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 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.