Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Monday, July 26, 2004

Fans not jams

Last week was supposed to be spent making jam. I don't eat jam very often because it is a/ sweet and b/ sticky - two things I don't like. But my family like it and it is a very relaxing occupation. Last year I lost three months working on Lines in the Sand (see website link) and no jam got made. So we have been buying it at the supermarket.

This year I decided I must do it but last week I discovered a new use for my time. One of the Stravaganza readers who writes to me on that website set up a fan forum ( Once I had got it to work I emailed about 150 fans and several of them signed up. Of course they are on summer holidays now and several of them have time on their hands.

It is tremendously time-wasting but fun! Members have been giving themselves the names of characters and starting polls as to who is the best Stravagante, best character, whether Luciano and Arianna should get together etc etc. And a lot of discussion about who should star in "the Film". (This is fantasy land indeed, since there are no film offers but that doesn't hold forum members back one bit. A fight is breaking out online about which of them gets to play Arianna!

It is a bizarre experience to eavesdrop on one's readers chatting together and speculating about what is going to happen in book three (which I have finished). I post occasionally myself but it is really their thing. Fascinating.

I'm going to New York in less than four weeks for a family wedding but there was another one last Saturday in Bristol and the NY bride was there. In the midst of all the pink and white and rose-strewn loveliness, I spoke to her about Farenheit 9/11 and Michael Moore. It turns out she can put me in touch with him, which is just fantastic, because now I can ask if he will lend his weight (!) to the American edition of Lines in the Sand. And on Sunday I managed to book a gig at a library in Brooklyn. Not only was I working; so was the Brooklyn librarian.

Have now bought 6 kilos of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, so there will be jam! At least jam tomorrow.


Monday, July 19, 2004

Writers' retreat

Sorry about that first blog - my daughter, Jessica, tried for over an hour to put photographs of me in at the beginning but was defeated by the software. We might try again later.

I have just come back from a three day retreat organised by "the other SAS" - the Scattered Authors Society. It was the third time we had used the small Elizabethan manor house in Oxfordshire for about 25 of us to get together in informal and more structured sessions and to have frre time to write, read each other's work or just chat.

We are fed very well there, with lots of fresh vegetables grown on site and cooked puddings so that even we eight or so veggies - a third of the total, you see - were sated. A high spot of the retreat was the trip to Buscot Park, where there is a splendid salon with Burne-Joneses on three walls, telling the story of Briar-Rose (Sleeping Beauty). Actually the only part it tells is the bit where everyone is asleep for a hundred years - bad place to be just after one of those substantial lunches.

One night we had ghost stories, complete with red velvet drapery and guttering candles in an iron candelabrum. another night we had an adult Good Read, with Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 100 Years of Solitude and Niccolo Ammaniti's I'm not Scared. At the childrfen's panel the day before we had Philip Reeves' Mortal Engines, Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes and Rosemary sutcliff's Eagle of the Ninth. Blasts from the past these last two and talking about Judy Blume brought sadness that Paula Danziger had died a few days earlier. One of the great life-enhancing personalities of the children's book world.

But the news came through while we were away that Adele Geras had become a grandmother again with birth of Guy to her daughter Sophie Hannah.

The weather was not nice but every eveniung we watched the swifts circling in the sky, squawking. Some people did 5-minute reads from one of their books published or forthcoming. and we had sessions on Scriptwriting, Useful Things (kitchen timer, dog, coffee, switching off Minesweeper from the computer etc.), Promotion, Writing surgery, Writing for ourselves and MONEY (my topic).

We've already booked for next year - it is so refreshing, even if not as relaxing as it should be, because ideas circle round like swifts, squawking in one's brain long after those few days are past.