Tag Archive for Fan Mail

Fan Mail Wednesday #12: The Thursday Edition!

Here’s a good one:

Lieber Herr Preller,
Ich würde gerne wissen wieviele Bücher Sie von Puzzle Paul geschrieben haben.Ich mache nämlich einen Vortrag über Ihnen und ihre Bücher.

Dear mister Preller,
I would like to know, how many books you have write about puzzle Paul? I am making a prestation for school about your Books.
Thanks a lot and many greets.

Viviane S from Switzerland

PS: I like your books very much

Quick background for my blog readers (and I thank you for that): Yes, as you may have gathered, quite a few Jigsaw Jones mysteries have been translated into German. In the process, he was renamed “Puzzle Paul.” My books have appeared in several different languages, including French, Spanish, and Italian. I recently learned that the translation rights for Six Innings have been sold for Korean, and I can’t wait to see that!

My response:

Many greets to you, Viviane!

It is exciting to hear from a reader in Switzerland. I traveled in your beautiful country once, back when I was a hitchhiking, tent-sleeping, bread-and-cheese-eating (read: poor) college student in the, ahem, early 1980’s. Cough, cough. Good times, good times.

In English, there are 37 different Jigsaw Jones titles. However, I think there are about 8-10 that have been translated into German. Which, frankly, amazes me. Did you realize that the original, English-language versions feature only black-and-white illustrations, while the German editions come in full color? Though the German editions translated my words, the publisher hired a new artist, Peter Nielander, to create all new artwork — and the books come in hardcover! In German, my book, The Case of the Class Clown, is called, Der Spinnentrick, and there are spiders on the cover!

If you have any specific questions you’d like for me to answer, please send them along and I’ll be happy to answer them. I’d like you to get high marks on your presentation! In the meantime, you might want to look here or here for more info.

Thanks for reading my books!


P.S.: Your note inspired me to search in my files for a thick, thick folder of long-forgotten poems I wrote decades ago. I found the one I was looking for, written while I was sitting on a rock in Montreux, age 21. Ah, to be young and full of words!

Fan Mail Wednesday #10

Wow, these Wednesdays sure do creep up on a guy? Here I am, literally minding my own business, when — DANG — up comes another Fan Mail Wednesday banging me upside the head. Whap, whap, whap.

Amazingly, fan mail-wise, I had a few choices this week. But still, nothing much from kids. I guess they are all at camp or something. Anyway, I’m not getting many questions to answer. So I apologize. We’ll just have to slog on in the wilderness until I receive some mail from actual young readers.

That said: Part of my thinking with this blog was to take it one day at a time, and try to reflect the day-to-day life of a “real, live” writer: what feeds it, what flows out, what comes back, what happens. You know, the grim reality of my sad existence on this scorched and bitter Earth. So, here’s an email I just received. It’s a kind note from the most important adult reviewing population out there, that’s right, a letter from the front lines — from an actual classroom teacher!

Dear Mr. James Preller,

Hello. I am a fifth grade teacher in New York City. I just finished reading your book “Along Came Spider.” I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward tousing it for a read aloud in the upcoming school year. I am always on the look out for new and interesting books and yours is both. I greatly appreciate that you went into classrooms and observed. It makes the characters and the setting much more genuine. The fact that the children keep writers notebooks and conference with the teacher makes the experience authentic for the reader and I know that my students will be able to relate. The character of Trey is very well crafted, you definitely researched behavior associated with Aspergers and Autism and it is reflected in the intelligent and observant nature of Trey. I want to compliment you on finding a way to familiarize students with the behaviors without making it something completely strange and odd. It is important that the developing generation be as familiar with the behaviors as educators have come to be. Ava is also a truly enjoyable and straight forward character. I always look for who the author has chosen to be the conscience or voice of reason in a book. It is rarely the main character otherwise there would be no drama or conflict. In the best written books, it is the voice that comes from the side. The one you almost ignore until they say what needs to be said. I thought the part where she told spider she thought he was Trey’s friend… her mistake, Trey is his friend was that small smart moment that teaches the reader what the author wants to say.

Congratulations on a well-written book that I am sure will be enjoyed by many readers in the years to come. Thank you.


I wrote back:

Robyn, please send me a mailing address, because you are this week’s lucky winner! I have a garage full of Ultra SilverSteel Kenmore Freestanding Gas Ranges — with 12,000 BTU power burners, an extra large window, and easy-to-clean cooktop features — and I’m going to ship one to your house just as soon as I can locate my cousin Earl, buy him a fresh case of Rolling Rock, and gas-up his pickup truck!

Congratulations. And look for Earl’s pickup truck in your driveway sometime during the next two weeks.


Okay, for real, that’s not what I wrote to Robyn. What I replied was personal and none of your business. But I just love the idea of sending my blog readers free home appliances. Imagine Earl’s battered, mustard-colored pickup truck pulling up to the house: “Robyn, honey? You better get on out here double-quick. There’s a delivery man here named Earl and he’s got some papers for you to sign.” Sigh, it’s my great longing. I want to be the only children’s author who gives away Kenmore Gas Ranges. Is that too much to ask? A fella can dream, can’t he? Otherwise, I mean, why write? Why be in this business at all?

Fan Mail Wednesday #8

Here’s an unusual piece of email I received the other day:

Dear Mr. Preller:

My best friend has been reading your Jigsaw Jones series and she loves them. She is 60 years old but she likes to read juvenile mystery stories and she thinks that your JJ series is fantastic. She saw on your website that you are not going to write anymore books in this series and she was so disappointed as she has now read them all. She does not currently have an e-mail system so she asked that I write and thank you for these books and to tell you how much she loves them. She hopes that you will reconsider and write another one or two more in this series.

Thanks for that great email. This is one of those Bad News/Good News things, and I’ve been trying (uncharacteristically) to focus on the positive these days. “The glass is half full — it’s half full, I tell ya!” The truth is, my publisher, Scholastic, is simply not interested in doing any more “Jigsaw Jones” books. A business decision. I love those books, but sales have always been a disappointment to Scholastic. Yet somehow, despite a lack of marketing support, the series succeeded enough to reach more than 30 titles. I’d love to see the first 8 or 12 re-released with new covers — and this time, actually promoted in trade — but I suspect I’m alone in that dream. I believe in my heart that series could have been so much more popular.

That said, some of the best things that are happening for me now are a direct result of my NOT writing Jigsaw Jones. With every crisis comes opportunity, or something like that. So I’ve been writing other things — and mostly with a great new publisher (Feiwel & Friends). I honestly think my best work is just beginning to pour out. And I can’t wait for the release of Along Came Spider, due out any week now.

Thanks for writing, sending those kind words to me. They mean a lot.


Fan Mail Wednesday #7

The Irish have an expression, “Flowers for the living.” Basically: You don’t have to wait for somebody to die before you say something nice about him, or her. It’s nice to be on the receiving end of the sentiment. Here’s a note I received from a reader named Kelly:

Dear Mr. Preller,

I just finished reading Six Innings and wanted to compliment you on a fine book. I am a retired elementary school teacher and children’s librarian, and I try to keep up with the latest juvenile books even though I don’t have much kid-contact any more. Six Innings is a wonderful read for adults, too, with lots of great nostalgia, but what I particularly admired about the book was the restraint shown in presenting the characters. We know a lot about each one through subtle hints and bits of dialogue. You didn’t beat us over the head telling us how each one feels–you just show us through their actions and thoughts. The old writing dictum “Show, don’t tell” was well-used here. I really cared about the characters. I am not a huge baseball fan–(other than following the Rockies to the World Series last year–I live in Colorado.)—but the suspense you brought to the little league game was great. Thanks for a good read.

* * * * *

Sometimes people will ask me if I like being an author. If it’s a “fun job.” I don’t know about that, exactly. Fun? Hmmm. But when I think of (rare) letters like the above, or complimentary notes I’ve received from parents, or simply a comment from a child telling me I wrote The Best Book in the World! — when I think of the rewards, of how much this job gives back — then it’s easy to say, “Yeah, I do like it. I really do.”

Fan Mail Wednesday: #6

Hey, it’s time for Fan Mail Wednesday! Amazing how that rolls around every week. When school is out, the fan mail tends to dry up, since these letters often stem from a classroom assignment. (My worst fear is realized: I’ve become homework.) But, lo!, here’s one!

Zachary from Pennsylvania writes:

Dear James P.,

Hi from PA. My name is Zachary. I am very pleased to be writing this letter to you. My favorite book that you wrote is Jigsaw Jones #20: The Case of the Race Against Time. I see your birthday is in February. My birthday is also in February. You’re 47, right?

Dear Zachary,

Yep, 47. (Big sigh, muffled sobs.)

But while we’re talking about The Race Against Time, I might as well tell you that I dedicated that book to my barber, Nikki, who often cuts my hair at Gregory’s Barbershop in my hometown of Delmar, New York. Growing up, my father used to cut our hair — and he was an insurance salesman, not an artist with the shears. But with seven kids, Dad had to save money somewhere. As it turns out, that “somewhere” was on the top of our heads! Brutal, I’m telling you. Some of the worst haircuts ever! I remember my older brothers absolutely freaking out when my father would pull out his rusty scissors and that old electric clipper. I can still hear that ominous buzzzz. He’d set us in a chair in front of the fish tank and systematically ruin our lives for weeks to come. The shame, the humiliation! Even so, I figure everybody has gotten a truly horrifying haircut somewhere along the line. I thought of those days when writing that book, especially when poor Jigsaw gets his haircut by a new guy named Vladimir. It was a real nightmare.

Thanks for writing!