My name is Mr. George Carter, a staff in the Private Clients Section of a well-known bank here in London, England. One of our accounts, with a holding balance of £1,000,000 (One Million Pounds Sterling) has been dormant after last operated thirty months ago. From my investigations and confirmation, the owner of this account, a foreigner by the name of Clement Okeida, died on the 30th of October two years ago in a vehicle crash. He hit a tree with his car. Since nobody has done something as regards to claiming this money, as Mr. Okeida has no known relatives and Information from National Immigration also states that he was single on entry into the UK, I have decided to find a reliable foreign partner to deal with. I therefore propose to do business with you, standing in as the next of kin for these funds, which will be released to you after necessary processes have been followed. On your interest, let me hear from you urgently. Most Sincerely, Mr. George Carter Financial Analysis and Remittance Manager George.Carter.PRIVATECLIENTSUK@yahoo.com
Dear Mister Carter,
Thank you for emailing me and I’m sorry to hear about your friend who died. I would like to help you with the money so let me know what I can do. I’m sorry I did not write even sooner. I don’t usually get email so I don’t check it. How did you get my name? I’m just curious.
Kaleb Layton IamtheFinalAvatar@gmail.com
Eliot Schrefer is a New York Times-bestselling author, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award. In naming him an Editor’s Choice, the New York Times has called his work “dazzling... big-hearted.” His books have been named to the NPR “Best of the Year” list, the ALA best fiction list for young adults, and the Chicago Public Library’s “Best of the Best.” His work has also been selected to the Amelia Bloomer List, recognizing best feminist books for young readers. A professor at the Fairleigh Dickinson Creative Writing MFA and the children’s book critic for USAToday, he lives in New York City.
Patrick Ryan on Let Me Hear From You Urgently
In the not-so-distant past (really! it wasn’t that long ago!), if someone was trying to scam you, you were either looking that person in the eye or, at the very least, hearing his voice. Your gut would tell you to be wary because something didn’t feel right. His handshake might be too firm; his eyes might be shifty; his voice might sound just a little too chummy. (Think of the Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist, or the King and the Duke from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn). Nowadays, of course, someone can try to scam you just by getting hold of your email address.
Did you ever receive a scam email and wonder who was on the other end of it?
That’s just part of the premise of our new issue, “Let Me Hear From You Urgently.” The other part is that the scammer and the scammee are more similar than either suspect. I’m delighted to be presenting this story to you, and I couldn’t be happier about welcoming acclaimed author Eliot Schrefer into the One Teen Story family.
Q&A by Patrick Ryan
PR: Where did the idea for this story come from?
ES: I’ve written two books set in Africa (Endangered and Threatened), and while I was doing research for those I came across a lot of the Western stereotypes about the continent. One of those was the Nigerian scammer. While it’s true that a lot of email scams do originate in Nigeria, I wanted to take a moment to look at where someone doing such a scam is coming from. It’s easy to empathize with the victims in these cases, but I thought it would be interesting to consider what the scammer’s story is, too. I guess I enjoy writing about unusual friendships, too, and this one was certainly that!
PR: Were you ever tempted to “break” the device of sticking solely to back-and-forth emails to tell the story?
ES: No, actually! I love a defined structure to a story, like when one is told through dictionary entries (as in David Levithan’s Lover’s Dictionary) or in letters (as in Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s Dangerous Liaisons). As a reader, I like the feeling that the way a story is being told is unfamiliar to me, that all rules are off. As an author, I like having a new mode to write in, and I really enjoyed going in a new direction.
PR: Do you have equal sympathy for Kaleb and “George”? One is the perpetrator; one is the victim.
ES: I think I had equal sympathy for both throughout the writing process. Kaleb is just a kid, but George is working against a deck that’s stacked against him in a much more profound way. I wanted the reader’s sympathy to slide: George starts as a faceless, personality-less scammer, and then he opens up into real, living-and-breathing person. He’s just trying to get his fees together to get his college education started. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for a motive like that! My hope is that the reader ends up with a heart that’s divided between the two boys.
PR: Finish this sentence in just one word—the word you think best captures it: “This story is about __________.”
PR: Given that you’ve made your reputation as a lauded novelist, how many short stories do you write (or attempt) a year, on average? What do you like—or not like—about the short form? And can we expect more short stories from Eliot Schrefer in the future?
ES: “Lauded novelist”! Wait, let me call my mom to tell her. I don’t write short stories so very often, to tell you the truth. Probably about one a year. I find it a really difficult form. I feel like, with so few words, the cast list has to get cut down dramatically. A novel can have a dozen important characters, a short story not much more than two or three. It’s really hard to write a fulfilling story within that constraint, much less the punishing limits on word count. I feel more confident when I’m beginning a novel and have much more self-doubt when I’m beginning a story. That might be part of why I don’t write more of them.
PR: What are you working on now?
ES: I’ve been hard at work on the last novel in a quartet of novels I’m writing about the great apes. Endangered is about a girl surviving wartime Congo with an orphan bonobo, Threatened is about an orphan surviving in the jungles of Gabon by following a tribe of chimpanzees, Rescued is about an American boy who grows up with an orangutan for a brother, and now the latest is about gorillas. It’s still in the very early stages, so that’s all I can say for now!
PR: What is the best bit of advice about writing you have ever received?
ES: I once took a workshop with Margot Livesey, and she told me she keeps a special list of readers by her computer, people she knows she can give a manuscript to and they’ll definitely respond with “it’s great, keep going!” It’s tempting to think that only shrewd, hard-hitting feedback is useful, but sometimes you just need someone to be a cheerleader, and that’s okay. Cultivate those people in your life!