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

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Cyberfans and the Queen of Sheba

I love having e-mail contact with my fans through my two websites and a fan forum. I answer all e-mails and get about two or three new Stravaganza fans a day. But sometimes the requests are really strange.

I’ve had years of people wanting help with their research projects and book reports and getting published and others wanting signed books for charity auctions etc., so I’m used to that. And there was that weird one from the US earlier this year, asking for a pair of my old shoes.

But in the last few days there have been requests for free copies of all three Strvaganza novels to be sent to Canada (two sets), an activity a teacher in the US might use with her children on Amazing Grace, a list of “fun things” that a Swedish student might tell her class about me, how to get into publishing both fiction and non-fiction, how to stop oneself getting bored while writing a book, how to get hold of a copy of Nancy No-size (have none of these guys heard of Amazon/abe books/Alibris?) and what did I think of the ending of Green Wing.

On the fan forum we recently had a boy, writing all in capitals, demanding that there should be “more death” in the Stravaganza novels. I hope City of Flowers will satisfy him!

I love them all, of course, and lots are regular correspondents, telling me about their holidays, happinesses and sadnesses in a most trusting way. But I do wonder what it must be like to be JK and get thousands of such communications a day.

You’d have to have a standard letter, wouldn’t you? And a signature stamp? And I’d really hate to have to do that. I wonder how Jacky Wilson copes. But she is much more dedicated than most. I know one very famous children’s book author who never answers any letters. And several of my correspondents have said I was the first author ever to reply to them. And one who had got a reply said the other author was quite mean to her.

How hard it is. I hope I wasn’t mean to the two Canadian girls in telling them how to order a book from its ISBN.

On the other hand, it is from the fans that I have learned that the new short story is up on the Stravaganza website and the cover of City of Flowers, which I have not yet approved, is up on the Bloomsbury site. They also alert me to other useful things, like the release date of the LOTR complete boxed set of DVDs in the extended version.

On non-Stravaganza books, I have received the first piece of artwork for Kings and Queens of the Bible (after a six month wait). It is the Queen of Sheba arriving to visit King Solomon. A lovely crowded scene, dominated by a foregrounded camel with the queen on top.

I think camels have the most wonderful faces – lugubrious but with such flirtatious eyelashes. But the only time I ever tried to ride one was when I was researching “Seven Wonders of the World” in Egypt. I was absolutely terrified the moment it started to rise to its feet (You mount while they are sitting down). And I looked nothing like as composed as the Queen of Sheba.