2006 Mail Call #1

Katie from J-D Middle School writes: I am in seventh grade. For Language Arts, we are doing a favorite author report. I chose to do you as my author because I have read all of your books and think that they send very important messages. I wanted to find out how you thought up the story line and such. To find all the information I need, I would really like it if you took time out of your busy schedule to answer these few questions.

1. What are some people or events that have influenced you to write your books?
2. Did the people or events who influenced you affect the storyline/plot of your books?
3. What was your childhood like?
4. How did you think of what life was like for Melinda in Speak? And what she went through and felt like?

Ah… author reports. It still feels weird that students do them about me. Not sure if I will ever get used to it.
1. My father was a huge influence on me. (Still is.) He writes poetry and taught me from a very early age that books are important.
2. I think the teens that I meet are the ones who drive my choice of plot. I don’t ever take the story of one particular kid, but I take the concerns I hear from many of them and try to address them in my books.
3. My childhood was a blast. We lived in a great neighborhood just off Syracuse University’s campus. We walked to school. We played for hours outside (this was before cable TV was invented). It felt like the world was a good and safe place. And then I became a teenager and everything fell apart.
4. I was sexually assaulted and I know what it feels like. I have also dealt with depression on and off for thirty years (as have several family members), so I am familiar with that, too.

I hope the report turns out OK.

Elise writes: I think your book FEVER 1793 is very good. I haven’t finished it yet but I am building up suspense. It has a great plot and very interesting characters. I can’t wait to read any of your other books when I am done with this one. I don’t really know what book I will read next. I may read SPEAK next. All in all, I think I realy love FEAVER 1793.

Thank you, Elise!
I did get your note, Jessica, but it got eaten in my email system and I cannot find it for the life of me. And thank you, teacher John, for the very kind note.

We had a small 75th birthday party for my mom yesterday and I finally cooked macaroni and cheese that she said met her standards. My cousin and her husband were able to join us and we had a sweet evening. I am so grateful that we were able to move my folks up here and be a part of their lives in the last chapter. I take Mom to her oncologist’s office today to make sure that the evil cancer beast that lurks in her bones is still under control.

Still hammering away at final revisions for my WIP. I think I may be within hours of sending it off to my editor…. I keep reading it out loud and fussing with little changes. Revision is hard.

72 Replies to “2006 Mail Call #1”

  1. revisions…bleh!!!

    Sighs…your not the only one!!!!! My editor is expecting my first chapter and I’m getting frustrated trying to fix it! I did not like the opening and I thought the MC’s voice was a bit weak as well as (mutters) descriptions. So i agree-revision is hard but it’s also kind of fun too πŸ˜› I like seeing the MC in different settings than the first and etc etc etc! it’s kind of hard to explain. I read once that you said you had to go through seven drafts or at least write that many. I only have to do three drafts of my story usual…sometimes five but I never go any higher. Good luck finishing your WIP!!! I can’t wait to read it!! when do we get our sneak peek??? sorry had to ask πŸ˜›

  2. revisions…bleh!!!

    Sighs…your not the only one!!!!! My editor is expecting my first chapter and I’m getting frustrated trying to fix it! I did not like the opening and I thought the MC’s voice was a bit weak as well as (mutters) descriptions. So i agree-revision is hard but it’s also kind of fun too πŸ˜› I like seeing the MC in different settings than the first and etc etc etc! it’s kind of hard to explain. I read once that you said you had to go through seven drafts or at least write that many. I only have to do three drafts of my story usual…sometimes five but I never go any higher. Good luck finishing your WIP!!! I can’t wait to read it!! when do we get our sneak peek??? sorry had to ask πŸ˜›

  3. revisions…bleh!!!

    Sighs…your not the only one!!!!! My editor is expecting my first chapter and I’m getting frustrated trying to fix it! I did not like the opening and I thought the MC’s voice was a bit weak as well as (mutters) descriptions. So i agree-revision is hard but it’s also kind of fun too πŸ˜› I like seeing the MC in different settings than the first and etc etc etc! it’s kind of hard to explain. I read once that you said you had to go through seven drafts or at least write that many. I only have to do three drafts of my story usual…sometimes five but I never go any higher. Good luck finishing your WIP!!! I can’t wait to read it!! when do we get our sneak peek??? sorry had to ask πŸ˜›

  4. I remember walking to school and playing outside until well after dark as a kid (I grew up in Eastwood). We rode our bikes everywhere, and felt safe doing it. Now, we live in a great neighborhood near SU, over by Thornden Park, and I wouldn’t dream of letting my daughter play in our front yard unless I’m right there with her, much less walk up to the playground in the park. It’s a changed world.

  5. I remember walking to school and playing outside until well after dark as a kid (I grew up in Eastwood). We rode our bikes everywhere, and felt safe doing it. Now, we live in a great neighborhood near SU, over by Thornden Park, and I wouldn’t dream of letting my daughter play in our front yard unless I’m right there with her, much less walk up to the playground in the park. It’s a changed world.

    1. We lived on the corner of Berkeley Drive and Dorset. Starting in second grade, I was allowed to walk over to campus after school to visit my dad at his office. The year after that, my parents would send me on my bike to the little market on Lancaster for bread and other groceries that would fit in my basket. I walked to Thornden every day in the summer for swim practice, walked to school at Ed Smith and Levy.

      ::sad sigh for a lost world::

  6. I remember walking to school and playing outside until well after dark as a kid (I grew up in Eastwood). We rode our bikes everywhere, and felt safe doing it. Now, we live in a great neighborhood near SU, over by Thornden Park, and I wouldn’t dream of letting my daughter play in our front yard unless I’m right there with her, much less walk up to the playground in the park. It’s a changed world.

  7. We lived on the corner of Berkeley Drive and Dorset. Starting in second grade, I was allowed to walk over to campus after school to visit my dad at his office. The year after that, my parents would send me on my bike to the little market on Lancaster for bread and other groceries that would fit in my basket. I walked to Thornden every day in the summer for swim practice, walked to school at Ed Smith and Levy.

    ::sad sigh for a lost world::

  8. We lived on the corner of Berkeley Drive and Dorset. Starting in second grade, I was allowed to walk over to campus after school to visit my dad at his office. The year after that, my parents would send me on my bike to the little market on Lancaster for bread and other groceries that would fit in my basket. I walked to Thornden every day in the summer for swim practice, walked to school at Ed Smith and Levy.

    ::sad sigh for a lost world::

  9. In her most recent book, Joan Didion says that depression is, “A normal phase of any writer’s life.” I found that remark encouraging.

    Do you have a resolution for the new year yet?

  10. In her most recent book, Joan Didion says that depression is, “A normal phase of any writer’s life.” I found that remark encouraging.

    Do you have a resolution for the new year yet?

  11. In her most recent book, Joan Didion says that depression is, “A normal phase of any writer’s life.” I found that remark encouraging.

    Do you have a resolution for the new year yet?

  12. #4- I thoughts so :(. The first because you wrote about it so well and sadly it’s pretty common. The second because although it’s hard to tell from only a brief meeting with someone, after 7 years it I’ve developed depression radar. I think it’s great that you’ve turned around bad experiences and used them to help so many people through your writing. I hope I have the strength to do that some day.

  13. #4- I thoughts so :(. The first because you wrote about it so well and sadly it’s pretty common. The second because although it’s hard to tell from only a brief meeting with someone, after 7 years it I’ve developed depression radar. I think it’s great that you’ve turned around bad experiences and used them to help so many people through your writing. I hope I have the strength to do that some day.

  14. #4- I thoughts so :(. The first because you wrote about it so well and sadly it’s pretty common. The second because although it’s hard to tell from only a brief meeting with someone, after 7 years it I’ve developed depression radar. I think it’s great that you’ve turned around bad experiences and used them to help so many people through your writing. I hope I have the strength to do that some day.

  15. “..And then I became a teenager and everything fell apart.”

    just saying that, that had made my day knowing that even though it was years ago I’m not the only one who feels that way ..

  16. “..And then I became a teenager and everything fell apart.”

    just saying that, that had made my day knowing that even though it was years ago I’m not the only one who feels that way ..

  17. “..And then I became a teenager and everything fell apart.”

    just saying that, that had made my day knowing that even though it was years ago I’m not the only one who feels that way ..

  18. I am so sorry about pestering you about this especially because you are obviously busy, but i was wondering if you had gotten around to answering those questions that i posted in a comment on one of your last journal entries. I also hae one more question. If I were to post a piece of my writing would you read it and critque it? I would love to have a proffesional writers opinion, especially yours.
    Thanks always
    ~Lauren.

  19. I am so sorry about pestering you about this especially because you are obviously busy, but i was wondering if you had gotten around to answering those questions that i posted in a comment on one of your last journal entries. I also hae one more question. If I were to post a piece of my writing would you read it and critque it? I would love to have a proffesional writers opinion, especially yours.
    Thanks always
    ~Lauren.

    1. I can’t find your questions… can you post them again?

      And I’m sorry, but I have to turn down the offer to critique your work. There are not enough hours in the day to do my own stuff right now.

      1. Thats ok. Like I said I know you are busy but here are the questions I posted…
        Ok, First off, how do you like to start writing your stories? Do you like to plan it out or just go into it without much plans. Where do your ideas come from? Especially with Speak, I swear I have read it at least 6 times. I mean when I read your books I am not just reading. Its like I become the characters (Melinda mostly). How do you get your books so descriptive without overdescribing everything?

        You really captured what high school, any school can be like. I had troubles like melinda in 6th grade. I wasnt raped but I was bullied horribly and your book it was really touching reading what I basically went through. The verbal abuse, the physical abuse, and from her own friends, it hurts and you understood that perfectly.
        Thanks for taking time to do this for me, I really appreciate it. You are like a celebrity to me.
        Much Thanks,
        Lauren Reagan

        1. I start with a character in mind, or a situation. I plan a little, then write a little, then plan a little more, and write a little more. I honestly have no idea where the ideas come from. They just pop in my head. I appreciate your comment about my level of description. That is something I work very hard at, trying to get the right level of detail, without cluttering the pacing of the book with too much fluff.

          I’m glad the book helped. Thanks for the nice words.

  20. I am so sorry about pestering you about this especially because you are obviously busy, but i was wondering if you had gotten around to answering those questions that i posted in a comment on one of your last journal entries. I also hae one more question. If I were to post a piece of my writing would you read it and critque it? I would love to have a proffesional writers opinion, especially yours.
    Thanks always
    ~Lauren.

  21. Speak WOW

    I have never in my 44 years of life attempted to comment to an author of any book I have read. And in reality, I haven’t read any of your books,I’m so very sorry πŸ™‚ My library would probably benefit from them but I recently had heard from a dear friend who knows me well, that on a night when I could watch a movie on my own, rent Speak. So, I did. WOW. I came to your website because I just had to know if you were sexually assalted. The movie portrayal of Melinda was painfully realistic. You do know the power of speaking the truth. My story is quite different but it took me 20 years to speak. Only then did I begin to heal from the nagging nightmares and begin to dig my way out of the pile of garbage that was dumped on me. Oh, the lies I believed about myself. At the age of 32 I was married to a wonderful man, had my dream career of being a nurse (that is all I ever wanted when I grew up), had two wonderful boys to raise and yet all was not well. I call my time of “Speaking” more of a truth therapy. Just telling what happened was like bursting from a cacoon weighed heavy with moisture (tears). Today, I still ponder whether to tell the best friend whose father molested me. (If you can come up with a better, more accurate sounding word than molested, please spread it. I always have felt that the word molested doesn’t sound evil enough.) I fought my way out of the abuse by telling my best friend I did not want to be friends anymore. To this day she does not know and it is rare that I ever am in contact with her. Several years ago I came across the obituary of my molester. I carry it, well preserved, tucked in a tiny zippered part of my purse. It comforts me somehow. Although you would never know it now, I also keep, close by, the photo of myself, after being released from the hospital where I had exploratory surgery to find out why I couldn’t eat. All 85 pounds on my skeleton did not clue one person in to the anorexia I clung to in order to feel like I had control of some part of my life. My supportive husband and I have just celebrated 20 years of marriage and will soon see our 2 boys turn 15 and 18 in February. I find my work as a nurse quite satisfying and I hope to give the gift of “Speaking” the truth to those whom I come in contact with who have suffered as we have. My hours working in the emergency room have given me pleanty of opportunities … and somehow for those special patients who need to speak, I pray that they will find the words like Melinda did at her young age and not suffer for so many years. I am sure to have bored you but I had to say Well Done!!!! I hope that you reach many young girls through your book and the movie.

  22. Speak WOW

    I have never in my 44 years of life attempted to comment to an author of any book I have read. And in reality, I haven’t read any of your books,I’m so very sorry πŸ™‚ My library would probably benefit from them but I recently had heard from a dear friend who knows me well, that on a night when I could watch a movie on my own, rent Speak. So, I did. WOW. I came to your website because I just had to know if you were sexually assalted. The movie portrayal of Melinda was painfully realistic. You do know the power of speaking the truth. My story is quite different but it took me 20 years to speak. Only then did I begin to heal from the nagging nightmares and begin to dig my way out of the pile of garbage that was dumped on me. Oh, the lies I believed about myself. At the age of 32 I was married to a wonderful man, had my dream career of being a nurse (that is all I ever wanted when I grew up), had two wonderful boys to raise and yet all was not well. I call my time of “Speaking” more of a truth therapy. Just telling what happened was like bursting from a cacoon weighed heavy with moisture (tears). Today, I still ponder whether to tell the best friend whose father molested me. (If you can come up with a better, more accurate sounding word than molested, please spread it. I always have felt that the word molested doesn’t sound evil enough.) I fought my way out of the abuse by telling my best friend I did not want to be friends anymore. To this day she does not know and it is rare that I ever am in contact with her. Several years ago I came across the obituary of my molester. I carry it, well preserved, tucked in a tiny zippered part of my purse. It comforts me somehow. Although you would never know it now, I also keep, close by, the photo of myself, after being released from the hospital where I had exploratory surgery to find out why I couldn’t eat. All 85 pounds on my skeleton did not clue one person in to the anorexia I clung to in order to feel like I had control of some part of my life. My supportive husband and I have just celebrated 20 years of marriage and will soon see our 2 boys turn 15 and 18 in February. I find my work as a nurse quite satisfying and I hope to give the gift of “Speaking” the truth to those whom I come in contact with who have suffered as we have. My hours working in the emergency room have given me pleanty of opportunities … and somehow for those special patients who need to speak, I pray that they will find the words like Melinda did at her young age and not suffer for so many years. I am sure to have bored you but I had to say Well Done!!!! I hope that you reach many young girls through your book and the movie.

    1. Re: Speak WOW

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I do have a different word to use in place molestation: attack. That creep didn’t molest you. He attacked you.

      Bless you for having the strength to hold on when the pain was killing you, and for fighting through it to become such a strong, loving woman who knows how to listen when survivors speak up. I am honored to have read your story here.

  23. Speak WOW

    I have never in my 44 years of life attempted to comment to an author of any book I have read. And in reality, I haven’t read any of your books,I’m so very sorry πŸ™‚ My library would probably benefit from them but I recently had heard from a dear friend who knows me well, that on a night when I could watch a movie on my own, rent Speak. So, I did. WOW. I came to your website because I just had to know if you were sexually assalted. The movie portrayal of Melinda was painfully realistic. You do know the power of speaking the truth. My story is quite different but it took me 20 years to speak. Only then did I begin to heal from the nagging nightmares and begin to dig my way out of the pile of garbage that was dumped on me. Oh, the lies I believed about myself. At the age of 32 I was married to a wonderful man, had my dream career of being a nurse (that is all I ever wanted when I grew up), had two wonderful boys to raise and yet all was not well. I call my time of “Speaking” more of a truth therapy. Just telling what happened was like bursting from a cacoon weighed heavy with moisture (tears). Today, I still ponder whether to tell the best friend whose father molested me. (If you can come up with a better, more accurate sounding word than molested, please spread it. I always have felt that the word molested doesn’t sound evil enough.) I fought my way out of the abuse by telling my best friend I did not want to be friends anymore. To this day she does not know and it is rare that I ever am in contact with her. Several years ago I came across the obituary of my molester. I carry it, well preserved, tucked in a tiny zippered part of my purse. It comforts me somehow. Although you would never know it now, I also keep, close by, the photo of myself, after being released from the hospital where I had exploratory surgery to find out why I couldn’t eat. All 85 pounds on my skeleton did not clue one person in to the anorexia I clung to in order to feel like I had control of some part of my life. My supportive husband and I have just celebrated 20 years of marriage and will soon see our 2 boys turn 15 and 18 in February. I find my work as a nurse quite satisfying and I hope to give the gift of “Speaking” the truth to those whom I come in contact with who have suffered as we have. My hours working in the emergency room have given me pleanty of opportunities … and somehow for those special patients who need to speak, I pray that they will find the words like Melinda did at her young age and not suffer for so many years. I am sure to have bored you but I had to say Well Done!!!! I hope that you reach many young girls through your book and the movie.

  24. Takebackthenight.org is a great link for sexual assault information. Revision is one of the worst parts of the writing process, in my opinion anyways. I feel you! I cannot wait for your WIP to come out. I’m on the edge of my seat right now just thinking about it! Have a great week. Ambree

  25. Takebackthenight.org is a great link for sexual assault information. Revision is one of the worst parts of the writing process, in my opinion anyways. I feel you! I cannot wait for your WIP to come out. I’m on the edge of my seat right now just thinking about it! Have a great week. Ambree

  26. Takebackthenight.org is a great link for sexual assault information. Revision is one of the worst parts of the writing process, in my opinion anyways. I feel you! I cannot wait for your WIP to come out. I’m on the edge of my seat right now just thinking about it! Have a great week. Ambree

  27. Revision really is hard, but truly rewarding when finished.

    I have a quick question: I was reading a writing book published by Sol Stein and he said that the typeface you used when submitting a manuscript was REALLY important. I know that using super fancy fonts that are barely readable is a big no-no. But he dissed Times New Roman and Arial. He said that Courier is “the best.” Is that really true? Is Times New Roman really that bad for a manuscript submission?

    -Riley.

  28. Revision really is hard, but truly rewarding when finished.

    I have a quick question: I was reading a writing book published by Sol Stein and he said that the typeface you used when submitting a manuscript was REALLY important. I know that using super fancy fonts that are barely readable is a big no-no. But he dissed Times New Roman and Arial. He said that Courier is “the best.” Is that really true? Is Times New Roman really that bad for a manuscript submission?

    -Riley.

  29. Revision really is hard, but truly rewarding when finished.

    I have a quick question: I was reading a writing book published by Sol Stein and he said that the typeface you used when submitting a manuscript was REALLY important. I know that using super fancy fonts that are barely readable is a big no-no. But he dissed Times New Roman and Arial. He said that Courier is “the best.” Is that really true? Is Times New Roman really that bad for a manuscript submission?

    -Riley.

  30. the e-mail

    for christmas I bought my 7 month old niece a copy of peter pan the book by J.M Barrie it was important to me that I get her first book because i’m the only real bookworm in the family and I was wondering if you remember the first real book you ever got what was the book? who gave it to you? did the fact that this person gave it to you make it even more special to you? do you still have it? the above is a copy of the e-mail I sent you I hope it doesn’t get lost in the system again – jessica from sheepshead bay high school

  31. the e-mail

    for christmas I bought my 7 month old niece a copy of peter pan the book by J.M Barrie it was important to me that I get her first book because i’m the only real bookworm in the family and I was wondering if you remember the first real book you ever got what was the book? who gave it to you? did the fact that this person gave it to you make it even more special to you? do you still have it? the above is a copy of the e-mail I sent you I hope it doesn’t get lost in the system again – jessica from sheepshead bay high school

    1. Re: the e-mail

      The first book I remember was Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. It was lost years ago but I can still see it in memory. I also remember the warm, special feeling of sitting with my mom as she read it to me. You are a very good aunt!!!!

  32. the e-mail

    for christmas I bought my 7 month old niece a copy of peter pan the book by J.M Barrie it was important to me that I get her first book because i’m the only real bookworm in the family and I was wondering if you remember the first real book you ever got what was the book? who gave it to you? did the fact that this person gave it to you make it even more special to you? do you still have it? the above is a copy of the e-mail I sent you I hope it doesn’t get lost in the system again – jessica from sheepshead bay high school

  33. I can’t find your questions… can you post them again?

    And I’m sorry, but I have to turn down the offer to critique your work. There are not enough hours in the day to do my own stuff right now.

  34. I can’t find your questions… can you post them again?

    And I’m sorry, but I have to turn down the offer to critique your work. There are not enough hours in the day to do my own stuff right now.

  35. Re: Speak WOW

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I do have a different word to use in place molestation: attack. That creep didn’t molest you. He attacked you.

    Bless you for having the strength to hold on when the pain was killing you, and for fighting through it to become such a strong, loving woman who knows how to listen when survivors speak up. I am honored to have read your story here.

  36. Re: Speak WOW

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I do have a different word to use in place molestation: attack. That creep didn’t molest you. He attacked you.

    Bless you for having the strength to hold on when the pain was killing you, and for fighting through it to become such a strong, loving woman who knows how to listen when survivors speak up. I am honored to have read your story here.

  37. Re: the e-mail

    The first book I remember was Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. It was lost years ago but I can still see it in memory. I also remember the warm, special feeling of sitting with my mom as she read it to me. You are a very good aunt!!!!

  38. Re: the e-mail

    The first book I remember was Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. It was lost years ago but I can still see it in memory. I also remember the warm, special feeling of sitting with my mom as she read it to me. You are a very good aunt!!!!

  39. Thats ok. Like I said I know you are busy but here are the questions I posted…
    Ok, First off, how do you like to start writing your stories? Do you like to plan it out or just go into it without much plans. Where do your ideas come from? Especially with Speak, I swear I have read it at least 6 times. I mean when I read your books I am not just reading. Its like I become the characters (Melinda mostly). How do you get your books so descriptive without overdescribing everything?

    You really captured what high school, any school can be like. I had troubles like melinda in 6th grade. I wasnt raped but I was bullied horribly and your book it was really touching reading what I basically went through. The verbal abuse, the physical abuse, and from her own friends, it hurts and you understood that perfectly.
    Thanks for taking time to do this for me, I really appreciate it. You are like a celebrity to me.
    Much Thanks,
    Lauren Reagan

  40. Thats ok. Like I said I know you are busy but here are the questions I posted…
    Ok, First off, how do you like to start writing your stories? Do you like to plan it out or just go into it without much plans. Where do your ideas come from? Especially with Speak, I swear I have read it at least 6 times. I mean when I read your books I am not just reading. Its like I become the characters (Melinda mostly). How do you get your books so descriptive without overdescribing everything?

    You really captured what high school, any school can be like. I had troubles like melinda in 6th grade. I wasnt raped but I was bullied horribly and your book it was really touching reading what I basically went through. The verbal abuse, the physical abuse, and from her own friends, it hurts and you understood that perfectly.
    Thanks for taking time to do this for me, I really appreciate it. You are like a celebrity to me.
    Much Thanks,
    Lauren Reagan

  41. I start with a character in mind, or a situation. I plan a little, then write a little, then plan a little more, and write a little more. I honestly have no idea where the ideas come from. They just pop in my head. I appreciate your comment about my level of description. That is something I work very hard at, trying to get the right level of detail, without cluttering the pacing of the book with too much fluff.

    I’m glad the book helped. Thanks for the nice words.

  42. I start with a character in mind, or a situation. I plan a little, then write a little, then plan a little more, and write a little more. I honestly have no idea where the ideas come from. They just pop in my head. I appreciate your comment about my level of description. That is something I work very hard at, trying to get the right level of detail, without cluttering the pacing of the book with too much fluff.

    I’m glad the book helped. Thanks for the nice words.

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