Fan Mail Wednesday #99 (Friday Edition)

Wow, I am so busy I can’t believe it. I am still revising my new YA, going on school visits, brainstorming-slash-scribbling a first draft for a new MG novel (so excited about this one!), planning Skype visits, and, yes, reading and trying to answer fan mail. Very, very time-consuming.

I’ve also been slogging along with my new blog project, Fathers Read. I’ve been getting some fabulous, wonderful, incredible photos and now have a pretty impressive array. While I’m eager to get this new blog up and running, some minor technical difficulties have slowed me down. I’m shooting for early December.

In the meantime, check out this spectacular letter from a third-grader named Kate:

Dear James Preller,

I am a big fan of your Jigsaw Jones books. I even asked my friend if she wanted to be detectives in the color code at first she did not know what a color code was but then I told her what it is. My favorite Jigsaw Jones book is The Case of the Class Clown! I have probably read more than ten jigsaw jones books. Because the jigsaw jones books are so cool and when I read them it feels like I am in the book just watching it all. And because the words that you use are so clear that they paint very clear and very nice pictures in my head. I have a question where do you get all you ideas from? Did you ever want to be a detective when you were little or did someone else in your family want to? Please write back.

Your fan,


I replied:

Thanks for that beautiful note. I began to melt when you described how the words “paint very clear and very nice pictures” in your head. You have a gift for words, Kate. Keep on writing.

I think all good writers dream of achieving something like that, where the reader can see the story, like a movie playing inside your head. And we do that, I think, by writing clearly and directly and by using specific details. When we “show, don’t tell.” It’s something I work at very hard, though I don’t pretend to be some amazing, fantastic writer. I learn something new every day and try my best, always.

Hey, did you know that Class Clown is now a touring musical? With songs and everything! How crazy is that?! I don’t know where you live, but if you go here you can find out the current tour schedule.

My ideas come from a run-down, ramshackle store in Rutherford, New Jersey. Twice a year I travel by emu to . . .

No, not really.

Much of my writing springs from my life and my family experiences. I grew up the youngest of seven children, and now I have three children of my own. You know, it’s funny. I once imagined that writers had these amazing lives, full of adventure and exotic places. But I’ve learned that the real adventure is what goes on inside your head, and in the rumblings of your heart, and that we can write about the most ordinary details and somehow connect with thousands and thousands of readers.

And, okay, sure — sometimes I just MAKE THINGS UP!

I’m glad you liked the color code. What’s great about that code is that it’s so easy to invent new codes based on the same idea. Here’s a “clothes code” (just invented on the spot):

lazy frog socks your scarf email

photo pages silly underwear message black

pants made bag pizza puzzle troop

bird hat me underwater elbow mittens

super slim burp shirt happy bling!

I was never a detective like Jigsaw, though I spied on my brothers quite often and became very good at snooping around for presents during the holidays.

By the time Christmas came, I had usually discovered each of my presents — hidden in closets and under beds — and that always make the actual Christmas Day a little bit of a disappointment. I already knew what I was going to get!

My best,


P.S. Kate, you might be curious to see a video I made, where I answered a different piece of fan mail. Nice sweater, don’t you think?


  1. mvs says:

    It’s amazing how you find time to answer in such detail your fan mail. Keep rocking!

  2. jimmy says:

    This reminds me of the famous Mark Twain quote, “If I’d had more time, I’d have written a shorter letter.”

    Fan mail is a big topic, and a difficult one to be completely honest about, frankly. It can be time-consuming, disruptive, expensive, and a chore. And yet, and yet . . . it’s FAN MAIL . . . written to me. So I feel an absolute responsibility.

    At different times, some letters fall through the cracks. In the past, I tried creating the standard response, complete with the flyer, but it wasn’t satisfying to me. It felt like marketing when, I think, something more personal was in order. I even printed up 1,000 post cards at one time — and tossed most of them in the garbage. Just felt wrong.

    Part of my response to this dilemma has been the creation of this very blog. I don’t share all my fan mail, just a selection. So when I can give a more thoughtful response, I figured it was better to make my answer available to all rather than only one reader.

    When it comes to fan mail, I hope it comes through that I’m absolutely grateful. And honored. But I forever feel on the verge of having it all fall apart on me — so much guilt over late responses and, yes, the times when I’ve been unable to respond at all. I feel horrible when it gets away from me, but there’s only so much time in my work week.

    I know that more successful (financially) writers can afford an assistant who helps. I’m not in that position, so it falls on me, for better and for worse. I’ve always written these kinds of responses, it’s just that the blog allows me to share them from time to time.

    Thanks for noticing, MVS. I will endeavor to keep on rocking.

  3. Kate says:

    Dear JP,

    You are such a thoughful man for putting me on your blog. I was excited to get your email and I was excited to see that you put my letter on your blog. I got to see The play of the Class Clown last year on a field trip with my Mom and school. We saw it at the Dupont Play Theater in Delaware. It must be an honor for you to have these plays based on your books. I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving with your family. I can’t wait to show my teacher your blog and that you put my letter on it because she loves reading. Sincerely Your fan, Kate

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