Tag Archive for James Preller photo

Author Meets Reader: A Photo and a Thank You

Book store signings strike me as things of the past, except for the isolated few big names in our business who don’t seem to need the boost at all. Lives are busy, schedules conflict, and most of the public’s attention goes only to the best & the biggest who sit atop the cultural pyramid. Who seriously has time to be at a bookstore at 1:00 on a Saturday?

I mean to say: they can be depressing if you aren’t prepared for the inevitable disappointment. 

For punishment, I was forced to stare at a prominent, centrally-located, in-store display of the new children’s book by by literary lion Matthew McConaughey.

I mean to say: This is Gemma and she traveled a good distance to meet me at a bookstore in Schenectady. It’s not nothing. In fact, it’s a lot more than nothing.

She first encountered me on a Zoom thing that Scholastic created around Jigsaw Jones: The Case from Outer Space. She came hoping to buy more Jigsaw Jones titles — there are 14 currently available — but alas, there were none in the store. Sigh, oh sigh. Gemma rallied, however, and grabbed Exit 13: The Whispering Pines. She would not be denied and her mom, from what I could gather, was constitutionally unable to say “no” to a book. 

Thank you, Gemma!

The Author in 7th Grade

I’m wearing my favorite “Wantagh Grapplers” sweatshirt with the sweet cut-off sleeves and Incredible Hunk visuals. 

Do I look tough? I might have thought so at the time.

I wrestled for one year at 92 pounds, did okay, and that was that. 

Yes, a lot of hair.

I’m exactly twice that kid’s size today.

Authors in Support of Ronald McDonald House Charities

I had the privilege of participating in an event at the Little Book House in support of the important work performed by Ronald McDonald House in the Capital Region. Having long been on the receiving end of their generous giving, I was only too glad to be there.

Five other local writers — all new to me — were very, very impressive: debut author Emma Kress (Dangerous Play); debut author E.L. Shen (The Comeback); YA debut author Jennifer Dugan (Hot Dog Girl); Janine Cammarata (The Puzzle Quest series); and Michael Burns (Nervous Rex). There’s something about a debut author that touches my heart, all the talent and innocence and excitement right at the moment before the publishing industry grinds them down to dust! Local teachers & librarians, please look out for those books.

Special thanks to Nancy Damato for spearheading this lovely event. Also, thank you to Susan Novotny of The Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, for hosting us with charm and grace. 

Photo: Hey, It Was the 70s

A classic photo from 1974. I am 13 years old, wearing borrowed clothes for my brother John’s wedding. 

The wallpaper, the lamp, the hair, the lapels, the wide tie, it’s all there. 

I sometimes show this photo on middle school visits in support of my somewhat dubious claim that I’m an ex-kid myself. 

 

 

 

 

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #312: Follow-Up Questions After a Zoom Visit

Ye Olde Fan Mail Wednesday has been quiet of late for an assortment of reasons, including summer — all exaggerated by Covid. This past week I thoroughly enjoyed a  Zoom visit with 6th-graders who all read Bystander over the summer. The class was impressive, prepared, and focused. A pleasure all around. At the end of the visit, we still hadn’t gotten to all the questions. I agreed to answer the remaining questions via email. 

Here are the questions . . .

Good morning! I hope you had a great weekend. Here are some follow up questions from my students. Thank you again!

1. After Upstander, will you consider making a trequal?
2. Do you see yourself in any of the characters and why?

3. Is there anything you would want to change about the book? 

4. Do any of the characters/events relate to an event/thing that happened to you/others.
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5. Do you get unmotivated when writing books? If so, how do you get motivated again.? 
6. When Griffin and David were talking in the book, were they able to connect because of any similar or shared experiences?
Thank you so much.
Alex

I replied . . .

I want to begin by thanking you for that Zoom visit the other day. I don’t often get the opportunity to do a deep dive on my books, and it’s a pleasure to talk thoughtfully about the art & craft & intentions that go into a work of fiction. 
We ran out of time and you still had a few questions. Let’s do this.
Would I consider writing another sequel to Bystander? Yes, if the market was there —- meaning if my publisher believed it was worth putting out, i.e., that they’d make money doing so. With Upstander, I began by thinking of it not as a “longer” story, but as a “larger” one. A bigger canvas. Everyone has stories. By focusing on Mary’s story, it gave me a glimpse into how to enlarge the canvas even further to accommodate future narratives. If there’s another book in the world of this middle school, I think it should be about Griffin. Honestly, I think Upstander has to sell enough to encourage my publisher, Macmillan, to keep going with it. I don’t control that stuff, I can only put it out into the universe and hope that readers will find my books in a crowded, cluttered world. 
Do I see myself in any of the characters? Well, yeah, sure. The writer Eudora Welty had a good line about this. She said, “In fiction, while we do not necessarily write about ourselves, we write out of ourselves, using ourselves.; what we learn from, what we are sensitive to, what we feel strongly about —- these become our characters and go to make our plots.” I really couldn’t say it better than that. There’s a part of me in every character, each one grew out of me. But as I’ve developed as a writer, across many years, I’ve learned to give those characters the space to be Not-Me, Not-Jimmy, and become their own fictional selves.
Would I like to change anything about the book? No, not really. Which is not to suggest that I think it’s flawless. Far from it. But I’ve learned to let it go, allow it to exist as it exists, and move forward. I don’t linger and look back too often. I did like how with Upstander I was able to add a new wrinkle to the ending, Eric’s wish for his father in the stands. While his exact wish doesn’t come true (at least so far, in the written record), now there is at least someone there for him, cheering. It pleases me when the two books “talk” to each other.
Do events/characters relate to specific events in my life? Yes and no. I mean, yes, of course, it all grows from my life experiences. For example: I was once mugged in NYC and when the thieves handed back my wallet —- sans money, of course —- I actually said, “Thank you.” What a well-mannered dope! I took that emotion and gave it to Eric on the basketball court, when Griffin returned his ball. But, again, this is important: readers seem to want to be able to trace these direct lines from real life to fiction. But I think when you are fully successful with a fictional story, those sources become obscured, more hidden, the lines disappear, and the characters operate fully in their own fictional world. 
Do I get unmotivated? Oh, yes, it’s a recurring problem. Sometime the problem is the idea, that I’m not ready to write it, or that my idea lacks layers, depth: something, in short, is missing. Another problem for me is audience. That nagging doubt that no one really cares whether I write another book or not. And I guess the answer to that is . . . so what. I’ll do it anyway. I’ll create something for the sake of the story, for the satisfaction of making something and putting it out into the world. Something that nobody else in the world could make. Would I love to be super popular, the worth breathless in anticipation for my next book? I think so, yeah. But in the absence of that, somehow I still have to keep going, keep writing. Write the poem, paint the picture, sing the song. There’s joy there, and happiness, and personal fulfillment —- regardless of audience or “acclaim” or awards or any outside approval. I find that to write requires a gathering of energy, enthusiasm. When that’s not there, the writing doesn’t go well. Sadly, I don’t know how to bottle it.
Regarding David and Griffin, that’s an interesting question. How were they able to connect? To be honest, I don’t think that I examined their relationship that deeply. To me, I saw it as Griffin, the manipulator, using David for his own purposes. David was a puppet on strings. As to why David allowed this to happen, I think it goes back to his desperate longing to fit in, for approval at almost any cost. That’s a dangerous place to be, the quality that made him vulnerable. And because Griffin is such a smart, perceptive guy, he recognized that vulnerability in David and used it.
Ah, I think that covers it. I just wrote almost a thousand words to you guys. You are probably sleeping already! Forgive me, I realize that I replied with a high-level of sophistication. I’d probably answer much in the same way to college freshman. I figure you are smart and should be treated that way. Have a good school year — and if any of you read Upstander, please feel free to write and let me know. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.
My best, 
James Preller
For Zoom visits,
educators and reading groups
may contact me directly
at Jamespreller@aol.com.
-NOT