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Dylan

What

August 11, 2022

As I remember it, our third grade teacher would assign a book to everyone to read and we’d talk about it in class. Now I liked this teacher because she was the first person in my life who explained to me that I was shy and that I didn’t have to be, so one day I bravely asked her if I could recommend a book for us to read. She said that if I lent her a copy, she’d definitely read it over to see if she thought it’d be the right kind of book for class.

That book was Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars. I’m not sure that, as a third grader, I could’ve explained why I liked it so much, except that it felt like a good way to live life: having weird adventures and caring a lot about the right things, like good friends and good snacks.

Well, she read it over. She said she appreciated how much I enjoyed it, but that it wasn’t the right sort of book to read as a class. “For example, there’s the part where underage kids have a great time smoking cigars,” she said. “I think the parents would riot.”

I was astonished. In my view, reading about kids smoking (a few cigars! to try it out! for fun!) was obviously about as harmless as it gets. In my astonishment, I got a sudden intuition. I felt very strongly that my teacher turning down the book was directly connected to the sort of vapid adult hysteria those cigars were about: didn’t Leonard and Alan smoke cigars partly because it can be good and instructive to break rules like that? Because adults tend to be very excitable and frivolous and hopelessly boring, which gets in the way of kids growing up properly? Adults tend to do things like turning down interesting books because of fictional cigars (Ceci n’est pas une pipe!) and making you ask to use the bathroom. A good lesson for life, and the book had already said so!  My teacher shocked me into noticing that. I learned that you might like a book because it has a Way of Looking at Things that shows you some potentially important and true ideas for your day to day life.

Even the best schools are a little like Bat Masterson. On the other hand, even the most mundane adventures with friends are a little like sneaking off to an alternate universe and saving the day. I was glad to have that pointed out early on. It’s been around twenty-five years since then and I am still Looking at Things, reading joyful transgressive books, and doing my best to live life in that good way.

Daniel replies:

I think you said it all. I didn't have any lofty ideas vis-a-vis cigars and freedom, I just wrote what seemed to fit. If I'd had the characters smoke cigarettes, that would have been different.


Fellow Up-stater

A pleasant surprise

July 20, 2022

As an avid car talk listener, when a man named Daniel Pinkwater called in – I would immediately turn the volume up. If not to hear a hilarious car related issue – perhaps to learn a new vocabulary word. After a book recommendation via YouTube became a house favorite (the big orange splot) – imagine my surprise to find that it was the very funny fellow up-state New Yorker and Car talk celebrity that is also the writer of a story with a very important lesson. Just wanted to say thank you from Albany.

Daniel replies:

I live in the mid-Hudson Valley, which is not generally regarded as upstate New York. I think there may be some debate as to whether Albany is upstate. I like Albany, and used to think of moving there someday, which would have been going in an upstate direction if not to a place actually so designated. I miss Click and Clack. They used to pay me for those appearances in cheap cigars, often stale along with cheap, but they were fun to work with.


Kolya

An earnest Thank You

July 14, 2022

Dear Mr. Pinkwater,
I recently began a new job as a public library technician, where, shock of all shocks, I deal with a lot of books.
The children’s summer reading program is now in full swing, and I noticed recently the name Daniel Pinkwater coming up quite a lot in our holds. I swore I’d heard the name before, but it was eluding me…

Then it hit me- one of the first books I remembered reading in my elementary school library was The Hoboken Chicken Emergency!

Looking into your bibliography, I realized how much of an impact your work has made on my life, from my awakening as a bookworm to one of my mom’s less favorite years teaching 8th grade English (no hard feelings).

I’m currently working toward a degree in library science, and it feels as if you, like all the authors I loved as a kid, have been part of this journey with me, in a way. So I’d just like to send my thanks and well regards.

Have a good summer!

Kolya

Daniel replies:

Had it not been for librarians, library science majors, library assistants who ordered books of mine, recommended them, reviewed them, sometimes honored them, matched my books with the likely needs and tastes of specific library clients, I would have had no career, no reputation, and no income. I didn't become a writer in order to have a career, and the career I've had is not  as big as that of some commercial writers, but I didn't want to be a writer like that. I am very proud of my readers, people for whom the things I write have a special meaning, and for the most part those people were exposed to my work by....you guessed it, librarians! So...you're thanking ME?


Kent Peterson

Crazy in Poughkeepsie

June 18, 2022

Of course I bought Crazy in Poughkeepsie as soon as it came out and it’s a super fun book, but this isn’t about that. It’s about how whenever I’m in a bookstore, I go to the “P” section and look for books by Pinkwater and if I find one cheap (used or whatever) I buy it even if I already have it, so I can put it in a Little Free Library or pass it on to some smart looking kid.

A couple of days ago, I was in Zenith books in Duluth, Minnesota and found TAILS OF THE BRONX by Jill Pinkwater. It passed my random read test and I figured if she lives with Daniel she must be a good egg, so I bought it and am reading it now.

Jeepers, it’s a terrific book. Not like Daniel’s stuff but kinda like Daniel’s stuff. Anyhow, I’m just writing this to say that now I’m a fan of two Pinkwaters, both of whom write books that are great for folks of darn near all ages (and I say this as a 63 year old human who is not a spambot).

Daniel replies:

I think Jill is much the better writer than myself. Humans and spambots agree.


Jack

Creativity

June 9, 2022

Years Back – listening to NPR – I heard a broadcast by D.P. In it he said something to the effect of …

This is it – I am going to give you the secret. You get a space where you can work and not be disturbed. You go there for an hour each day to work on your project. The deal is that you work on the project for the set time – or do nothing at all – nothing else, for the given time period.

I have practiced (my own version of) this and I find it Very helpful and a great practice.

I have also tried to find it online and listen again and even share it – but I cannot find it!

Can you tell me where to find this cool creativity boost or am I just imagining all of this? Can you tell me where to listen to or read what you have to say about the creative process or whatever you call it?

thanks – especially if you help! (ps – so how do I prove that I am not a ‘spambot’ or that if I am that I am a spambot interested in creative thinking?

Jack

Daniel replies:

I don't call it the creative process. I don't call it anything at all. Also, unless the NPR commentary to which you refer is in FISHWHISTLE, or CHICAGO DAYS HOBOKEN NIGHTS, or HOBOKEN FISH AND CHICAGO WHISTLE, which is a bindup of the two collections, then I have no idea where you might find it, but you seem to remember the idea quite well.


Leopold Trout

a letter from a fan

May 28, 2022

Dear Mr. Pinkwater,

I’ve been a big fan of your work as long as I could read (Alan Mendelsohn is one of my favorites, and I am currently looking to purchase a brass moon potato of my own), and I felt it was right to send you a message of thanks for writing the books that influenced my sense of humor so much. I believe the first book of yours that I ever read was Blue Moose, originally introduced to me by my mother at the age of seven, with Fat Men from Space, the Magic Moscow trilogy, and the rest of her collection quickly following. Now, after aging another nine years, I’m as big a fan as ever, but I am still left with this question: where exactly was Borgel’s Old Country?

Greatest regards,

Leopold Trout

Daniel replies:

It was originally a province of the Even Older Country, and borders on the Fairly New Country. Don't they teach geography in school any more?


Andy Papier

Best books for Pre-K

May 28, 2022

Hello Mr. Pinkwater,

 

My name is Andy and I live in Chicago. Just recently I joined the Chicago Reads Book Buddy program that connects people like me with particular schools and their students. I was partnered with Smyth Elementary School and immediately thought of your books, which had a huge impact on my childhood. I was hoping to get your recommendations for Pre-K students? I most likely will buy a few 🙂

 

I am sure these kids will love them.

 

Best,

Andy

 

Daniel replies:

There's a whole bunch of polar bear books, from two different publishers I recall, YOUNG LARRY, AT THE HOTEL LARRY, ICE CREAM LARRY, BONGO LARRY, and IRVING AND MUKTUK TWO BAD BEARS, BAD BEARS IN THE BIG CITY, BAD BEARS AND A BUNNY, plus more. Great illustrations by Jill Pinkwater. I don't know what's in print, or available on Ebay, but look around. And thanks for asking.


Douglas Dove

Timeline in Neddiad series?

May 21, 2022

So as a soon to be 56 year old childless man with a penchant for juvenile fiction, I regret to say I found myself reading my first Daniel Pinkwater book last year after being diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer. My wife knew that books are the best medicine in most instances, and stocked me up with a supply from used book stores and thrift shops. One of those was “Adventures of a Cat Whiskered Girl”. Me being a cat person I gravitated to it first (as far as dogs, nothing better than a Tri Color Rough Collie, it’s the snout, love Peach!) From my first reading and rereading, I was so taken with Big Audrey and Molly. And once I found Audrey’s story started in a previous book it led me to order “The Neddiad” and “The Yggyssey”. After that a whole new world opened up! So my question is, should I be so fixated with a cogent timeline? I figure “The Neddiad” is set circa 1949 and “The Yggyssey” and “Adventures of a Cat Whiskered Girl” in the early 50’s. I do so like you mixing real world places into your stories and having a ball looking them up. Well just the other week I finished “Adventures of a Dwergish Girl”, which seems to take place before she ever met Big Audrey and is set in a fairly contemporary Kingston and NYC (or am I mistaken?). And now I have on back order “Crazy in Poughkeepsie” and reading the blub online makes me think Molly is a character that might end up eventually in the “looney bin”. So in a series based in the assumption of a multitude of alternate universes, should I be surprised of books being written in a chronological disorder? I am finding it to be a hoot and challenging at the same time. I was just wondering if you, as the creator, think the same and I would appreciate any feedback. By the way, after two major surgeries and just finishing up lengthy chemotherapy last week, I hope to be reading “Crazy in Poughkeepsie” cancer free! Thanks for the wonderful diversion during it all. All the best, Doug.

Daniel replies:

Chronological disorder is an apt term. I suppose one could imagine Molly and other characters who seem to migrate among books as actors, contract players, who have roles in various productions. I'm happy mixing up time periods, introducing real and less read cultural items, and of course I have very little use for things like plot. As regards reality, I cannot think of a more satisfactory use for books of mine than providing diversion while heroically beating cancer. Bravo, Douglas! I am proud to have you read my stuff.


Lynne Roberts

Woogie Norple

April 26, 2022

Please reprint Woogie Norple – the current prices put this wonderful book out of the reach of most people.

Daniel replies:

Getting things reprinted is not something an author can just do...or do at all. The high prices for used copies must be because of illustrations by the great Tomie DePaola. Are there no color Xerox machines where you live? I won't say anything. If you have an ethical problem making a Xerox of a copyrighted work, tell yourself the author said it was ok, and buy some suitable book to donate to your local library.


Bert VanDercar

Thank you for your service

April 23, 2022

Dear Mr. Pinkwater

10 to 12 years ago I read my then small son all of your young adult novels that we could either buy or procure from our local library. My son Mason turned 20 years old yesterday and we were reminiscing about some of our happiest times and adventures together and we immediately thought of the rapture we experienced reading your books. I have started rereading Borgel which is where we began. Overall I had the most fun reading Alan Mendelsohn to my son Mason many years ago. To say that it was “thrilling“ is to offer faint praise. We even sent you a framed certificate “lifetime achievement award“ for that book which you told us would never have a follow up due to the sad realities of the publishing industry and the human condition in general. As a kid myself I spent summers in Hyde Park, New York with my sister across the street from the Roosevelt estate and if I had a time machine I would go back to 1964 when I was 12 years old and buy a pastrami sandwich and hand-deliver it to you in 2022. Instead I just placed an order for Crazy in Poughkeepsie which I hope will at least allow you to buy a few slices of pastrami somewhere nearby. Best wishes and many thanks!

Sincerely,

Bert Joseph VanDercar

Daniel replies:

There is nothing of unusual interest across the street from the Roosevelt estate. I was just in that area today, just houses and apartments. 40 years ago there was a man who would train a trotting horse pulling a sulky on a little patch of ground one could see from the road. No sign of man or horse these days. Possibly you know something about this from your summers in Hyde Park. Do you know if the Loma Linda brand offers a plant-based pastrami product?


Andy Z

Tips for snarking?

April 23, 2022

Dear Mr. Pinkwater,

I was so inspired by your Snarkout Boys novels that I decided to try it for myself. I woke at midnight and managed to exit the house without waking anyone. I set out looking for slam poetry or jazz but instead found only wind and snowdrifts (I live in rural Minnesota). After about 3 minutes of looking at the moon, I got too cold and came back inside. 

Overall I’d say it was a moderate success but I am hoping you could give me some advice to make next time even better.

Best wishes,

Andy

Daniel replies:

I think you were safer snarking where you snarked than you might be in an urban location. Things are different these days. I was a serious snarker, and never had any occasion to feel the least bit unsafe or uncomfortable, but that was then. I'm assuming you had suitable footwear and clothing for your mini-snark.


Ali Kramen

If I Only Have One Hour in Hoboken

April 8, 2022

Private message, please. Visiting NYC from Montana, and would like to visit Hoboken  (because of “Chicago Days Hoboken Nights”). Pressed for time, would you please tell me what tourist-type thing you’d do with only one hour in Hoboken? If it’s get bagels with you, I’ll buy. Party would include my 17-year-old twins, me,  and our Uber driver.  Thursday, April 7th, 2022 after 4 pm, Friday the 8th after 3 pm, or Saturday the 9th at the crack of dawn. PS There’s  no Captcha to prove I’m not a Spambot. Never mind, there is, and I ain’t.

Daniel replies:

I haven't lived in Hoboken since 1977 and I haven't even set foot in Hoboken since maybe 1981. I've looked at videos, and except for having seen them I wouldn't recognize much of the town. If I was in the NY metro area with only an hour to spend, I'd spend it in Manhattan at the Frick Collection, it's an art museum, probably the single best thing in the whole northeast.


Daniel Amberg

How tall are you? (for a small effigy I am making)

April 8, 2022

Hello Mr. Pinkwater,

In brief, I am creating small wood effigies of my favorite authors. I would like them to be appropriately sized relative to one another. Toward this end, how tall are you? (Thus far it will just be you and David Sedaris.)

Now to the gushing, fawning part: I am 52 years old and grew up reading your novels. I raised three children on them as well. (Only one of the children wound up being a miscreant like his dad.) My absolute favorite might be Young Adult Novel. I’ve read and re-read Alan Mendelson, Yobgorgle and Lizard Music more times than I can possibly remember. You are a treasure, and I am deeply grateful for the absurdity, humor and subversion you wove into the fabric of my being! Thank you.

–Dan Scott Amberg, Chandler Arizona

Daniel replies:

Nice try. I know perfectly well that "effigies" won't work unless they're proportional. Not that I believe in this sort of thing, but just in case, I'm doing nothing that will help you get into my bank account through the use of some Afro/Caribbean traditional techniques.


Diane Keedy Pisko

Please bring back Wuggie

March 22, 2022

I love Wuggie.  My adult son loves Wuggie.  I think the next generation and all the generations moving forward need to know Wuggie.  Please please bring Wuggie back!!!!  The world needs him!! Very Sincerely,

Wuggie Lover

Daniel replies:

You imagine professional authors like me have any control or say about what gets published, republished, brought back. It's not so. Decisions like that are left to people in the publishing industry who are mostly paid very poorly, and mostly can't get jobs in better industries which pay more because they aren't worth it. There are copies of Wuggie Norple floating around. You can probably find them on Ebay and in other places. Shouldn't cost much. So, really it doesn't need bringing back. I'm glad you like the book!


Sjoekje Sasbone

Searching for “Lizard Music”

February 24, 2022

Please pass this on to Mr. Pinkwater:

     In 1980, I read your book when I was 8 yrs old at the Artesia Library in CA. I enjoyed it so much, I checked it out from the library a few times. But as I got older, I forgot the title & “Lizard People” always wrongly came to mind.   

     Technology got better & I still couldn’t find it. “Lizard Music” would come up, your name as the author sounded highly familiar, but the cover that popped up (a kid on rocks w/ lizards) didn’t look familiar. Nevertheless, your story lived rent free in my mind for decades.      

     Yesterday, I messaged the Artesia Library & although they don’t keep a copy of our old library cards, they said they could search for it if I gave them descriptives. This is what I recalled & messaged them: “It was about this boy who found his way to a pond or lake, & a lizard somehow convinced him to swim under & come out the other side into an alternate dimension w/ a plastic bag of clothes. I want to say the lizard in our world was able to speak. I’m not sure. Everyone was a lizard in this world, shopping, working, etc., like humans. He would go back a few times where the story would unfold. Maybe it was a red cover?” They led me back to “Lizard Music,” except they provided me with a YouTube narrating Ch. 1 & replied, “I just listened to the YouTube you sent me. That’s was great because I was able to hear that chapter. It was missing when he swam underwater to get to the other city. Perhaps that’s the floating island? I was trying to see if the wording in the story was familiar. It is an unsupervised boy. I’m sure the hippie references were over my head….. What was very familiar was the Salisbury steak reference, which is interesting.” But I listened to each chapter, found the red cover w/ the lizards, & this was it! Truth be told, I became emotional when it all came together. 

     When I looked you up, I noticed that your birthday is Nov. 15th, the same birthday as my father, who passed in 2016, 1 month shy of 92 yrs old. Long story longer, thanks for writing a fun, weird book that spawned my lifelong love for hidden worlds & left an impression for nearly 42 years. I’ll be 50 on July 15th.

     Finally, I want to acknowledge the librarian who not only helped me, but checked out the book for herself to read. I hope you enjoy knowing all of this & the your literary impact. 

Daniel replies:

Thanks for relating your mental adventures with Lizard Music. Books have a life of their own, something I never thought about when I was writing that one and others.  Also readers give books a specific life of their own...it's not just the author who does the creative part. Thanks for being such a good reader.


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