The Last Book

Question:

You probably get tons of fan mail every day and you’re probably never going to read this one. But in case you do I wanted to tell you that your Alice series are the best books I’ve ever read. I relate to them so much and I’ve been reading them for years. They help me through situations and whenever I don’t know what to do I think, what would Alice do? I see a lot of me in her, making the same mistakes that she did and going through the same stuff she did too. (My name even sounds like hers) I think what struck me the hardest was the last book. I couldn’t read another book for a long time because I was thinking about that one. I loved how it was written and I’m so glad that you didn’t tell the readers how Alice died or what her life was like beyond 60. I realized that the series is over and I don’t think I could have managed that so I just finished ordering all 28 books from Amazon to read over and over again. I’m not even in college yet let alone married with children, but I have a feeling I will be reading these books for a long time throughout my life. They certainly prepared me for everything that could
happen in life so thank you so much for all the smiles that you brought me by writing these books. I couldn’t thank you enough.

Phyllis replied:

I read every letter and email I receive, and yours was very welcome.  I’m impressed that you ordered the series, not easily done, I know.  I will be so happy if my publisher ever puts the whole series out under one ISBN number.  It’s wonderful that you found the books helpful as well as entertaining and meaningful.  Thanks so much for taking the time to write to
me.

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Greetings from Austria

Question:

my name is Jasmin, I’m 19 years old and I live in Austria.
I read your books since my 10th birthday and I love them.
I read the first 14 books in german and because the other books are unfortunately not translated in german, I read them in english. My english skills become better gradually! (:
I can identify so much with Alice and it’s great to see her development in every book.
You’re an amazing author and I hope I will be able to write such books later in life.
You are my role model!

Phyllis replied:

I’m amazed at fans who bother to get the Alice books in English, when they can’t find the ones they want in their native language.  It is generally assumed that foreign publishers cut the series off when the stories get too sexually explicit, no matter how well written the text.  It’s wonderful that you can identify with her life.  Thanks so much for writing to me.

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It Was Just Perfect

Question:

I’m pretty sure you get tons of emails of girls who have read the Alice books. Just like them, I would like to thank you so much for writing these books – Alice was truely like a friend and it was great being part of her life, sort of. It was a pleasure to see her grow up and make all these wonderful experiences in life.

I have started with “The Agony of Alice” in 1999, when I was 11 years old myself. I patiently waited year after year until the German translation of the the Alice books was published – so I could read and enjoy them (as I’m a fan from Germany). At some point, when I was able to speak/read in English, I didn’t have to wait that long anymore, and I could just read the books in English. And today – being 27 years old, having studied Biology, just like Alice daughter, and currently working on my PhD – I have finally finished the last book. It has been amazing! I thoroughly enjoyed reading the very last book and I’m highly satisfied about how everything has turned out for Alice, her wonderful and friends. It couldn’t have been better – it was just perfect!

Thank you again for letting us be part of Alice’s wonderful journey. I hope I will have a daughter myself at some point, so I can pass the Alice books on to her – I’m sure she will love them just like I did!

Phyllis replied:

I’m so happy that you were pleased with how the series turned out. I know that not all readers liked all the choices that people made, but this was Alice’s life, and the way I felt she would have lived it.  Thanks so much for your wonderful letter, and best wishes on your PhD.

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In Love

Question:

I fell in love with the Alice series in 5th grade after one of my friends introduced me to it and I have faithfully read all of them and currently own at least half of them. I wrote you a letter at one point but it never made it to you because it was the wrong address. I wanted to tell you how I’m IN LOVE with the series and that I cried in the last book because I got so emotionally attached with young Alice and her friends and I couldn’t imagine her in her older life. I’m so happy she ended up with Patrick!!

Phyllis replied:

I am too!

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Reading the Books in Order

Question:

Dear Mrs., Naylor, I’m a big fan of Alice books! 2015 summer is so great I have read 2 books already in the summer and I’m on my 3rd one “Alice in the Know “. I’ve read all of your books in order and I just stared like in January. I saw Alice Alone at my school library and I read it and they I saw Simply Alice which was after Alice Alone and I also read it and then I saw Patiently Alice and I read that one. I saw other Alice books at my school library and I also read them. Then when school led out I went to the Public Library and requested 2 books and I read them and I just love them!!!! It bums me out that Alice, Pamela, Elizabeth, Gwen and more people in the book aren’t real. They should really make more movies about Alice and the same descriptions they have in the books. Thank you for having the time to write Alice books for everyone so we can enjoy cause I definitely do!! –

Phyllis replied:

I’m so glad you are able to read the books in order.  It’s good for fans to know that if your library is missing some of the series, you should be able to ask the librarian to get them for you from another library on inter-library loan.  This is a free service of public libraries.  It may take a while, if there’s a waiting list, but it’s one way to read the whole series.

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Living Vicariously Through Alice

Question:

As evident on your website, you must receive dozens of emails from girls of all ages saying they identify with Alice. I’m no different; I also identify with her! I will never forget when I checked out my first Alice book “Alice the Brave” from the library. I was 13 years old (like Alice), extremely average (like Alice), and was terrified of swimming in deep water (like Alice!). I would go to the library and look up all kinds of books in the catalog, and what I was experiencing as a 13 year old led me to Alice. After a failed attempt at learning how to swim as a child, my mother enrolled me in private swimming lessons at the pool. I was so scared, but after reading what Alice went through and how she overcame her fears, I felt confident that I could learn how to swim. And I did!

I believe that it was divine intervention that led me to Alice, because after reading “Alice the Brave” I continued to read every Alice book I could get my hands on, and her experiences helped me tremendously. I love how unabashed you were when it came to writing about puberty and sex. In “The Grooming of Alice”, when the girls attend the ‘For Girls Only’ seminar at the YMCA, I felt like I was right there along with them; I learned so much! I was such a shy and introverted teenager, that I feel like I lived vicariously through Alice and her friends’. I continue to re-read the Alice books, even as a 24-almost-25 year old, and I suspect that I will continue to read these books and pass them along to my children one day. My fiancé teases me all the time for reading them, but they truly make me happy (despite knowing exactly what happens in each book).

I honestly cannot thank you enough for writing these books; there are times when Alice feels like a real person, and a real friend. I feel a little silly typing that, but it’s the truth. The parallels between what I experienced as a teenager, and what Alice did resonates with so many girls. I work in a middle school library, and it makes me so happy when kids check out the Alice books; new generations of kids still identify with Alice. The Alice books are timeless.

Although I was sad when I read the final Alice book (I read it as soon as it came out!), I thought you did a tremendous job wrapping up the series; I have no complaints! I also want to commend you and your copy editor for giving the fans the ‘Alice Bible’ on your website. I know that it must have taken a lot of work to compile, but I had so much fun reading it! I will continue to reference it when I re-read the series.

Again, thank you for writing the Alice books.

Phyllis replied:

I appreciate your letter so much, and I’ve passed it on to the editorial staff as well.  What a nice fan letter for a Friday!   I’m just so glad that you found help in “Alice the Brave.”  That’s the way I finally conquered my fear of deep water too, and the person who taught me was a girl in my church group, who took the time, when we were all in a pool together, to show me the little trick of swimming back and forth in a corner of the pool .  Once I was convinced that I would stay up and not sink, the rest came more easily.  The girl wasn’t even a close friend–just someone who noticed my fear, and sympathized enough to help.

What delights me most about your letter is that you are now in a position to recommend the Alice books to other girls.  So the people who helped me in my life problems found a place in my books, and you found help from them and are passing it along….

Yes, the Alice bible was enormous work for the copy-editor who put it together, and I’ve used it many times even now when I want to look up something in particular to use in a talk.  Thanks again for a letter that made us all happy today.

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How Do You Get Started?

Question:

I am a fan, inspired by your story at http://www.phyllisnaylor.com  I am writing to tell you I use you for my role model. Writing has been a dormant passion of mine. I am finally able to give my time to writing. I used to sneak it in small increments of time when I was working full time. Now, I am not working, and this is my new life, I wondered how someone like yourself started off. Did you have the money to hire editors? Did you have the resources that allowed you to be able to self publish? Can you advise somebody like me who has 0 to spend on those type of luxury’s? Or do you where or who to direct me towards? Thanks!I don’t mean to sound whiney! I am just trying all my avenues to get valuable information from an expert!

Phyllis replied:

You don’t sound whiney, but you do sort of imply that it takes financial resources to succeed, and I started with zero too.  I would say that the two main factors for succeeding as a writer are talent, of course, and persistance.  There is such a wide difference of time between when I got my start and when you are starting out; I had advantages then that aren’t available now, but you have advantages I didn’t have.

First, I wrote short stories–about 2000 of them, to be exact–for fifteen years before I ever tried writing a novel.  At the time, most church denominations had story papers or magazines for both children and teenagers, and they were constantly looking for really good stories that were character-building without moralizing.  As my writing improved, I began picking themes that no one else was writing about for children–how it feels to be a teen, and knowing your dad is having an affair; a teenager who commits suicide when the crowd below taunts him to jump…. But I also loved to write comedy, and for 25…or was it 35 years…I wrote a column for teens called “First  Person Singular” under the pseudonym, P.R. Tedesco.  I subscribed to The Writer magazine, and when I saw an ad about a contest for a first novel for children, I submitted a manuscript.  I did not win the prize.  In fact, it was rejected, but with a note telling me that if I would completely rewrite the manuscript from the viewpoint of one of the characters instead of the whole family, they would give the manuscript a second look.  I did, and my first novel, “What the Gulls were Singing,” was published.  From there, one at a time, very slowly, I began writing books.  I did not get an agent until I began writing novels for adults, and I never paid anyone to critique my manuscripts.  The editors at the publishing company taught me the rest.

Today, there probably aren’t magazines for children and teens published inexpensively by church denominations.  But there are still contests if you look for them.  And all sorts of ways to promote oneself and one’s work online.  Yes, there is probably way more competition.  Paying for a website is not cheap.  But there are also organizations that are extremely helpful to the beginning writer, such as Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, if you are at all interested in writing for children, teens, or young adults.  Write, write, write.  Read, read, read.  Push yourself.  Learn from rejections.  Best wishes and best of luck!

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