Tag Archive for Preller Fan Mail

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #262: A Remarkable Letter from Istanbul

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Such an impressive letter from a young reader in Istanbul . . . 

 

Dear Mr. James Preller,

Hello, my name is Damla. I am a 9 years old 5th grade student from İstanbul Hisar School. I read your book named “ The case from outer space”. Your book was very fun and interesting and I want to share my thoughts with you in this letter.

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First of all the Jigsaw Jones character was my favorite because he has good friends, he is smart and fun. Also he likes adventures and that’s why he is curious.

I chose to first read this book from the series because I am interested in getting to know more about space!

I was very curious about what would happen and what all those codes meant. So I kept reading and reading.

Finally finding out that it wasn’t an alien but a lady astrounot coming to school was a great surprise to me.

If I could be one of the kids I wish I was Jigsaw because you created this character with great curiosity, courage and power to finish whatever he starts.

Thank you for creating such a story and writing it so nicely so that I could read.

Best Regards,
Damla

I replied . . .

Dear Damla,

That was a gorgeous letter, Damla, so kind and thoughtfully crafted. Thank you very much for that.

And all the way from Istanbul, too!

You are right about Jigsaw. It’s not that he’s the smartest guy in the room. But he’s got spirit and integrity and he never gives up. Fortunately, as you noted, Jigsaw has good friends, especially Mila. She helps him a lot.

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Yes, I really like outer space too. It’s something that fascinates me. The great unknown. One of the ideas the book asks is if there’s life in outer space. Okay, perhaps not little green men from Mars. Or, um, definitely not men from Mars. But why not from some other distant planet? Perhaps a planet we don’t even know about yet!

When I researched for the book, I read about scientists who have made it their life’s work to listen for messages from deep space. They keep sending out signals, working to improve their equipment, hoping that someday, somehow, we people of earth will receive an answer. That’s why I ended the book the way I did, with the notion that maybe our current phones just aren’t good enough yet.

Like those cell phone commercials: “Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?”

I particularly like that final chapter when Jigsaw, Grams, and his father walk out into an open field to stare up at the night sky. Haven’t we all done this?

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“Oh hush, you two,” Grams said. “Just look at the stars.”

And so we did.

We stood in an open field.

In the dark of night.

And gazed at the stars.

In perfect silence.

“That’s the real mystery, Jigsaw,” my father said. “Are we alone in the universe? We don’t know yet. It’s a mystery that can’t be solved –- even by the best detectives.”

“Not yet,” I said, gazing at the night sky. “Not yet.”

Not terrible, right? Don’t you love that illustration by R.W. Alley? His real name is Bob. I love those brief, quiet, family moments in these books. I try to tug at the reader’s heart a little bit if I can. 

Thank you for that truly exceptional letter, Damla. Here in the United States, a 5th grade student is usually 11 years old. Our 9-year-olds tend to be in our version of 3rd grade. It’s just one of the little cultural differences between us.

You know what? Boy, I’d love to see photo of you and your school. Your teacher. Your friends. Your dog. Whatever you want. You don’t have to send me anything — no pressure — I’m just happy to have a reader so far away. I’d love to see your face.

When you get a tiny bit older, and a more accomplished reader, you might like my new books The Courage Test and my brand-new one, Better Off Undead. I’d love to think of you with one of those books in your hands (and my words in your head).

Until then, I’d like to imagine that you and I will both step outside on the same warm night, to look up in silence at the same twinkling stars and distant planets, full of wonder and happiness.

Your friend, truly, 

James Preller

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #261: Aloha, Cody!

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Oh, that face!

This is Cody, a precocious 5-year-old from Hawaii who just read his first chapter book all by himself. He’s also a contest winner. I actually have a hard time giving away free books on my blog. I try, and sometimes succeed, but generally don’t get a big response. People don’t read blogs that often — and I totally understand that — and, I suspect, if they are like me, they likely figure, “Oh, I never win anything anyway.”

Cody’s mother wrote:

My 5 year old Kindergarten son just picked “Good Night, Zombie” out at the library on November 2nd. This was his first chapter book EVER! He just finished it this morning before school. When I was googling the book to see what reading level it was, I came across the contest…that just ended. However. He was excited to do it and I was excited to share with you that my little guy loved the book. He told me after reading it that he had to get number one and three books (since the one he chose is number three). I wanted to thank you for your book!! My son enjoyed it…and got a little scared too! Which made me happy because I knew he was comprehending what he read. 

 

I replied by sending Cody two books. While I think “scary” is highly individual in how readers respond to it, I wanted to give Cody a mellower option so tossed in a signed Jigsaw Jones, too. Five years old felt a little young to me. But again, as I half-apologetically tell kids (in grades 3-up) on school visits, “Nobody gets murdered in these books.”

They groan, good-naturedly, in disappointment.

Rats!

By the way, I loved Cody’s mom’s comment that she was happy he got a little scared because it showed he understood what he was reading.

I don’t think it’s the end of the world if a reader gets a little scared, either. The heart goes boom-boom-boom. I think it’s in those moments of disequilibrium, of “up-set-ment,” when learning takes place.

I believe I’m in the business of disturbing the universe. It’s my job.

 

 

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #257: Kylie’s Happy-Sad Feeling

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It’s an incredible feeling to get receive a letter like this one that Kylie from Elsewhere sent to me . . .

Hey, I recently read your book called “Before You Go.” This book really touched me, and I just wanted to say how great of a book it is that you wrote. When I finished reading it, I had an emotion I rarely have. A bittersweet type emotion. Where I am happy and sad at the same time. I was sad because I loved the characters that you created. They were all fit perfectly together to create this amazing book. I wish that these characters were real, and I were able to hear more from them. I honestly wish there was a “Before You Go” book two as I really just am interested in knowing how their lives went on? Maybe you can tell me how you visioned Jude’s and Becka’s lives like during Senior Year, and college. I just really want to know what their future had in store. I was happy because Jude and Becka ended up together, and I’m not sure, the ending just put a smile on my face. Anyways, I’ve never contacted the author of a book before. So this just proves how much I LOVE your book. I may actually read again!
-Best Wishes, thanks for your time reading this, Kylie. 😊
I replied:
 
Kylie,
– 
Thank you for this extremely kind letter. I’m honored to have you as a reader. I mean that. You should see some of the creeps who pick up my books!
 
51VCNQbfPKLI’m kidding, Kylie. Everyone who reads my books is amazing. But you’re the amazing-est.
 –
Yes, I love that happy-sad moment, too. As a reader, and as a music and movie lover, I find that I am drawn to that experience of it hurts so good. A touch of melancholy. I’ve always written it off as a result of my Irish soul. Gray skies, staring out into the tumultuous sea. I like sad things. Or maybe it’s not exactly that — the sadness — but I want to feel stirred, my heart moved — by song, by books, by life.
– 
You’ve asked an impossible question, of course. What happens next? I think of movies where they’ve done that successfully, or humorously. “Animal House” has a classic ending, where we learn that John Blutarsky has became a U.S. Senator, etc. On the other hand, I thought it was a misstep with Harry Potter, that flash forward. To me it’s not how they end up that’s interesting, it’s the getting there. And to tell that story, you’d have to write an entire book.
 
What happened to Jude and Becka?
 
They both died in a nuclear attack from North Korea?
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Sad!
 
Let’s hope not. I know that I like both of them, that both are strong and independent with a world of possibilities before them. I think they will make a nice couple, able to bring out the best in each other. For a while, at least.
 
One motivation for writing this book was that I’d go into bookstores and look in dismay at the YA section. A lot of romance with pink covers, almost always told from the female point of view. And of course tons of fantasy and paranormal. So I wanted to write a realistic relationship book from the boy’s perspective, Jude’s gentle soul. A book that I’d want to read. Before You Go more or less bombed in the marketplace, predictably in retrospect. There are times when you have to write the book you have to write — you can’t worry about the consequences or sales figures. But I’ve always been proud of it, felt it accurately reflected me (as much as anything I’ve written), and trusted that certain types of readers would enjoy it. Not with mass appeal, but maybe a quiet story for a sensitive, thoughtful reader. Thank you for being that good soul. May every writer be so lucky.
 
I remember working very hard on those last sentences, trying to make each word perfect, trying to write simply and with clarity, direct from the heart:
 
>> He didn’t know what would happen with Becka. Maybe that’s why he needed to be alone on the beach, to watch the sunrise, to be okay with himself, despite everything. Sometimes life seemed impossibly hard, full of car wrecks and souls that shined like stars in yellow dresses. So much heartbreak and undertow. Jude bent down, picked up a smooth white stone, measured its heft in his hand. And he reached back to cast that rock as far as he could.
 
Just to see the splash. <<
 
Thank you, Kylie. I’ll treasure your letter.
 
My best,
 
James Preller

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #254: In Which I Sign a Book as a Birthday Gift for Dad

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Welcome to Fan Mail Wednesday! We’re starting back up after taking it slow over the summer. Nobody reads blogs over the summer. I mean to say, nobody reads blogs, ever. But I persist because I am happy to do it and, hey, somebody might! You’re here, aren’t you?

Right? I mean: Somebody’s here. Hellllllooooo???

Anyway: Here’s a lovely exchange I had with Kayla, an old fan who is searching for the perfect gift . . . for her dear old dad. 

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Hi Mr. Preller!

 
My name is Kayla, and I am from Bloomington, Minnesota. Growing up, my dad and I read your Jigsaw Jones stories every night. Your stories were a huge part of my childhood through elementary school, I collected all of the stories, and they were lined up on my shelf in number order, my most prized possessions. Now I am 19 years old, and I can’t WAIT to bring my collection of all the Jigsaw mysteries to my future classroom with me!
 
I am emailing you specifically to ask about a signed copy of one of your books. My dad and I have some wonderful memories reading Jigsaw together, and I would love to be able to give him an autographed copy of one of the stories for his birthday. I was wondering where I could send my book/stamp to, and how much it would cost for you to sign it.
 
Thank you so, so much for your time! I hope to hear back from you soon.
 
Kayla
I replied:
 
Kayla,
 
Thanks for your sweet note.
 
There’s actually a new book out and I’d love to send you a signed copy, my treat. Just give me your address and your father’s name. I’m not awesome at going to the Post Office, but I’ll do my best.
 

JP

And Kayla answered:

That would be absolutely incredible!

5101AF-k+oL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_My dad’s name is Bob. If you would be so kind, would you address the mail to my name, as I don’t want him to open it until his birthday:) And my address is ____________, Bloomington MN, 55438
Thank you SO much! My dad is going to be so excited!
 –

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #238: Jasmina Has a Scary Idea

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Here we go . . .

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I replied:

Dear Jasmina,

It’s a mystery: Your letter is dated 9/30/16 but the envelope is postmarked 28 NOV 2016.

Did it take you that long to find a stamp?

Thanks for your letter. I’m always glad to hear from a “Scary Tales” fan.

YIKES!

YIKES!

I think you are right about clowns. There’s something inherently frightening about clowns. It’s the creepy makeup, right? The big feet? Just the insanity of anyone who’d dress up like that? The famous horror writer, Stephen King, famously conjured a truly scary clown character in his classic book for adults, It. Maybe there’s room for one for somewhat younger readers. I’ll think about it. Thanks for the (free) tip. Btw, if I do write the book, I’m not sharing the money, Jasmina!

To date, I’ve written six books in the “Scary Tales” series. I don’t know if there will be more or not; it’s up to the book-buying public, to be honest with you. I am planning a new thriller/scary story for middle grade readers, where I take the fear to a new level. With “Scary Tales,” I always had to hold back. With this one, I’m hoping to raise it a couple of notches. Tentative title: Blood Mountain.

Can you handle it?

Have a great holiday and a happy new year!

James Preller