Monthly Archives: August 2013

Strange Up-dating in an Alice Book

Question:
 
Hi Phyllis! I wanted to start off by thanking you for the Alice series and all of your children’s books. I was a huge fan of Shiloh when I was young, and was determined to read every book written by you in the library after that!
I first read some of the Alice books when I was 12 or 13 (I’m 20 now), and when I heard that the series was ending in October I decided that I would start from the beginning and find out what happened to Alice. It has been an amazing experience so far, the books are just as great as I remembered them being.
I was very surprised however, when I read Alice in April. I have a 2011 edition of the book, and when Alice lists off the items she’s leaving in her class time capsule, she lists things that are relevant to today like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, but the book was published in the 90s. Why did you decide to update this passage? Have other books in the series been updated over the time? I’m also tempted to search for the older editions now so I can compare the two! I can understand why updating passages would appeal to newer audiences, but I remember really enjoying the funny references to 90s fads when I was younger.
Thank you for writing such a lovely series, these books helped me a lot when I was younger and I imagine they’ll continue to do so.
 
Phyllis replied:
 
Ah! An observant reader!  At some point, when the powers-that-be were putting out a new edition of some of the Alice books, they decided it might be a good idea to update some of the language, the technology, etc. to more appeal to modern age readers.  The contents of that time capsule was one of them (and I’m wondering now if they remembered the changes they’d made in the final Alice book coming out in October!)  At one point, they were going to change many of the land phone conversations to cell phone conversations instead, and realized that then whole plots would have to be revised (if a person is carrying a cell phone, help is only a phone call away, and you’ve no idea how this has changed the plot dynamics, especially in children’s literature, where kids are supposed to find the solution to a problem themselves!)  Then they thought about texting, and when they realized that the whole book would have to be rewritten, they satisfied themselves with tinkering with just a few inanimate objects.  Moral: never tinker with a writer’s sacred work!

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Can’t Wait to See You on Oct. 15th

Question:

Of course you know, but I just remembered that in less than two months you’re going to be at the Takoma Park Library to release the final Alice book. I will be there and I am SO EXCITED. Like a lot of people, I grew up with the Alice series, and it had a huge impact on my life. I’ve written to you before, so if you happen to remember, sorry for repeating myself. I was born in New Jersey. When I read that Alice had decided to go to University of Maryland College Park, I had *no* idea where I wanted to go to school. I ended up loving it and deciding to attend. When I started my freshman year, I had a rocky start to say the least. Eventually I found my footing in the huge university and now I am counting down the days until I move in for my sophomore year. My whole life is in the greater metropolitan DC area. I can’t wait to compare my college experiences with Alice’s experiences. I can’t wait to see you, and I can’t believe a character from a book series has influenced my life this much.

I’m going to try to go back and find all of the books and read them in order and save “Now I’ll Tell You Everything” for the end. Thank you for writing these books. Looking back, I feel blessed to have had a strong, smart, and dynamic female role model as I grew up. Thank you so much for that.

Phyllis replied:
 
And I can hardly wait to meet all my fans on this book tour.  I wish I could go to every single city in the whole United States, but in the space of two weeks, flying from place to place, I’ll only be able to start on the East Coast, a few cities in the Midwest, and a few on the West Coast.  When the schedule is definite, I’ll post it here many times so no one will miss it.  I’ll be interested too in how your college experience mirrors Alice’s, since I never attended the U of Maryland, and had to interview one of my sons, plus other Maryland students, for basic information.  The rest, of course, I just made up.  Make sure you introduce yourself to me at Takoma Park!

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What Inspired the Series?

Question:
 
I began reading the Alice books about three years ago and fell in love with how much I could relate to Alice. I loved the books so much I recommended them to two of my friends and we all dressed up as Alice, Pam, and Liz for my school literacy week.
You’re books have insipired me to write. I have just started reading Almost Alice and I would like to know what your inspiration for the Alice books was and is. Also did you always want to be an author when growing up?  Please keep writing.

Phyllis replied:
 
When I was growing up, I wanted to be either a teacher, an actress, an opera singer or a missionary to China.  Mother said that if I were an actress, I’d probably faint under the bright lights; missionaries, so tales were told, were sometimes eaten alive; and somewhere along the way I gave up wanting to be an opera star, though I’ve always loved singing, and I also taught for awhile.  But from the time I learned to read and write, I loved making up my own stories, collecting the pages into a book, and providing the illustrations.  And finally, my hobby became my life’s work.  The Alice series began when I simply wanted to write a book about a motherless girl, looking for a role model, and then the reviews and letters started coming in….

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Biggest Fan Alice

OMG!!! i am such a big honor of all your books. i read them over and over again. i still have “starting with alice” and i had it for  years! i have read the books when she was so young ’till when she was ready to drive! she has grown so much and sometimes i cry remembering that alice is not real! i am so proud of your work.  im thirteen and remember that i am your biggest fan alive!
 
Phyllis replied:
 
You really did start with the first book, didn’t you?  You have watched Alice grow, and when you read the final book coming out in October, well…..   But I think you probably have a lot of books in between, and that’s wonderful if you do.  All the more to look forward to.

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Still Loving Alice at 24

Question:

I was reading the Alice blog (as I do every year, right before the latest book is about to come out), and since the last book is coming out so soon, I felt compelled to write you and thank you for bringing Alice into my life.  I bought The Agony of Alice at a school book fair in the third or fourth grade, and it really did change my life.  I’ll never forget the comfort I felt at knowing that Alice was always embarrassed about something ridiculous too, and thinking that maybe I wasn’t so awkward and weird after all.  It’s funny how well I could relate to Alice back then, and how nothing has changed for me now, at 24 as an almost attorney (I just took the bar).  I have loved reading every single book, and still eagerly await each Alice book every year all the same.  I know that Alice is a fictional character, but she feels so real to me, and the thought that after October I’ll never have another Alice book to wait for both boggles my mind and makes me incredibly sad.  I am sure that you receive similar e-mails all the time, but I just really wanted you to know how much I love Alice, her friends, her world, and most importantly, her flaws.  I can’t (and don’t want to) imagine growing up without Alice, and I can’t wait to share her with any daughters I may have in the future.  So again, thank you a million times over!

Also, I saw on your blog that you will be going on a book tour–I live in the DC metro area, and I would more than love to come.  Do you know where I could find details?

Phyllis replied:

I feel a little sad too about letting her go, and yes, I am hearing from readers all over the globe.  The first stop on my national book tour will actually be here in Maryland, at the Takoma Park Library on the evening of October 15th (pub date) in connection with the Politics and Prose Bookstore.  Please check the library for the exact time.  I would love to meet you.  Thank you so much for your email, and best of luck on the bar exam!

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by | August 22, 2013 · 1:44 PM

Discussing Sex with my Daughter

Question:

My daughter has read all the Alice books (she is now 12), and I have read them right along with her, and I want to say thank you for writing them.
 But I especially want to thank you for having Alice tell Patrick how she wants him to touch her.  I hope that the girls who read these books use her as a model, as there isn’t a lot else out there that explicitly deals with this.  Also, you’ve given me a way to eventually talk to my daughter about sex, and why girls have sex with boys who don’t care if they enjoy it, and perhaps I can create a sense of entitlement in her to have good sex.
 
Phyllis replied:
 
Readers are going to be especially interested in the fact that you are a mom writing this email, and I so appreciate your taking time from your own life to write to me.  I too think this is an important topic, and have always felt that movies in particular show such a biased notion of sexual relations, almost entirely from the man’s point of view.  There is a more complete discussion of this topic in the final Alice book coming out in October, “Now I’ll Tell You Everything.”  I’m delighted to know that you and your daughter have such a close relationship, and can discuss things like this.

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ALICE DID IT TOO!

Question:
 
A friend gave me my first Alice book on my ninth birthday (I am now sixteen). I fell completely in love with it and continued reading until I finished the tenth book. I then found out that the Alice series would not continue being published in my country. I began buying the books online and I want to say that you pretty much taught me all of the English I know today. And for that I will forever be thankful to you.
But the reason I am writing you this e-mail is that Alice just helped cope with an issue that had been depressing me tremendously. I recently found out that I suffer of bruxism – I grind my teeth in my sleep. Because of that my teeth are slightly worn down and have a few tiny chips.
I’d been devastated for a few days, obsessed with this issue and then, suddenly, I recalled this passage from “The Agony of Alice”. I grabbed my old book and checked that Alice did, indeed, grind her teeth in the sixth grade. I feel so much better now. Now I know that I too can lead a life as great as Alice’s, despite the grinding. And I will remember what the dentist told her.
This might all sound silly and not make much sense, but thank you. It was not the first time Alice was a friend to me, and it will certainly not be the last. I now know that I will be keeping my Alice books forever and will be turning to them when things get tough. I can’t even imagine my life without them.

Did you ever think that your books would make such a difference in young girls’ lives? I would be the happiest girl in the world if you replied to this message.

Phyllis replied:
 
Just hearing from you made me one of the happiest girls in the world today.  It’s letters like yours that keep me going.  I hope you will find other ways to read all twenty-eight of the Alice books.  I’m so pleased that you have found help in them, and thank you very much for letting me know.

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