Archive for Fan Mail

Fan Mail #319: Loren Uses SOOOOOO Many O’s!

 

Here’s a nice letter from Loren in Delaware — but wait, hold up. First I want to say that this is the time of year when I usually don’t post as regularly. I have a couple of interviews in the works, and several new books coming up, but nothing feels super urgent. I don’t post all the fan mail that I receive, just the special ones. Like Loren’s. As always, I am immensely grateful to every teacher, librarian, and adult who helps put my books in the hands of young readers. Thank you. 

 

 

Dear Loren, 

Thank you for your enthusiastic letter. 

I counted 16 o’s when you wrote that you love my books “soooooooooooooooo much.”

Why not 17? Did your hand cramp up?

The Case of Hermie the Missing Hamster was the first Jigsaw Jones book I wrote — and it’s still by far the most popular. Unfortunately, it’s out of print now (meaning: it’s hard to find, and never in bookstores). I’ve tried to bring it back, but publishing is a strange world. 

The good news, part 1: You’ve already read it!

The good news, part 2: There are still 14 other Jigsaw Jones titles available in stores and online. Either new books or newly revised and updated. So if you are looking to spend big money, Loren, hey, there’s your chance.

The good news, part 3: You can usually find them for FREE at your local public library.

The good news, part 4: A couple of years ago, I made a series of FIVE VIDEOS on Youtube where I read the entire book. You should check ‘em out! So even if readers can’t find Hermie, they can still HEAR it on Youtube. 

 

I’m glad you mentioned liking the scene in the pet store. To write that scene, I had to do some research. Can you guess? I found a pet store that sold snakes and other animals. I went to it, walked around, asked questions, and took lots of notes. In the back, I saw a cage full of monkeys. And guess what? They were all wearing diapers!

Ha, ha, ha. I had to put that in my book!

Silly monkeys.

Thanks again for your terrific letter,

James Preller

Fan Mail Wednesday #318: Jigsaw Jones & the New York Mets

 

Here we go — an exceedingly kind letter from Matthew in Connecticut! He’s so nice, he says it twice. We bond over grape juice, holidays, and the New York Mets. 

I replied . . .

 

Dear Matthew, 

You write a very fine letter, my friend. Thank you for that. I’m glad to read that you are a “big reader” of my Jigsaw Jones books. 

However, it made me a little bit sad to learn that you zipped through The Case of the Haunted Scarecrow in only one hour. Rats. It took me a lot longer than that to write it!

It’s interesting that you noticed that you shared similarities with Jigsaw. You both like the New York Mets, grape juice, and holidays. Guess what? Me, too!

While Jigsaw is not exactly me, James Preller, we do have a lot in common. We’re both the youngest in large families. My grandmother lived with us when I was growing up —- just like Jigsaw’s. And our grandmothers both had false teeth they kept in a glass at night! Yuck.

My mother was a huge Mets fan, so I followed right along. True story: When I was in 3rd grade, one day I was allowed to skip school to go see the New York Mets. The next day, I was extremely worried that my teacher, Miss Thompson, would be angry. You can’t miss school to watch a baseball game! But instead, she came to my desk with a big smile and said, “Lucky you! That must have been so exciting to see a World Series game!”

And that part is true, too, Matthew. The year was 1969 and I was there at Shea Stadium for Game 5 of the World Series —- the game when the New York Mets won it all! I still remember that game vividly. I kept score in the scorebook, which I still have (somewhere). The fans swarmed the field and dug up tufts of grass to bring home as souvenirs. 

Our seats were at the tippy top. The very last row. There was no way we were climbing all the way down into that crazy scene. When the Mets were losing 3-0, I’m pretty sure that a tear or two fell from my eyes. Those Mets —- they can still make me cry. Or at least pull the hair out of my head!

I’ve included a few baseball cards for you. Consider it a gift for being such a terrific reader. After all, we Mets fans have to stick together.

My best,

James Preller

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #317: “Guess I’ll Go Eat Worms!”

Sometimes a letter from a reader makes me pick up an old book, leaf through the pages. Often there’s a surprise. This one reminded of a song we used to sing long ago on the Adelphi Road of my childhood. 
Hello my name is Ali and ı am 10 years old, I read your book the mummy mystery and I want to give my opinion:
The book was great because they have to find the mummy mystery and they never heard any mummies in their neighborhood. My favorite character was joey because he was so brave and smart but he was a child and a detective he could find and clue for the missing things. Thats why I loved your book.
I replied . . . 

Ali,
Thank you for your kind note. It is a gift to me — to hear what a reader like you thinks about one of my books. 
I’m glad that you enjoyed Jigsaw Jones: The Case of the Mummy Mystery
As a little boy, my brothers used to sing that song to me: 
“Nobody likes me,
Everybody hates me,
Guess I’ll go eat worms.
First you peel the skin off,
then you chew the guts up,
Ooey-gooey woooorms!”
I always remembered that (gross) song. Years later, when it was time to write this book, I decided to put that song into it. That’s how writing often works for me. The small memories, the little events, the details of our lives help us compose the stories that make sense of our past. 
Keep reading!
James Preller
And Ali wrote back with a correction . . . 
I am so excited to receive a response back from you, I never thought I would get a reply from the author of the book I read! I am thrilled! 
I am really glad that you liked my opinion. I had some mistakes in the email I sent. My favorite character was Jigsaw but i accidentally wrote Joey.
Kind regards,
Ali 

Sweet Note from a “Retired” Teacher: (I Don’t Think the Good Ones Ever Really Retire)

This sweet note, out of the blue, made me feel better about everything. 

 

Good morning James,
I had written to you last year regarding word choice in one of your books. I have recently retired and subbing one day a week. My task is to buy books and target reluctant readers. I thought I’d share with you my growing collection. The students are really enjoying them.
Thank you,
C

Fan Mail Wednesday #316: Eight Questions from an Old Fan

You never know what’s going to be in ye olde in-box. In this case, more sophisticated questions and, in return, more realistic answers. 

 

Michael writes . . .

Growing up I was a big fan of your Jigsaw Jones books. I can’t remember when I last read them, but I’ve never forgotten them! I am currently enrolled in an English Capstone college course that features an assignment for me to interview someone with an English-related occupation, and my mind jumped to authors, which then jumped to you. If you are willing to answer a few questions within the next couple days, I’d greatly appreciate it. If you do not wish to or are unavailable after Wednesday, no worries. Thank you very much for your writings and I hope this message finds you well.

 

I replied . . . 
Sure, let’s see what you’ve got. Obviously if it’s too many questions, under a tight deadline, that’s not going to work.
Michael again . . .
I appreciate your interest! To make it easier, as the professor okay’d the e-mail method, I will send you the questions here and you may answer them at any time, at any length you wish. Here’s what I have:
1) What is your favorite aspect of your job?
2) What is the biggest con about your job?
3) What traits or skill would be most useful for someone or desirable for someone entering the field you are in?
4) What was the deciding factor for you in choosing this career over other ones?
5) What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing the career you are in?
6) What is a typical work day like for you?
7) Did you find unexpected barriers in pursuing your work and / or communicating with others in the field?
8) Is there anything you would have done differently in preparing for your career?
Please take your time, and whenever you can respond is excellent. I am eager to learn about you and your field! Thank you very much!
My reply . . .


1. The writing, when it is going well. There’s a lot about the business that is wonderful and parts that are heartbreaking and awful. The act of creating is the thing that pulls me back every time. It’s the core of what I do. The pleasure and satisfaction of making things, of self-expression, of putting something out into the world that would never exist without me.

2. The biggest con? Oh, gosh. The financial insecurity.
3. Talent. To do this job, you have to believe that good work will find a way.
4. It wasn’t a cold analytical decision. Certainly not a “reasonable” one. I’ve always believed in following your enthusiasms, trusting your enthusiasms, and that worthy considerations such as benefits and a solid health plan never entered into it. I wanted to do something that I loved. You don’t really go into it as “a career,” so much as you try to do this one thing in front of you, then the next, then the next, etc. For me, it started with a love of books and writing that has never let go. Not to be over-dramatic about it, or too self-regarding, but writing well — for years and years and years — is extremely hard and not always rewarding. You have to pick yourself up off the floor a lot.
5. Know that it’s going to be difficult and uncertain, that you’ll most likely need to make money another way. I’d advise doing it on the side until you are firmly established. Get a good job. Or, hey, partner up with a lawyer! OTOH, I think there’s a period — oh, youth! — when you should pursue your dreams to the fullest with total commitment. But there may be a point when you realize that you’ll never play shortstop for the Yankees. It’s good to have some kind of backup plan.
6. Desk, laptop, normal hours.
7. Being a mid-list author with a proven track record — quality work, solid working relationships, hitting deadlines — all the stuff that comes with being “a pro” — can become a negative at a certain point. I didn’t expect that. You are clearly not the Next Big Thing. The numbers don’t lie. In our culture, we tend to discard too easily and are forever chasing after the Next Big Thing.
8. I am not positive that I should have done this at all, at least as a primary job. Might have been a mistake. But here we are, feels like it’s too late now. The final chapters haven’t been written yet.
James Preller
Art by R.W. Alley.