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.

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