A fourth grade class in St. Louis wrote to tell me they’d found a mistake in Stolen Children. On page 142, Detective Rockport suddenly, for one sentence, becomes Detective Rockford. I grabbed a copy, found the page, and discovered they were right.
I have no explanation or excuse for this mistake. I goofed, plain and simple, but it astonishes me that an error such as this gets published. I proof-read the galleys of each book more than once. My editor does, too. There’s a professional copy editor who goes through everything, line by line. Yet none of us caught this.
Even more surprising is the fact that nobody has shown me the error before. Usually typos or other mistakes are found within a few weeks of publication, and pointed out to the author. Stolen Children was published in 2008. It’s been nominated for many state young reader awards (and won one, so far – New York) which means it’s being read in a lot of schools. Book store sales are good, too, yet this was the first I knew that I’d made a mistake.
Congratulations to the sharp-eyed readers in Missouri!
The letter seemed like a normal fan letter. She said she loved my books. She hopes to be a writer and I am her role model. She asked for a signed bookplate to put in her own copy. I inscribed a bookplate to her, and mailed it. A week later Google Alerts sent me a link to a group of autograph collectors. There was a photo of the book plate with her name inked out, and a post telling how she had “scored” an autograph from Peg Kehret.
That opened the flood gates and requests for autographs poured in from Spain, Holland, Canada, and many other countries, as well as all across the U.S. Many came by e-mail, and none sent return postage. I ignored all of them.
Next I got a letter containing two first-day-of-issue envelopes, which are issued when new U.S. postage stamps come out. One was an envelope with a stamp honoring Edna St. Vincent Millay; the other was for Louisa May Alcott. A polite letter mentioned my books and asked me to sign the two envelopes. The sender included a self-addressed-stamped-envelope. I suspected this was yet another scheme to sell my signature, but he had chosen women writers, and he’d sent the SASE, so I signed the two envelopes and returned them. The Edna St. Vincent Millay envelope is currently for sale on a Hollywood Celebrity Autographs site for $10.50.
I’ve always mailed autographs to kids who request them but the Internet has made it harder to know which are true fans and which are people out to make a buck. There is currently a request in my Inbox from a young woman who says she is an English Literature major, hopes to be a writer, and wants my autograph to hang by her desk as inspiration. There was a time when I’d have filled her request by return mail. Now, I hesitate. Her comments are too close to what the girl said who inked out her name and gloated over acquiring my autograph.
I frequently get letters from young readers asking me to make a movie from one of my books. I respond by explaining that I’m not the one who decides to make a movie. If I were, ALL of my books would be made into movies.
Here’s an example which cracked me up, especially the P.S.
“Dear Ms. Kehret,
You are my favorite author. I have bragged about your books to all of my friends and to everyone at school. I would like to talk to you about Runaway Twin, Abduction, and Stolen Children. They are my favorites. It would be really cool if you would make these books into movies. They might be a big hit. It might be a good chance to bring in some extra money! You are my favorite author ever.
P.S. Could you please make the movies PG? I am only in 4th grade. Thanks.”
I did an interview with a student who was doing a biography report on me. He was business-like and well prepared, beginning with the usual questions, such as How many books have you written? How long does it take you to write a book?
After six or seven such queries, he asked, “Do you like pancakes?” I started to laugh as I replied, “I LOVE pancakes, especially blueberry pancakes.”
He recorded my answer, then went right back to questions about books, and concluded the interview. I’m sure the pancake question will be the most interesting part of his report. It’s a good reminder to the writers out there: to keep things interesting, surprise the reader now and then.
I had a lively discussion last night with my friends, Larry and Myra Karp. Larry writes mysteries and was trying to solve a plot problem with his latest manuscript, which Myra and I had read. Our talk involved several of the characters: who knew the doctor’s secret? How did she find out? Would someone withhold evidence from the police to protect her boss? Anyone eavesdropping would have thought we were gossiping about the neighbors.
We had a fine old time. After they left, with the plot problem solved, I realized we had spent over an hour discussing people who do not exist.
Here’s my valentine collection. Some were hand made by my kids and grandkids. Two were made by my husband’s mother when she was 16! All have special meaning to me, and I love displaying them each year.
Usually Lucy, my dog, is bored while I read and answer all of my mail. Today, however, she is barking with joy because a young reader sent her two dog biscuits along with his letter. Thank you to Drew Velasco of South Adams Elementary School in Berne, Indiana, for making my dog very happy!
Yesterday I heard Itzhak Perlman play with the Seattle Symphony. It was a thrill beyond measure. Besides being the finest violinist of our time, he is a role model for all of us polio survivors who struggle with the physical disabilities that this disease causes. For that matter, he is a shining example for anyone with a handicap of any kind.
Many times, I’ve heard the expression that a performer electrified the audience. Yesterday, Mr. Perlman truly accomplished that. He also provided me with inspiration not to let physical problems prevent me from utilizing my talents to the best of my ability.
Bravo, Mr. Perlman! And thank you.
Here is what I am wondering today:
1. Why does Molly, my cat, go under my bed to throw up?
2. How did the two actors in Sleuth, which I saw yesterday at the Village Theatre, EVER memorize all those lines?
3. When forwarding my mail to me, why does Simon & Schuster send it to my address, “in care of Larry Strickland?” Who? I Googled the name and found, among others, a Southern artist, a comedian, and a deceased NFL player, non of whom reside with me.
4. Why is it that if I answer eight letters, when I mail them I find nine more in my box?
5. There have been two long editorials in the York PA newspaper regarding the challenge to Stolen Children. The most recent one refers to me as “an old woman.” I wonder if I should point out that, while that may be true now, I was only 72 when I wrote the book.
I was contacted by a newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania who told me Stolen Children was being challenged by a parent who thought it was too violent for elementary age students. I did an email interview with the reporter, and answered a few follow-up questions the next day.
One question was, “Has this book ever been challenged before?” I couldn’t remember for sure, so I looked in my files and learned that it had been challenged once before – in the same school! Last March, the school librarian defended Stolen Children at the School Board meeting when a parent filed a challenge. The Board voted to keep the book in the school library.
The reporter was as astonished as I am that this is happening again in the same school. I don’t know if it’s the same parent, but if it isn’t, it’s almost certainly her friend or relative.
I don’t get many complaints about my books and they are rarely formally challenged, so it upsets me when it happens. This time it will be interesting to see what transpires. I wonder how often a book is challenged more than once in the same school.