Talk to DP Forum

Coleen Fraser

October 16, 2014

I'm a Librarian in an elementary school and have just had one of my readers ask if I could order the sequel to a book called the cat Whiskered Girl. We have searched online bookstores with no success and are wondering if "Escape to Dwerg Mountain" is out yet??

Daniel replies:

Actually, that book never got written. Instead, I wrote a book called Bushman Lives. After that, the publisher changed its policy regarding the manner in which they would consider books of mine--I found the new policy unacceptable, and stopped offering them no Escape to Dwerg Mountain. (However, Molly the Dwerg appears in Bushman Lives!) Maybe your student would like to give it a try.


October 12, 2014

Hi, I'm that kid who put together that strange song (made up of snippets of your NPR interviews) that you put at the beginning of your first podcast. I was 12 then; I'm 19 now.

I think the most important thing I've gotten out of your books is a sense of the world's persistent absurdity, which has helped me get through a lot of challenging experiences thus far.

Thank you for portraying fat people in your books. It really means a lot. If you haven't already, I think it'd be really cool if you tried portraying a chubby girl who doesn't have a problem with her weight (we're extremely rare in media and literature). I think you might appreciate this scientific explanation about why having fat is a good thing and that the term "overweight" has no medical basis (but things like BMI were invented by the weight loss industry): It's helped me accept my body a lot more and realize that I'm not going to keel over and die early because I'm a little bigger than other people.

I've been trying meditating recently to help improve my life, and according to your recent profile in the Forward, you're pretty good at it. (Reading Alan Mendelsohn introduced me to the idea of meditation.) Do you have any tips about meditating?

I also got a dog named Henry who's black with a blue tongue. I'm clicker training him and it's clear he's pretty smart. What do you think about the idea of dominance theory?

Also, what are your favorite books?

Daniel replies:

While Webmaster Ed and I were having fun making the podcasts you were doing the hard work of growing up. Cool I don't think the world is absurd. Just the humans. I do have some fat girl characters, in Fat Camp Commandos and Fat Camp Commandos go west, also in the Big Bob books, some of which are pretty funny. I haven't considered a fat girl in a novel since I wrote that adult novel, The Afterlife Diet, and got into a lot of correspondence and discussion with fat activists--and got very bored with the whole business, which can happen if you have contact with activists. According to all the statistics I know about, it's practically impossible for significantly fat people to become non-fat people. So it would make sense not to make reducing a goal, and instead seek a health-inducing lifestyle. This might include eating intelligently, taking exercise, and avoiding destructive habits including worrying, having a negative self-image, and falling for promotions by the weight loss industry and advertising. Here is the only tip I know about meditating. The best way to learn it is to find someone who is good at it, and have them show you, simply by doing it with them. If they want to charge you money or join something, maybe move on and find another, or say you left your wallet at home. Same thing with dog training, although it is ok to pay a reasonable amount for that. I don't know what you mean by dominance theory. I require my dogs to sit and wait before being given a treat, sit and wait until I tell them ok before going through a door, and never going through a door before me. They don't even realize they're being trained. Dogs can read your mind. If you're in a calm state, the dog is likely to match it, if you're anxious, the dog is anxious. I'm done. I am skipping the favorite books question. I wonder if Webmaster Ed still has that song.

susan hinkle

October 8, 2014

Hi Daniel, being an owner of an indie bookstore we just love your books! One in particular is very popular – Bear in Love, I am reading it to a group of children in November and was wondering if there is a tune the little songs go to – so I can do it justice! Thanks so much! Please email your response when you can!

Daniel replies:

This is what I suggest--when you get to the songs, just sing them the way you'd sing them if you were a bear. You can't go wrong.

Phoebe Moulthrop

October 5, 2014

Dear Mr. Pinkwater,
I came across your name on twitter this morning and I realized that I am long overdue to write you and tell you how much I've enjoyed your work. I first came across the piece that especially touched me when I was about 10, however it was not one of your books aimed at my age group. It was a cassette that my dad picked up while we were on a road trip to pass the time, "The Best of Daniel Pinkwater, Everyday Life". Your stories drew me in, and the words you chose seemed to fit together so perfectly that they would stick in my mind and roll around in there. I'm not usually one for listening to/ watching/ reading things over and over, or for memorizing quotes, but over the next 10 years I listened to your tape many times. I got to the point where I could rattle off chunks of it at the slightest provocation to the amusement and eventual annoyance of family and friends.
The quote you read on that tape from a review of one of your books, "burst like sherbet centered candies when the reference is recognized" exactly describes my experience. Phrases like "zygodactyl claw", "redolent of milk duds", "singing soto voce" – for years I didn't know what they meant, but I loved how they sounded. They stuck with me until I found out their meanings and then I loved them even more.
So even though I feel like it might be a bit egotistical to assume that my opinion matters much to you, I felt compelled to let you know that something you made affected me. It didn't inspire me to change the world, or even become a writer myself, but it did make me think, entertained me, and gave me a glimpse into a perspective different from my own, and that's enough for me.
Thank You,
Phoebe Moulthrop (aged 29 1/2)

P.S. I still have the cassette, but it's been a few years since I had a device to play it on. Does a digital copy exist anywhere that I could purchase?

Daniel replies:

Your opinion means everything to me--you're a reader/listener, and without you writing stuff would be ridiculous. There is a ton, by actual measurement, of digital sound files on this very website. Click Pinkwater Podcast, and audio archives. Thanks for your nice remarks.


October 2, 2014

Dear Mr. Pinkwater,

I am sorry it has taken me a while to send the interview questions and I hope you are still interested in answering them. Hopefully with the help of the interview I will get an A on my literature assignment. I know there are a lot of questions so its fine if you don’t respond to them all. I read the Worms of Kukumlima for this assignment, so some of the questions regard the book and others are more about the writing process. Here are the questions!

1. What inspired you to write about giant worms from space?
2. When you first meet the worms, they seem friendly enough, but as you get to know them further they are self interested and obviously the antagonists of the book. Why did you make the worms evil and not just some pink, squishy, benevolent friends?
3. Why are, for the most part, all of the adults in your books so eccentric? Did you know lots of eccentric characters in your life?
4. Why did you start writing stories?
5. Why is science fiction the genre you mostly write in?
6. What do you think are the lessons in the journey in %u201CWorms of Kukumlima%u201D? The characters spend a lot of time seeking, without fully knowing their destination.
7. Why are many of your books about traveling to new and exciting places? How did you decide on Africa for this particular adventure? Have you ever been to Africa?
8. Your books have an artsy, cosmic, Buddhist hippie vibe. Your characters get lost and can%u2019t find their destination until they admit to themselves that they are lost. Why did you write about this concept?
9. Why did you write this book? For the money, or because you had a divine and inspiring message you wanted to share with the world, or was it something else?
10. How often do you write? What is your writing process? Do you find it easy to come up with ideas for your stories or does it take a while to do so? What motivates you to write?
11. Do you have a favorite time of day to write and what do you use to write (pen/paper, typewriter, computer, telepathy)?

Thank you very much for agreeing to do this. I hope your week has been going well. And as per our arrangement, you may post this on the DP forum if you would like.



Daniel replies:

  1. No one else had written about them--I don't know why. Common as they are, (worms), I thought there would be a lot of interest.
  2. Worms are evil! They entertain evil thoughts. I don't know what experience you've had, or whether worms you've known were benevolent friends. The ones around here are real stinkers.
  3. Oh yes! Starting with my very own family, especially my father, who was not exactly evil, but otherwise in many ways like a worm.
  4. First because I liked reading. Second because when I like a thing I enjoy thinking about it and trying to figure out how it is done. Third because in fifth grade I won a short story contest, and got a prize--so I knew from a early age you can get rewards for writing stuff. Later, when I was grown up, and it was time to find some kind of work with which to earn a living, I didn't want So I became a writer.
  5. Is science fiction the genre I mostly write in? I wouldn't know. I don't believe in genres. What is a genre anyway?
  6. If there are lessons in that book it is news to me. I don't know where the idea that there are lessons in works of fiction got started. Me, I always liked to read for pleasure and entertainment, and I do not require any reader of mine to learn anything.
  7. I have been to Africa...twice. And I had many adventures. My real-life experiences were more exciting than anything in the book...but I couldn't have written about one would have been able to believe it.
  8. Because that is how real life actually works. Keep living, you will find that you agree with me.
  9. For money, such as it was, and because we like to do things we do well.
  10. Sometimes I write every day, and sometimes I don't write at all. I find it perfectly easy to come up with ideas, because I had a perfect education for a writer. Also because ideas are all over the place, and all you have to do is fool with them and tweak them into whatever kind of story you want to make. I am often motivated by need to pay for groceries, etc.
  11. Telepathy first, computer next. Very often I wake up knowing exactly what I want to write, possibly having dreamed it, (but not remembering a dream as such) and hurry to the keyboard and write stuff that more or less surprises me as I see it appearing on the screen.
Very nice questions. I hope you get an A+. Also possibly at least one of the readers of the forum will benefit in some way from reading this interview.

Mr Roach

September 14, 2014

Dear Mr. Pinkwater,
I have recently published a mythical retelling of the invention of the Tater Tot. I know, I know…it's been done a million times, but I am fond of the story and feel the message speaks to a need that many parents have, namely, "Don't be afraid to try." In this case it is targeted to activities involving healthy eating, and not cliff diving or illegal drug use. If you have a trip to the bathroom with no reading material scheduled for your review, I would love your feedback.
Mr Roach
Author of "Timmy Tate's Tater Troubles"

Daniel replies:

Fascinating as your work of literature seems to be, I will decline your kind offer. I do not do feedback.

Jared Erfle

September 7, 2014

My 6-year-old twin sons (Jacob and Lincoln) and I just finished Yo-Yo Man, and we loved it! Your book was a great way to talk about goals, hard work and bullying Thank-you .

Daniel replies:

Not to mention the art of yo-yoing.

Hali Palombo

September 7, 2014

Hi! I'm Hali. I am 22 years old. I am an aspiring comedian (I am aware that that sounds ridiculous), and am going to school for comedy (clowning and comedy writing) at Second City.

When I was 12, I went to a summer camp in Maine. The kids could opt to stay in tipis instead of cabins if they wanted to, and that is what I did. One night, there was a massive storm, so we all had to huddle into a tiny shed for safety. One of the counselors read Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars to us by candlelight. I had never heard anything that had resonated with me more.

I was a social outcast at that age, and was constantly questioning the intelligence and authority of adults. The way Leonard and Alan interacted with their superiors and the world around them thrilled me, and inspired me to keep being strange, to explore unusual life paths, to have adventures, and to question everything around me. I keep a copy of the book on my nightstand, and reread it every couple of months. It never fails to remind me that the world is a strange and wonderful place, and that as long as I am doing what my heart tells me is right, I am doing the right thing.

This isn't really a question, I just wanted to reach out to you and thank you from the bottom of my heart for being partially responsible for my being so strange, and my life being so full of adventure and color.

So thank you, Mr. Pinkwater!

-Hali Palombo

Daniel replies:

When I was roughly your age, I met the manager of Second City. He told me it would be ok if I came in and watched rehearsals, and also gave me permission to come in and watch classic films that were shown for cast and staff only on Sunday mornings. I have no idea why he extended these courtesies--to the best of my recollection I came across as pretty much a worthless idiot at the time. Oh wait, I just got it! He must have recognized that I had potential to be an actor and comedian, worthless idiot being the gold-standard starting point. However, I never took the step of asking to get up on the stage--for reasons I will not go into, lest you become depressed, I had already sworn an oath never to do that--but the experience was an important element in my education. I submit that you are not strange, but quite normal. Everybody's life is full of adventure and color, the only possible difference being that you are aware of it, and many are not.

Kevin Cheek

August 31, 2014

You asked: "What is it about hot dogs?"

It is the fact that you write about them with such longing and such great description of the multi-sensory assault that is the experience of eating a genuine Chicago Dog that causes us to share that longing. I've even started looking for Hawaiian shirts with brightly colored tomatoes, pickles, etc.

Sadly, I'm health conscious and have taken to grilling fat-free spiced chicken sausages (sage, apple, and green chile are good flavorings) and serving them with sliced kosher pickles, fancy mustard, and grilled chiles on a steamed whole-grain bun. It's not the same experience, but I may live longer to enjoy more of them over the long run.

Daniel replies:

I don't think I ate many more than 20 Chicago hot dogs in all the years I lived in Chicago. When the meticulously authentic establishment opened in my current locale, I may have eaten another 10 or fewer, but I struck up a friendship with the proprietor, (who perished, I believe from eating his own product). So when I visited him, I would order a dog sans sausage. The other ingredients qualify as food, excepting maybe that bright green relish. As to longing for them...I don't long. It's a literary device. I approve of your less lethal chicken sausage combination.

Rick Rundle

August 26, 2014

Sim sala bim, Danial love that you resurfaced on NPR. As I have gotten older my sharp mind has dulled a bit. But listening to your essays then going to your website has refreshed me like a babe being baptized. Friends of mine Bob Sirott & Marianne Murciano husband & wife on WGN 720 AM, noon show, not Don McNeal, not Paul Harvey but…. Marianne tries to get Bob to eat healthy, and of course Bob likes Chicago hot dogs. Loved your essay, did you know "Brigadoon" was just at the Goodman? You would be great on their show. "And I'll Never forget the day I read a book'. Thanks

Daniel replies:

What is it about hot dogs? When that piece first aired, I got a ridiculous number of emails and calls, people drove from Maine and Pennsylvania to find the hot dog joint I told about. Or is it something about me when I describe food? If I told what I actually eat, would I be inundated with notes from skinny non-leather-sandal-wearing octogenarians with a wild look in their eyes?