Talk to DP Forum

Jenny

August 5, 2017

I just wanted to let you know how much my two boys and I enjoy The Neddiad. I think this is our third time listening to the audio version. We checked it out from the library last summer and my 11 year old wanted to listen to again this summer. The story is fantastic and listening to Mr. Pinkwater read the book is amazing. He has the perfect voice for the story.

Daniel replies:

This is cool. Apparently there's an audio edition of The Neddiad, and I was the reader. I'm glad you-all enjoyed it.

Jason Gay

August 2, 2017

dear Mr P,

My son and I are totally hooked on Irving and Muktuk. We love them even if they are recidivist criminals

The books are incredibly sly and droll and funny and we laugh out loud.

We had a question if you think Bad Bears should be read in order, and if so, what is the proper order?

Jason and Jesse

Daniel replies:

I guess IRVING AND MUKTUK, TWO BAD BEARS, then BAD BEARS IN THE BIG CITY, and after that the other...how many are there, three?...in any order at all. I assume you know of the Larry books about a decent, more or less law-abiding polar bear, do you not? Irving and Muktuk make some appearances. Those go YOUNG LARRY; AT THE HOTEL LARRY, and the rest of the series is the usual chaos.

Paul Kleiner

July 24, 2017

Hello Mr. Pinkwater. I am writing to let you know that, after a long spiral, my aspiring writing career has come full circle. When I was about 11, I purchased Four Fantastic Novels at a Barnes and Noble because A: my dad liked your books and B: I thought you looked kind of funny in the sunglasses. I read the four novels back to back in a few days. Thereafter, I would read them every six months or so, until they really sunk into my mind. For the next several years, I would read sci fi and horror, mostly Philip K. Dick and Lovecraft. My brain was filled with horrible creatures and dangerous inventions. I read some history too. At 16 I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder during my second hospitalization. It is a mix of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. My world was darker. Fast forward five years. I'm now 21 and attending a summer program at Oxford in England, taking a creative writing course. For summer reading, I had to go through dozens of short stories about class consciousness, divorce, and so on, all very subtle and to me, very boring. I was given a one sentence prompt about a train pulling into a station, and the station having tomatoes stacked in crates. I had to write the first page of a story that follows that sentence. Rather than focus on the train, I focused on the tomatoes, and introduced the Tomato-Men, a secret international agency dedicated to concealing the existence of, fighting, and understanding evil tomatoes which control the minds of humans. They dispatch the tomatoes with a special syringe, causing them to shoot up into space, from whence they came. As I developed it, it occurred to me that this reads like my impression of a Daniel Pinkwater story. The next day my friend, who is an aspiring illustrator and creative collaborator, asked my if I wanted to write a collection of short stories for her to edit and illustrate. I said yes, and then I asked if they could be for young adults. My life has been dark enough. I've taken some serious knocks. My sister has too, and my mom, and my dad, and the few relatives I have left who are alive. I don't really know if the world needs more dark writing. But it does lighthearted, good natured, fun writing. It needs more stories like Borgel. What it doesn't need is an author trying to copy someone else. But for me, your work is a starting point, a rough base that I can venture off from. I apologize for any weak writing here – I have lots of work to do today, and after watching a dark movie for school and preparing to write an essay about the Holocaust, my mind drifted to Borgel for refuge. Thank you, Mr. Pinkwater, for writing young adult fiction so respectable and fun that five years down the road it is probably my biggest creative influence. (again, sorry if there are punctuation errors – I really ought to have gone back to my essay fifteen minutes ago!)

Daniel replies:

I don't really know what a creative writing program might be like, having never gone anywhere near one, but based on what others have described, and my own surmise, I think it might be fairly dangerous...and such a thing conducted at the World's Fanciest University would be very dangerous indeed. This is where having schizoaffective disorder might come in handy...you've seen worse. I'm not sure what you mean by the world possibly not needing more dark writing, or not needing an author trying to copy someone else. I suppose it's possible for a writer to be concerned with the world's needs, but certainly that writer is not me. In fact, when I get a letter like yours, someone telling me how my work has had meaning in his/her life, my first reaction is to think, "You do realize I didn't have you in mind at all, and if there's meaning in the work...and I'm not claiming there is...you don't know what it may be, and the meaning you derived is meaning you supplied yourself. Bravo! You are a creative reader!" An essay on the Holocaust?! Good God, give me a break! Please tell the pipsqueak conducting this course, for me, that s/he is a pipsqueak.

You do not need to justify your inclination to write with a young reader in mind. It's nothing to do with whether the world needs more or less, lighter or darker--it's just what you need to write. The young reader is you, of course--same as with every writer. If you feel you have a tendency to imitate me it's probably because that young reader responded to my stuff a few years ago...it's unlikely yours will be much like mine, and the differences will increase as you refine and indulge the luxury of custom-crafting fiction for your very own self. Above all, enjoy yourself! There is not one single thing to recommend writing as an occupation other than it's just so much fun.

Sally Fisher

July 9, 2017

I admire your books and enjoyed your reviews on NPR! I want to pass this story on to you. It is from my friend Tinka Slavicek, a Croatian puppet builder and puppeteer (from Zagreb) who now lives in London. It's about her son, nicknamed "Noosh." Here it is:

Perhaps I'll just tell you the story, out of the blue. It's actually not so much out of the blue, because I've been wanting to tell you that story for a while now. It is inspired by the picture book Big Orange Splot, the one I first saw amongst your picture book collection, and then got it for myself. Then Noosh re-discovered it, an

Daniel replies:

d it is one of his favourite picture books. The story took place a while ago, when Noosh was about 3 years old and we just red Big Orange Splot for the first few times. And then, on one occasion, we were painting, and after that I left some green paint in the kitchen, thinking I'll wash the pots later. I went off to do something else somewhere else...and on my return I found my son who climbed up and was happily engrossed in painting kitchen top in green. 'Nooo!!!', I yelled. 'What on Earth have you done!' I didn't know weather I'll ever be able to wash the paint off the wooden kitchen top, and I also wasn't sure our landlord will like the idea of green kitchen... Noosh was not used on me yelling at him, I hardly ever do it. He got really upset and was yelling himself too. I went even further, and asked him: 'Was this nice, to make such a mess in the kitchen?' 'Yes! Yes, it was nice!', he was crying inconsolable. I realised I went a bit too far, and gave him a hug. We were both crying and hugging. Few days later, Noosh asked me to read him Big Orange Splot again. When I came to an end of the story, my son said: 'See, that's how I wanted our kitchen%u200B to be colourful, like Mr. Plumbsby's house, but you got angry. Now just tell me - why?' I was speachles for a bit. Then I said that now I understand what he was up to. He asked me weather we'd be able to have a house that we can paint as colourful as we want... I said yes, we'll have a house that we can paint like rainbow if we wanted to...it might be a very tiny house, but still, we'll paint it in anything we want. If nothing else works, I was thinking, we can get a little shed and paint it in all the colours. Thanks for sharing Tinka's story. It always surprises me when I learn that someone, (in this instance, Noosh), has internalized something I wrote, and added personal meaning to my story. I think this may be how art of all kinds works...the artist may have something in mind, or as in my case, nothing in mind, and the reader or viewer or listener, makes a connection and creates something.

Nick Humez

June 30, 2017

I just came upon, and devoured, "The Education of Robert Nifkin." What surprised me is that while virtually all characters in this appear to be fictional, Clifton Fadiman was a very real fellow (indeed, as a lad I read his Mathematical Magpie anthology just a few years after it was published). Of course, fiction often contains cameos of real-world historical figures, but in this case the portrait is less than adulatory. What's up here?

(I see by a site search that my query about Fadiman has already been raised and partially answered — but only partially. Why recast Fadiman in so unprepossessing a light? That seems odd to me.)

P.s. My introduction to your work was via Lizard Music — still one of my all-time favorites several decades and multiple rereadings later.

Daniel replies:

First of all, how do you know whether virtually all the characters are fictional? Second, it is possible to have the same name and not be the same person. (And, I don't definitely remember, but I think the phrase, "no relation," may appear in the book). Thank you for devouring it. (For your further information, I was...well, I won't say a fan, but an appreciator of the widely known Clifton Fadiman. My identically named character is also a favorite of mine, but for quite different reasons.)

Fred

June 30, 2017

alan mendelsohn boy from mars is one of my childhood favorites. Now I
am closing in on 50, I still remember being that awkward kid in middle
school.

Daniel replies:

You're welcome. When I started writing books like that I thought maybe I'd do two or three, and then move on to something else--as all the awkward kids in middle school would have been served. What I didn't understand was that everybody was an awkward kid in middle school!

Aaron Mason

June 23, 2017

Finally got to visit Hoboken. The Clam Broth House sign is still there and has been re-lit so that was fun. The restaurant (or its replacement (called Biggie's)) is still there too. Thanks for the referral even if it wasn't intended to be. Had the steamer clams. They were absolutely fantastic. Went to the Lakawana RR ferry and train terminal – it probably looks a lot the same as when you frequented the neighborhood. It was a wonderful day thanks to your memoirs or the version of them that made it into the books. Thanks for the stories. It was well worth the trip. It is still a lovely place. You can walk along the riverfront and be with people and hit up food trucks or look at Manhattan from a safe distance, and just have a generally wonderful time. Just in case you haven't been by in a while, Hoboken is still wonderful. And boy those clams are a treat!

Daniel replies:

Oh, those steamers (also called soft shell, and steamboat). I don't suppose the men-only bar with the swinging doors, and free clam broth (also free lunch with purchase of a 15 cent beer) is still there. I'm not really sure those clams are safe to eat--although I've eaten enough of them to have possibly built up an immunity to clam fever. Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Stephen Foster, Willem de Kooning, Oscar Wilde, Blind Tom Wiggins, and actually every great and famous person in the last 150 years visited that bar, and now you have!

John Bourke

June 23, 2017

I've only just learned of Mr. Pinkwater – we just lost one of our Huskies to an aggressive cancer. I've written doggie stories before and posted them online to share, but was told by friends to 1) go find and read Mr. Pinkwater's works, particularly about his malamute Arnold (my wife & I have had 2 malamutes), and 2) see if he has any advice about how to approach writing some of these for publication instead of blogs.

I don't know if he has any potential speaking appearances in or near Boston MA or near Norwalk CT, but would love to buy a round of coffee (or tea, or dog biscuits) to spend a few minutes with him and introduce him to Max (the older surviving Husky) and, of course, my wife.

He's welcome to check out Max's FB page if he'd like:
www.facebook.com/MaximumWoo/

…I'm looking forward to reading his tales. Thank you.

Daniel replies:

My advice about submitting stories for publication: Send them to publishers and see if they want to buy them. My condolences on the loss of your husky--we pay a price for having longer lives than our dogs. I don't do speaking engagements, or go much of anywhere these days, but give Max a biscuit for me.

Audrey Kohlman

May 17, 2017

Hello Mr. Pinkwater my name is Audrey and I wanted to ask what the most stressful part of writing books' is. When I grow up I want to be an author.

Hope you can reply!
Audrey

Daniel replies:

Audrey, that is really a fantastically great question. Not only is it a great question, it is a question that I deal with to this day, and almost every day. It is such a good question that I am going to give two answers, and an explanation. Answer #1: There is no stressful part of writing a book. Answer #2: There are many stressful parts of writing a book. Explanation #1: We enjoy doing things we do well. We particularly enjoy doing difficult things when we do them well. Everybody agrees that writing a book is hard. Many people start out to write one, and just aren't able to get all the way there--and it doesn't get finished. They think, "someday I'm going to finish that book," but they never do. If you discover that you have the ability to put a whole book together, you have the right to feel good about it, even if it isn't a great book, even if no one is ever going to read it...still, you did it, and you sort of knew you could do it, and having done it, you know you can do it again, and really, it's a sort of beautiful feeling. Writing, once you get to doing it is a completely enjoyable experience. I have traveled all over the world, and had all kinds of adventures, met unusual people, seen wonderful things--and writing is more fun than any of that. Explanation #2: All the stressful parts of writing a book have to do with thinking about other people, people who are not you, and not writing the book. Will anyone read my book? Will anyone like my book? Will some publisher publish my book? Is this going to be, (in the opinion of others), a good book? By that I mean wondering if your book will conform to the generally accepted, (that is, other people's), standard of what a book is supposed to be? Will my family and friends accept the idea that it is a good thing for me to spend all this time learning how, practicing, and trying to write instead of doing more usual and useful things? Stuff like that is stressful, and you have to guard against it, even when you are 75 years old.

Kevin Cheek

May 7, 2017

I really miss your weblishing. There was a great joy in reading your novels a chapter a week and chatting online with all the others sharing the experience. Is there any chance of this happening again?
Thank you,
Kevin

Daniel replies:

Well, to do that I'd have to finish a novel.  I have several incomplete ones, but they wouldn't do.  I seem not to be able to complete a book if there's no publisher, no money, at the end.  Up until quite recently there haven't been any prospects.  Now I have one, and as soon as I take care of some loose ends, and decide what book to write, there will be one, and I will be happy to weblish it, if the publisher agrees.  So, maybe in a year or a year and a bit?  Thanks for asking.