Tag Archive for James Preller photo

My 804th Post!

Just noticed that my last post was #803.

Which means almost nothing, and I suppose that’s something.

Still: 803 posts, 49 months, 199,462 visits, 379,788 pageviews.

I have no idea if those numbers are good or bad or whatever.

I’ve enjoyed posting, and that’s why I still do it.

Thank you, sincerely, for stopping by.

My best, JP

From Fiction to Fact: We’re Playing in the Championship Game

This coming Saturday, I’ll be coaching a Little League team of 11- and 12-year-old boys in a championship game. For the 12’s, this game will be the culmination of their Little League experience. Some boys will move up to play at the Babe Ruth level, on the big fields, jumping from 60-foot basepaths to 90; for others, this game will be it. The end of a boyhood passage, giving way to skateboards and girlfriends, basketball and boredom and who knows what comes next.


For me, this last Little League game is a happy way to conclude a long relationship at Tri-Village Little League in Delmar, NY. I coached my oldest son, Nicholas, for his last four seasons. Then I coached Gavin’s teams for all seven of his seasons, which overlapped with two years of coaching Maggie, too. That’s 11 years of coaching at the Little League level, mostly as manager. Then you can add 7 years of managing in a men’s hardball league, plus Fall Ball, Travel, All-Stars, etc.

A lot of games. A lot of faces. A lot of hanging around the ball field, staring up at the clouds, hoping the rain holds off.

I played, too. This is my age-12 season. Top row, center. Wantagh Little League.

I threw left, batted right, like Cleon Jones and Rickey Henderson.

But this game on Saturday will be my first championship game at the Majors level. I was fortunate enough to coach a team that won at the Intermediate level, some years back with Nick. Took it to ’em, 6-zip, behind the strong arm of Nick Hodem. Unfortunately, my Nick was sick at that time, fighting cancer, and he missed the final game.

In 2008, I published my first hardcover novel, Six Innings, inspired and informed by my lifelong love of the game. The book, subtitled “A Game in the Life” (and yes, that’s a Beatles reference), is about a single championship game and the boys who play in it. I’m proud to say that it was named an ALA Notable and, by Booklist, one of the TOP 10 BEST SPORTS BOOKS OF THE YEAR.

Here’s a couple of paragraphs that come very late in that book:

Coach Reid watches the boys as they celebrate, resists the urge to join them, to leap arms outstretched on top of the pile. No, this is their moment. It isn’t about Coach Reid, or any other adults. It is enough, more than enough, to stand back and watch.

Branden runs up, ecstatic. “We did it, Dad!” he exclaims. “We did it!”

The son throws his arms around his father, and the father squeezes back, hard, hoping to capture the memory like a summer firefly in his hands, wanting the moment to last forever, burning brightly, and knowing that somehow, amazingly, as sure as they stood, it would.

Wish us luck!

A Pile of Papers & Me

I know that some authors count revisions. They will claim, as Mem Fox once told me in an interview, “I did 49 drafts for KOALA LOU before the book was ready to be published.”

My first thought was, “Wow, she counted.”

Second thought, “Man, that’s one of my favorite picture books of all time.”

Nowadays with computers and instantaneous edits, combined with the way I work, it’s impossible for me to put a number on it. I can rarely read anything I’ve written without wanting to make changes. So I revise as I go, constantly; I backtrack as I move forward, even if though some advise against it. I usually avoid printing out the ever-changing manuscript. Because I’d only have to do it again, and again, a pointless exercise and a waste of trees.

Nonetheless, over time, various versions do get printed, sent out, revised, and so on, to the point where I eventually accumulate a stack of old pages.

A while back I made my final corrections on BEFORE YOU GO (July, 2012). It’s due out in a month and I’ve got to live with whatever mistakes remain. In this photo, I sit with a pile of old versions, notebooks, scribbled ideas, rough drafts, grocery lists, typed revisions . . . along with an uncorrected Advance Reader’s Copy in my left hand.

A photo that I figured it might an impress a student somewhere. It’s the same old lesson though: You want anything in life, you’ve got to work for it. I guess in today’s lottery culture you’ve got to say that out loud every once in a while.

Four Old Family Photos

Busy day yesterday, as I drove down to CitiField (300 miles round trip) with Gavin and Nick to catch the Mets. My attendance record stands now at 0-3, and each game fairly abysmal. This is the price I pay, I tell myself, for being in attendance for Game 5 of the 1969 World Series, when the Amazin’s won it all and later went on The Ed Sullivan Show to sing, “The Impossible Dream.” Oh well, my boys were happy. It was a sweltering day, the sun beating down on our heads, and I spent more than $40 on water at the park.

Water!

Anyway, I wanted to post two photos yesterday for the holiday . . .

My father served in the Air Force. This photo was taken during his basic training in Tennessee, 1944. He wrote on the back of the photo, presumably sent to his parents in Queens, NY: “Here I am all dressed up. My hat is on cockeyed. Don’t I look independent?”

My brother Bill, the second oldest in the family, served in Vietnam. I figure this shot for somewhere in 1967-68. I remember when he was over the there, and the body counts on the nightly news, a little boy wondering, hoping. When he came home, I ran and jumped into his arms.

When you warm up the old scanner, it’s hard to stop. This is from my sister Barbara’s 8th-grade graduation from St. Frances de Chantel in Wantagh, NY. Back in in June, 1965, when the number one songs for the month were: “Help Me, Rhonda,” The Beach Boys; “Back in My Arms Again,” The Supremes; “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch),” The Four Tops; and “Mr. Tambourine Man,” The Byrds.

Music was really, really great when I was a kid. And it was about to get even better. (I think 1967 was the best year for music in the 20th century, since you asked.)

I used to be two years old. Go figure. This is from April, 1963, and I’m next to my sister Jean, age 5, going on 6. She was something with those straight bangs. On school visits, I’ll sometimes joke that there are no photos of me, because nobody bothers taking pictures of Kid #7. There’s truth in that, of course, but I’ve found some scattered old photos, too. Usually I’m standing next to somebody else, or a brother’s new car. These photos have become my small treasures.

Snaps: Visit to Conrad Weiser Middle School

Last week I enjoyed three days of school visits in Pennsylvania. It was nicely varied, since the first day was at a K-6 elementary school. On a visit of that nature, I do three completely different talks to a variety of ages, which helps me from becoming too terribly sick of myself (an occupational hazard, I’m afraid). The next two days were at middle schools, and to my great pleasure included giving writing workshops to small groups of students (about 25-30 each).

While I do have doubts about my ability as a writing teacher, I have to admit that I must know something, all these years and books under my belt. Mostly though, I really think these students want a moment to shine, and share, and it’s my honor to try to support them in their efforts. I just want to find the good qualities in each shared sample and encourage, encourage, encourage.

At one school, Conrad Weiser Middle School in Robesonia, PA, the day began with a general presentation for grades 5-8 in a large auditorium, filled with somewhere around 650 students. Not at all scary, but . . . you really don’t want to bore 650 middle school students.

And I don’t even juggle.

Oh, and get this: At the 3rd school, Brandywine, the school jazz band played (I think) “Birdland” and (I know) “Rockin’ Robin” while the students filed in. That was a first for me — a warm-up act! Wish I had a photo of those guys, they were excellent, and reminded my of my son, Gavin, who plays guitar in his middle school jazz band.

Don’t tell my kids — especially Gavin — that I show pictures of them to crowds like this, their smiling gobs on ten-foot screens. They would be mortified. In fact, Gavin’s default position these days, when it comes to his father, is mortification and embarrassment. Sigh.

On every trip, you make some friends and then never see them again. So here I am, wearing my current go-to sweater, still a little glassy-eyed from my recent (losing) bout with pneumonia, with a couple of students and librarian Kathie Matthew. Don’t go by his expression, the guy in the left is actually thrilled beyond belief. Okay, ¬†maybe not.

Without Kathie’s enthusiasm and energy, the whole trip would have never happened. So thanks again for a great day, Kathie.¬†God bless librarians, each and every one!