Mallory has a big new project coming up at school, which surprisingly enough isn't part of the Short Takes classes. Their teacher wants them to create a project that has something to do with their future career. Mallory knows that she wants to write children's books, and since she has a new found interest in plays, she decides to write a play.
She goes to the kids' drama club and convinces them to put on her finished play. She writes up a report and hands it in to her teacher, but the teacher wants her to do something more because apparently writing and performing a play just isn't enough. Since she is obsessed with Henrietta Hayes's books, she decides to write the author a letter. She gets back a form letter, but decides to keep plugging away at it.
Mallory goes to her teacher and suggests that she meet with the writer and write a paper about it. The teacher agrees even though she has no connection to the author. Luckily though, Mallory discovers that Hayes actually lives in Stoneybrook, just one street over from Dawn and Mary Anne. After writing two more letters without getting anything except a form letter, she sends one to the author's actual house and gets back another form letter.
This time, she goes over to her house with a questionnaire that she made up. Mrs. Hayes opens the door, sees her there, and invites her into the house. After talking for 30 seconds, Hayes offers Mallory a job as her personal secretary. She explains that she sends out form letters to anyone who writes her because she doesn't have time to personally respond to each one.
While all this is going on, Mallory still has to write her play. She knows that writers usually use personal experiences, so she writes a play about her family. Valorie is a poor writer who just wants to focus on her writing but her family keeps getting in the way. She has an annoying little sister named Ranessa who talks in rhymes, a little brother Ricky who is a klutz, and three irritating triplet brothers.
Some of the kids in the play like Becca, Charlotte, and Haley realize that she's making fun of her siblings. They get uncomfortable and decide not to do the play. Her brothers and sisters show up and demand that she change the play because they don't want people making fun of them. Some of the kids decide to let Mrs. Pike watch the run through and see what she says before they drop out. Mrs. Pike doesn't like it because she thinks Mallory is being mean to her brothers and sisters.
While all this is going on, Mallory's teacher decides that she needs to include more information about Hayes's personal history. Since her books focus on happy families and perfect kids, she assumes that she had a perfect childhood too. She goes to the library and finds that Hayes was actually an orphan who went through a series of foster homes. Mallory feels cheated and like the author lied to her.
She tries to cover up her feelings, but she finally breaks down and accuses Hayes of lying. Hayes admits that she didn't have the perfect life but that writers can't just write what they know. Mallory is also sad to learn that she had a daughter who died and that she kept her daughter’s room the same way she left it.
Mallory agrees to change the play to accommodate her family, and her mom makes everyone sign off on it before she passes out the new script. Everyone agrees to do the play, and it goes great. Mrs. Hayes comes to the play and likes it. The Pikes think she did a great job and everyone sucks up to her. Hayes apologizes for kind of yelling at Mallory, and Mal decides to go back to working for her.
*Jessi's project involves writing out the stories behind certain ballets. Not writing behind the scenes stuff, but actually writing out the story of what's going on in the ballet because Stacey explains that she somehow can't follow the storyline in person. The teacher somehow thinks this is a fantastic idea. And yet, Mallory can't just write a play and write about what she learned helping kids put on the play.
*The teacher also makes Jessi create illustrations to go along with her stories. What the hell does that have to do with her wanting to be a pro ballet dancer?
*Hayes has her address published in the phone book, seriously? And she doesn't think it's odd when a reader not only sends a letter to her home address but shows up there?
*Hayes's daughter’s room has a twin bed, lots of ruffles, and tons of pink stuff everywhere. But, the article that Mallory reads says that she was 18 when she died. What kind of 18 year old girl has a room like that?
*Mallory's play is ridiculous! She acts like her parents demand all of her free time and that she never gets the chance to write. I know they demand a lot of her in other books, but in this one she has time to work on her play, meet with the kids in the play, babysit, and attend BSC meetings without her parents asking her for anything.
*It's weird that there isn't a subplot in this one. The main plot is about her working on the play and the subplot is about her working for Hayes.
*How many famous people live in this freaking town? According to Mrs. Kishi, who keeps files on every famous person, there are several famous writers and at least two illustrators living in Stoneybrook.
*BTW, Mallory gets a response from her in less than a week. I'm still waiting for Christian Slater to respond to the letter that my 12-year-old self sent him!
*I actually did get a response from Tom Cruise when I was a kid LOL. I wrote him a letter to tell him that I would be his perfect wife, but that I was okay with him marrying Nicole Kidman (this was way back in the day). I got back a letter about his “new” movie Far and Away with an auto-signed picture that I still have in a drawer at my parents' house LOL.