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, August 23, 2004

An Englishwoman in New York

Here I am at an Internet cafe in Greenwich Village. We have just been wandering round looking at sights like the narrowest house in NYC (nine and a half feet) where the poet Edna St.Vincent Millay lived, also Douglas Fairbanks and Cary Grant.

We drank iced coffee in a lovely little bar called the Speckled Trout, which claimed to cater for Anglers and Writers. Off to Bloomsbury USA and Penguin tomorrow and, now that my cell phone is working, I am much happier.

Rhiannon and I, after a visit to the amazing Toys R Us on Times Square, are thinking of writing a book together, starting from the merchandise and working backwards!

This afternoon I am going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, even though last night's weather forecast said today would be the only fine day. I don't believe them and I want to start on the many sights to be seen.

Maybe my next post will be from Boston?

Monday, August 16, 2004


Now the blog of 11th August is there! And now you've heard about the cover for City of Flowers twice!

Michael Moore and talking Cat

What has happened to last week's blog? I posted it from my laptop and it has completely disappeared. It was partly about shopping so maybe not a great loss.

Since then I have posted copies of Lines in the Sand to both Michael Moore and his assistant at their home addresses (don't ask how I got hold of these - my lips are sealed). This is because I want him to put his not inconsiderable weight behind the American edition of the book. The Disinformation Company say it hasn't been selling too well and I felt emboldened to do this because the people who will benefit from greater sales aren't the publishers or Rhiannon and myself but the children of Iraq. Now we'll wait and see.

On Wednesday of last week I drove into Wiltshire to interview Louisa Young for Armadillo. She and her daughter Isabel are Zizou Corder, the author of the Lionboy trilogy. I was greeted at the gate by a suicidal pheasant called Andrew who hurled himself at the car. He reminded me of Evil Murdoch, the gander in the Provensens' immortal "A Horse, a Hound, a Goat and a Gander", who fell in love with hubcaps.

Louisa and I drank tea with her very distinguished father, Wayland Young, who was a Labour-voting hereditrary peer, who did not get a life peerage in 2000 when the House of Lords was reformed, perhaps because of his period with the SDP. We talked about Lionboy and about Italy and singing, which is something Louisa, Isabel and I all like to do. The hero of their books, Charlie Ashanti, talks Cat, as a result of an accidental exchange of blood withb a leopard cub when he was a baby. But Isabel can't have a cat of her own because of her asthma.

An unexpected phone call from Woman's Hour will find me talking about Cinderella on tomorrow's programme. refreshed my knowledge on this - there are famously at least 345 variants!

A sample cover design for City of Flowers came - this is very exciting. And we'll have bound proofs shirtly after I'm back from the States.

By the way, these musings may be interrupted, since I don't know if I'll get to the Net while I'm away. Normal service will be resumed shortly after 6th September.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

High Finance, enjoying being a girl and the real Italy

I love being freelance. Every week is different, every day in fact, and, as long as I meet my deadlines, I can take days off when I need them. So, off to London to meet our financial adviser, just back from maternity leave and in a new firm. We have to take out life insurance on me and there are lots of jokes about how much more I am worth to Stevie alive than dead. But does this refer to my income or my other assets?

To Oxford on Friday on one of the few fine days, with Rhiannon, to buy accessories for the New York wedding. They were going to be pink and we got a hat straightaway, though this was predicted to be the hardest thing. Will do the same in London next week with Bex. It was so hot that we we able to buy sandwiches and eat them on the grass behind Christ Church.

It was so much nicer than a few days before, when I had driven to London in a thunderstorm and it had taken six and a half hours instead of two.... And I couldn't even read. But I could when we went to London by coach and used the time to read Jennifer Donnelly's "A Gathering Light" (Bloomsbury) which won the Carnegie last month. It is American and I deduce from the Afterword that it was originally called "A Northern Light". So I suppose it was changed here to avoid confusion with Philip Pullman.

Anyway, it was gripping and I read it in a day. I don't know if I'll want to read it again but it was much more to my taste than "Ruby Holler" also Bloomsbury, which won last year. Talking of Bloomsbury, the first suggestion for a cover for "City of Flowers" has just come. It is very beautiful, with silver fleur-de-lys all over it as well as on the stopper of the perfume bottle. (Rhiannon says silver on a cover means your publishers love you). Inside the bottle, which is a bit fat at present, you can see a white flower but I've asked for a dagger too so it doesn't look too girly.

I've started the outline for a novel set in the real Italy - in early 14th century Umbria and Le Marche. It's hard, partly because lots of the things I know weren't bulit or painted by then and partly because if you look up these places on the Net, they immediately offer you holidays there.... Clearly I must do some serious research.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Blood, and jam. on the floor

Well, all that fruit got turned into jam, including an explosive incident with boiling hot blackcurant while potting up. All jammakers will understand if I say a rubber band broke while I was handling hot jam and hot jars and about half a jar escaped. I kept finding unexpected blobs of it on my sandals, shins, even in my husband's hair!

All has gone a bit quiet on the fan forum front, since the Moderator, who set up the site, came on in a Night of the Long Knives, demoted several members who had been "speedposting" from Talisman Carriers to apprentices, and Enrico, the most assiduous poster of the lot, left the site in umbrage. My daughter Rhiannon tells me this is quite typical.

Finished a book this week - Kings and Queens of the Bible, for Frances Lincoln. I say finished but books don't stay finished, do they? Although they can open the e-mail, they can't print it out (Same problem with Bloomsbury last month). I think it's because I have OSX.3 and the latest version of Word and the publishers just don't keep up!

Another example of books not staying finished: This week I have been going through the editor's further corrections to the third draft of City of Flowers, before it goes off to the copy-editor. I've e-mailed them back to Bloomsbury now with lots of fierce"Stets".

To Brighton for the day on Tuesday for Jessica's graduation. Posy Simmonds was given an honorary Doctorate of Letters and made a good speech. Jess got her First class degree in Fine Art Painting and I managed to get a shot on the new digital camera of her receiving it. We sat on Brighton beach in the early evening drinking pink champagne and eating chocolate cake. It was so hot, Rhiannon bought a tankini and plunged into the sea. Not so middle daughter Bex, who had a terrible sore throat and an audition the next day.

I was in London on Wednesday for a CWIG meeting, which was very hot and full of jokes about things and Sven-Goran . All the other committee members went to a party at Puffin but I met Jess, hungover and happy and up in London for the ballet, at a place that sells Italian ice-cream in Charing X Road. The waitresses have no English but, alas, no Italian either, so I couldn't speed things up that way. Still, the delay meant Bex could join us fresh from her audition and pour orange-juice and ice-cream down her poor throat.

Amazingly, she rang next morning to say she had got the job! Her first professional engagment, with Theatre in Education, and there were about a dozen girls auditioning, and she had to sing and dance. I went off to see King Lear at Stratford in the pm, with Corin Redgrave, with visions of Bex making a living at this difficult profession after all. At least she has three months paid work.

And Rhiannon has finished her latest book for OUP, a shorter one than usual, so all three girls have had their achievements this week.