young readers. I couldn’t survive in this bunny-eat-bunny business if not for you — promoting literacy and a love of reading.

We recognize in this one package the profound difference that one teacher can make in a classroom, modeling positive social behaviors — again: reflection, appreciation, thankfulness, manners. Think of the difference that dozens of teachers make in a school, and hundreds make in our communities, and hundreds of thousands make in our world.

Rose is just one person, a humble second-grade teacher, loving those kids, managing through a pandemic, doing her level best — impacting her students and giving us all more reasons to hope for the kinder, more gentle future.

Please, don’t thank me, Rose.

THANK YOU!

 

Thank you, teachers, everywhere.

Fan Mail Wednesday #321: from Kaya in Istanbul

 

 

For many years now, I’ve been receiving fan mail from a school in Istanbul, Turkey. It’s always a thrill to get them, just the idea that something I wrote can make it all the way there — and then, years later, we connect through that shared book experience. Writer and reader. Words bring us together. It’s kind of beautiful when you think about it. Here’s one from Kaya . . .

Dear Mr Preller,

I am Kaya from Turkey. I am a fifth grade student at Hisar College. English my foreign language. I read your book Jigsaw Jones: The Case of the Best Pet Ever. I really enjoyed it.  It was for my English project but it was so good. I had so much fun.
I like your book because I love detective stories.  I was curious about who stole the Grand Prize. Also, I like your book because it was about animals and I have pets. I have two dogs and they like to play with shoes  like Rags. I remembered my dogs Hugo and Coco when Teddy says his dog steals shoes.
In the beginning I thought it was a human who stole the prize. I was surprised when I learned that it was an animal. I was suspicious about Solofsky like Jigsaw and Mila were. I thought that he was lying. I didn’t like this character but in the end I was so happy when he was innocent. I liked the friendship and work of Mila and Teddy. I was happy when they solved the detective case. I wished that Jigsaw and Rags would win the contest. I was disappointed when the hamster won it.

Some of the vocabulary you used was difficult for me but I learned new words. Normally I read slowly but I was curious about your story and I read it so fast.

I liked the pictures of your book. They helped me to understand your story better. In my opinion the book can be more interesting if pictures are colorful.

I want to read other books of Jigsaw Jones this summer.  They look so interesting.

Nice to meet you.
Kaya Ö

 

I replied . . .

Dear Kaya,

I must have a very good friend in Turkey, because I sure get a lot of letters from students at your school. For years and years now. It’s amazing how one teacher can make such a big difference.
You are very impressive to be able to read and write in English with such skill and charm.
I am a dog lover, too. My dog is named Echo and I am pleased to report that he no longer steals my shoes. As a puppy, he went through a phase when he ate 2 remote controls for our television. What a mess! Nowadays Echo is nearly perfect. But sadly, he’s afraid of thunder. Storms send him into a tizzy. We have to figure out a solution, because it’s getting worse.
My sweet sensitive dog.
I enjoy writing about Bobby Solofsky. He’s always trouble. Like Jigsaw says, he’s a pain in the neck . . . only lower. When writing mysteries, it’s important to have a few different suspects to keep readers guessing. Bobby is good for that. In my most recent Jigsaw Jones book, The Case of the Hat Burglar, I was able to explore Bobby a little bit more. Jigsaw even visits his house, sits in his kitchen. I think maybe he’s not such a bad kid after all.
Thanks for reading my book. You sure must be one smart cookie!
My best,
James Preller
P.S. At the risk of sounding too self-promotional, I do have other books that might work for a reader with your sophistication and ability. That is, the characters are older than Jigsaw Jones — as are you — but the stories are not much harder to read. If you like scary stories, I think you’d do well with my “Scary Tales” books.  Also, I have three books in the “Big Idea Gang” series that again are not much more difficult to read. Good luck & thank you, Kaya!
         

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #314: On Math & Writing — the Rule of Three — and Ted Lasso

 

Sometimes questions come from far afield — in this case, the field of mathematics. Natalie — who could not have been any nicer or more considerate — wrote to me with questions for a school project. 
Natalie wrote . . .
I would like to ask you a few questions. If you do not feel comfortable answering my questions please don’t feel pressured to! I’m doing a project for one of my classes about writing, and how it can relate to math. For this project I need to ask a writer questions, and I heard you reply. My questions are;
1.) Can you describe what you do for a living?
2.) How is math used in your career?  Can you provide examples?
3.) How often is problem solving used in your career?
4.) Is there anything else you would like to tell us about how math relates to your career?
I replied . . . 
Natalie,
These are interesting questions. I’ll do my best.
1. I am a children’s book author. I write a range of books, from picture books for very young readers to young adult novels.
2. I get complicated royalty statements filled with numbers that make me cry. Seriously: confusing numbers, percentages, discounts, etc. Creatively, I think that math enters into story structure, the classic three-act formula. Beginning, middle, and end. Picture books are almost always 32 pages due to folios and printing standards. At some point, you have to be very aware of how (and where) your story is landing on the page. 
3. In storytelling, there’s the “Rule of 3.” We see it in humor, particularly, i.e., his bedroom smelled of old socks, axe body spray, and stale cheese. For some reason, it’s funniest with 3 items. Four is too many; two is not enough. Another example would be, oh, let’s see, a penguin who is determined to fly. For some reason, it appeals to the mind when we show the penguin fail once, twice, three times . . . and then succeed (in some way). I think that’s because it takes three to establish a pattern, a rhythm. It’s somehow comforting to the reader. My old picture book, Hiccups for Elephant, is extremely mathematical, since it is centered around patterns and repetition. All the animals are asleep. Except for elephant. Chimp wakes up, offers advice. It doesn’t work. Hiccup! Lion wakes up, offers advice. It doesn’t work. Hiccup! Zebra wakes up, offers advice. It doesn’t work. Hiccup! See that, Natalie? One, two, three. Now, finally, mouse wakes up, offers advice. It works! Ah-choo! The funny twist at the end. Simple mathematics. 
4. Not really, no. Ha! But, okay, as you know, math is hardwired into our brains. When I read a book — this is just me & my own idiosyncrasies — I am always doing the math. That is, I first like to locate the last page and note the number. The book I’m currently reading is 278 pages. I don’t have to look that up, it’s burned into my brain. While I read it, I am aware of when I’m 1/3 of the way through, 1/2 way through, 2/3 through, etc. It’s not just racing to the end, it helps me sense the shape and body of the story. Do you watch Ted Lasso? That was originally conceived as a three season arc. A beginning, middle, and end. Season 1 was wonderful because it set up the situation, introduced all the characters, established the problem. Season 2 suffered, in my opinion, because it was the middle. The inevitable sag. Middles are very, very difficult to write. But it will lead us to the conclusion, the end, Act 3: the satisfying resolution. Simple math, yes. It’s everywhere. 
Hope that helps.
James Preller
Natalie, again . . .
Thank you so much for the reply! I love these answers, and the examples used. I didn’t expect to get a reply from anyone until, I found a thing of you showing that you do try your best to reply to anyone, and everyone. I will be sure to put your quotes, and phrases into my presentation! Sorry for the random email. And if there was anything you felt uncomfortable with. If you have any questions as to why I asked, or maybe as to what the presentation is about don’t be scared to ask! If there is anything you wouldn’t like in the presentation let me know!

 

 



Subject: Interview questions (school project)