Tag Archive for James Preller Skype

Still Accepting (and Enjoying!) Skype Visits

I recently Skyped with this wonderful group of students and, toward the end, snapped a few photos of my computer screen. These young people were impressive in every way: great demeanor, attentive and courteous, insightful questions, joyful vibe. It felt good all the way through, a true pleasure. This 6th-grade class is taught by the most excellent Ms. Kramer, and the Skype was arranged by Barbara Scott, from PA’s Waldron Mercy Academy. They were especially interested in hearing about my plans for a sequel to Bystander

No, it’s not finished yet. Hang in there.

I enjoy Skyping. Typically I accept a modest (negotiable) honorarium. The conversations run for 30 minutes and employ a simple Q & A format. My strong preference is to work with a group that has read the same book, to give our conversation shape and focus. I’ve Skyped about Bystander, The Courage Test, Jigsaw Jones, Scary Tales and more.

So far, because it’s new, no Skypes yet on Blood Mountain. Boy, I’d love to have that conversation. Just zing me an email and we’ll figure it out.

I was glad to receive a follow-up note from Barb shortly after the visit: “Thank you for such an interesting and engaging Skype visit with our students. They truly enjoyed it, and they are not an easy group to please!”

The feeling is mutual, and I’m not so easy to please, either. Who wants to be “easy to please” anyway? 

Here’s those terrific kids again, waving good-bye . . .



FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #265: After the Skype

Fresh from my Skype visit, I received this kind note from North Carolina, which is an actual state in the United States.
Thanks again for the wonderful Skype session today!  My classes had some great discussions about the responses that you gave to their questions!  It was an incredible experience for them, and me!
I would love to purchase a Bystander poster.  Please let me know if you have such a thing to offer.
I finished The Fall today.  I loved it, too!  I ordered The Bell Jar because I am very curious after you referenced it several times in the text. 
I am attaching a photo from our session today.  Our media specialist may have more, but this is the only one that she sent me.
IMG_1672 (1)
I am looking forward to ordering your latest book!   Also, my students are begging me to read The Fall to them.  I have asked our guidance counselor to read it first to make sure that she thought it would be ok as a read aloud.  It obviously touches on a more sensitive topic than Bystander. It will definitely be made available for checkout to my students either way.
Thanks so much! 

I replied . . .

Dear Susan,

Thank you for this note and the photo. Was I really that dark during the Skype? Or is it just the photo? I wonder if I should focus on proper lighting in the future.
I enjoyed the questions and the experience, thank you for making it happen.
9781250090546.IN01I appreciate your thoughts on The Fall. I understand where suicide is a sensitive issue, and should give any educator pause before sharing the book with a large group. However, The Fall was (loosely) inspired by real events. These terrible things happen. The book is not really “about” the suicide, but goes deeper into the potential implications of cyberbullying, i.e., how we treat each other. Honestly, for me, the deepest theme in the book is forgiveness.
I’m proud of that book and know that many readers, generally grades 7-up, have been enthusiastic about it. The book was nominated for the Sakura Medal in Japan and listed in the 2017 ALA midwinter meetings (by YALSA) as a “quick pick” for reluctant readers.
If this is any help, I’ve listed some review comments below.
“Readers will put this puzzle together, eager to see whether Sam ultimately accepts his role in Morgan’s death, and wanting to see the whole story of what one person could have, and should have, done for Morgan. Pair this with Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why (2007).” — Booklist.
“Told through journal entries, Preller’s latest novel expertly captures the protagonist’s voice, complete with all of its sarcasm, indifference, and, at the same time, genuine remorse.” — School Library Journal.
“With its timely, important message and engaging prose style, Sam’s journal ought to find a large readership.” (Fiction. 10-16) — Kirkus.
 “It was 2:55 am as I finally gave up on the notion of sleep.  Having started reading THE FALL by James Preller earlier in the day, I knew sleep would not come until I had finished Sam’s story.  Now, having turned the last page, it still haunts me and will for quite some time.”Guys Lit Wire.
“I didn’t realize the emotional impact this book had on me until the very last sentence when it brought tears to my eyes. This was a heartbreaking and beautiful story about friendship, bullying, and the aftermath of all of it.” — Expresso Reads.
Thank you, I hope our paths cross again.
James Preller
And yes, Dear Readers, there’s even a postscript — because Susan wrote back with this . . .
I agree with everything that you said about The Fall.  Our guidance counselor is halfway through it and says that she absolutely loves it!  We both agree that it does not focus on the actual suicide.  The theme of forgiveness, as well as students realizing what could possibly happen as a result of bullying is very powerful.
My students are begging me to read it, so I feel almost certain that it will happen!
Thanks again for being so approachable!  We met with a parent this morning and all she said her son was talking about last night was the SKYPE with you!  This is such a powerful opportunity for our students, and I feel very fortunate that I was able to make it happen!

Fan Mail Wednesday #164: Too Regular?

I might be going back to the same well too often here, but this brief follow-up from a recent Skype session cracked me up. There’s no reply from me worth reading, just the letter.

I occurs to me: maybe I’m doing the “just a regular guy” thing a little too convincingly? Could I be too regular?

I think I’m going to have to reverse direction and cultivate an aura of “specialness.” Talk about how my books are like my children (no, they are not), how they write themselves (no, I do all the work, thank you very much), and various other quasi-mystical notions about sitting in a chair and doing a job.

Next Skype, I’ll wear a cape and hold a live ferret on my lap.

Dear Mr. Preller,

I am a 6th grade Language Arts teacher at PVMS. We recently watched you Skype live with our school. It was amazing! The kids loved your personality and said things like, “He’s just a regular guy.” 🙂 This lead to a discussion about how ANYONE can be an author, including them! Of course I’ve been trying to tell them this forever, but apparently they didn’t believe it until meeting you!  The book is great, and we really enjoyed it. It brings the bystander into the spotlight, which these kids needed. However, the best part for me, as a writing teacher, and avid reader, was that moment when they realized they could do it too. So thank you for that! The real reason for my email is that my students all signed a thank you card for you, and I need an address to send it to. Do you have a P.O. Box perhaps? Thank you again for taking the time to inspire future authors!


The Perils of Skype: There’s the Giant “Oz Head,” for Starters

Let’s start with the horror:

Run for the hills, people.

On a Thursday morning in late November, I Skyped with students in Pine View Middle School, somewhere in Florida. The basic setup was that a small number of students gathered in the media room to ask The Great Oz Head a variety of excellent questions. Once it was established that no, in fact, I had no idea how to return them to Kansas, we talked for about 30 minutes about writing and my book, Bystander, which was read by all the language arts classes in the school, grades 6-8.

The program — that is, my enormous Oz Head — was televised live into 80% of the classrooms. The rest, I’m told, viewed the recorded presentation. In all, the Skype reached a population of 900 students. Crazy, I know.

At the risk of blowing my own horn, the reviews were good. Martha Ann Winterroth, who helped pull it all together, wrote to me with a curious follow-up question:

“Awesome!!!” “I LOVED it!!” Those are a couple of comments from the students as we disconnected from you!! It truly was an extremely successful Skype with you. However, there was one question that did not get asked that we would LOVE for you to (briefly) answer for us:

In chapter 27, did you intentionally have Mr. Scofield direct Eric to page 116 so that the reader would go back to that page and read about the quote from MLK (“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”)?

Thanks again.  We appreciate your time and knowledge and words of wisdom.  It is something that these kids will remember for a long, long time!
My interrogators. Not sure if the word “enthralled” leaps to mind.
Well, that was nice to read. I’m trying to relax with Skype, keep it loose and — I guess the word is —  authentic. I just want to be a regular guy, talking clearly and honestly. (That’s my gimmick!) Anyway, in answer to the above question, I had no idea what they were talking about. Yes, on page 116, Mr. Scofield does introduce the quote from Martin Luther King, thus:
“What’s this got to do with us?” a boy asked.

“Everything,” the teacher answered. “It’s about having the courage to do the right thing.”

The bell rang. Eric grabbed his books and headed for the door. Mr. Scofield pointed to a photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. that had been tacked to the bulletin board. “King called it ‘the appaling silence.'”
Scofield was on his feet now, still teaching even after the bell, still declaiming quotes. “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Strange guy, that Scofield. A little hyper sometimes. But the image stuck in Eric’s head like a dart to a wall: a man attached to wires, pounding on walls, pleading, “Stop, somebody please, make them stop.” It was hard to pretend that the wires were not, in some strange inexplicable way, connected to him.
The famous Milgram Experiment, which is discussed
in the book during Mr. Scofield’s English class.
So then I turned to Chapter 27. Toward the end, Eric is distracted, thinking about Griffin and Cody and Eric’s stolen bicycle. Mr. Scofield tells Eric to turn to page one hundred and sixteen, please. A number that was a total coincidence, believe me. I wish I was smart enough to dream up that stuff! My compliments to whomever figured out that connection. It’s an impressive example of close reading and attention to detail.

I received another note, this one from Jamie, who first contacted me for a potential school visit.

Thanks so much for taking the time to Skype with us. The kids loved it! Not only were the students talking to you enthralled, but so was the entire school while they watched it! We now have a celebrity among us! Also, thank you for writing the book! As you know it was a school-wide initiative to have students become more aware of that bystander role. I, as an English teacher, loved how you showed them your “sloppy copy” of your books! You were fantastic!


For more on the Milgram experiment . . .

. . . click here.