Tag Archive for School-based stories

Fan Mail Wednesday #10

Wow, these Wednesdays sure do creep up on a guy? Here I am, literally minding my own business, when — DANG — up comes another Fan Mail Wednesday banging me upside the head. Whap, whap, whap.

Amazingly, fan mail-wise, I had a few choices this week. But still, nothing much from kids. I guess they are all at camp or something. Anyway, I’m not getting many questions to answer. So I apologize. We’ll just have to slog on in the wilderness until I receive some mail from actual young readers.

That said: Part of my thinking with this blog was to take it one day at a time, and try to reflect the day-to-day life of a “real, live” writer: what feeds it, what flows out, what comes back, what happens. You know, the grim reality of my sad existence on this scorched and bitter Earth. So, here’s an email I just received. It’s a kind note from the most important adult reviewing population out there, that’s right, a letter from the front lines — from an actual classroom teacher!

Dear Mr. James Preller,

Hello. I am a fifth grade teacher in New York City. I just finished reading your book “Along Came Spider.” I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward tousing it for a read aloud in the upcoming school year. I am always on the look out for new and interesting books and yours is both. I greatly appreciate that you went into classrooms and observed. It makes the characters and the setting much more genuine. The fact that the children keep writers notebooks and conference with the teacher makes the experience authentic for the reader and I know that my students will be able to relate. The character of Trey is very well crafted, you definitely researched behavior associated with Aspergers and Autism and it is reflected in the intelligent and observant nature of Trey. I want to compliment you on finding a way to familiarize students with the behaviors without making it something completely strange and odd. It is important that the developing generation be as familiar with the behaviors as educators have come to be. Ava is also a truly enjoyable and straight forward character. I always look for who the author has chosen to be the conscience or voice of reason in a book. It is rarely the main character otherwise there would be no drama or conflict. In the best written books, it is the voice that comes from the side. The one you almost ignore until they say what needs to be said. I thought the part where she told spider she thought he was Trey’s friend… her mistake, Trey is his friend was that small smart moment that teaches the reader what the author wants to say.

Congratulations on a well-written book that I am sure will be enjoyed by many readers in the years to come. Thank you.


I wrote back:

Robyn, please send me a mailing address, because you are this week’s lucky winner! I have a garage full of Ultra SilverSteel Kenmore Freestanding Gas Ranges — with 12,000 BTU power burners, an extra large window, and easy-to-clean cooktop features — and I’m going to ship one to your house just as soon as I can locate my cousin Earl, buy him a fresh case of Rolling Rock, and gas-up his pickup truck!

Congratulations. And look for Earl’s pickup truck in your driveway sometime during the next two weeks.


Okay, for real, that’s not what I wrote to Robyn. What I replied was personal and none of your business. But I just love the idea of sending my blog readers free home appliances. Imagine Earl’s battered, mustard-colored pickup truck pulling up to the house: “Robyn, honey? You better get on out here double-quick. There’s a delivery man here named Earl and he’s got some papers for you to sign.” Sigh, it’s my great longing. I want to be the only children’s author who gives away Kenmore Gas Ranges. Is that too much to ask? A fella can dream, can’t he? Otherwise, I mean, why write? Why be in this business at all?