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

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Quite Interesting

The Bloomsbury training event was a great success and also fun. Nine of us, including Celia Rees, Mary Hooper, Graham Marks and Pauline Fisk, were given very good advice about how to prepare an event based on our latest title. "Do not expect that anyone will know your books," advised David Bond, our trainer.

I think this has been a bit of a Road to Damascus revelation to me. Instead of getting upset about the lack of preparation in schools and for events, one should just do a presentation that doesn't depend on it. Of course. it's still worth sending out a flyer beforehand and directing teachers to one's website. And I shall still limit Primary age appearances to when I have a new book out (see The Fat Lady has Sung for reasons why). But I shall prepare a "Grace presentation" and a "Stravaganza presentation", perhaps with Power Point, and tour it next year.

And I even did the dreaded videod reading, from an unprepared passage from City of Flowers. Talking of which, I bumped into Ian Butterworth, the designer, at the Bloomsbury Christmas Party afterwards (candles, tangerines and chocolate coins at the beautiful Home for Fallen Women in Greek Street - Saint Barnabas). We both felt nervous about the jacket, which was due any day, and then we found out it had come that day! This was immensely frustrating as it hadn't been brought to the party.

But now it has come by post, very gorgeous in red marbling and silver fleur-de-lys, and there are no mistakes in the text either. All the bound proofs have gone, so I must get back my only two from daughters. The finished copies will be here at the end of January.

Next day I gave blood for the first time - it was a doddle! Just do it, everyone who can.

To the QI club in Oxford on Monday for lunch with Fiona Kenshole, who published one of my books at Collins (Bump in the Night) and two at Hodder (Trace in Space and Special Powers) but who has just become Director of Scouting [sic] at Vinton Studios, an animation company bought by the multi-millionaire founder of Nike. The club was started by the man who brought QI (Quite Interersting) with Stephen Fry, to our TV screens. It is supposed to be a place for interesting encounters and conversation. I met a French film director who is making films about PG Wodehouse, a TV series about surreal life in an English village and a film about a Casanova type at the court of Louis Quatorze. "All in the casting", we women thought. "Stuart Townsend," I said droolingly, and he seemed convinced. Invite me to the premiere, I said.

That would be quite interesting enough for me.

Off to the panto now. A very Happy Christmas, one and all!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Wolcum, Yole!

Three Wise Women was quite enchanting, at Herbert Morrison School in Lambeth. They had combined the elements of a traditional Nativity play (with a backdrop of the crib scene, fully cast with Innkeeper and wife, shepherds, kings and angels as well as the Holy Family) with my modern legend. And the Head, who had directed the play and written all the additional material, had also incorporated African and Hindu songs. Lovely!

It's a very special feeling to see one's story brought to life in this way. Not so to get an e-mail asking me to summarize pages 1-90 of City of Masks for someone's school project! I wrote back firmly saying she must do her own homework but it couldn't be delivered because she can receive e-mails only from her own network. Weird that she doesn't know this. So I suppose she'll think I'm just a mean old non-answering author. As opposed to a mean and answering one.

Off to Bloomsbury on Thursday for a training afternoon on how to do school and festival appearances. It's a bit late for me, since I've done hundreds but it's never too late to learn something, I suppose. Have just heard this exercise will be video'd and have gone off the whole idea. Still, committed now.

Talking of videos, the boxed set of the extended DVD version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy arrived this morning. So beautifully produced. But as far as I can tell, the Saruman scene has not been restored to The Return of the King. Fans on my forum tell me there's a hilarious drinking scene between Legolas and Gimli though.

I am in e-mail contact with Linda Aronson, author of Kelp and Rude Health. She lives in Australia now and her books are really funny, as opposed to supposed to be. Good to have come across her and I shall review Plain Rude in Armadillo. Whose Christmas issue is about to go up. Time to order recommended books. See to subscribe.

My study is now covered in tinsel, including the cat, as Middle Daughter is home for a long weekend and is "helping" to decorate. Somewhere under all this is the reference material I need for the mediieval book - ah well. Wassail and all that.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Let it snow!

A determined assault has been made on Christmas, owing to the discovery that today was the last guaranteed posting day for cards to Australia. So a quick flurry of card-writing, inspired partly by the fact that on Friday we went to the turning on of the Christmas lights at Bourton-on-the-Water. Somehow it always brings the magic on, seeing the one solitary reindeer, in spite of the crowds around it, and drinking plastic thimblefuls of mulled wine in the shops. I bought only three chocolate Santas but made lots of lists. (Let's keep our priorities straight)

Writer daughter Rhiannon suggested a website called to give extra inspiration, particularly for men. Trouble was, Jessica got on to it and discovered Instant Snow (just add water) and I think will be very disappointed if she doesn't find some in her Christmas stocking.

On Sunday, went to lunch with nice Liz Lindsay (SAS), whose next door neighbour is Italian, from Rome, finishing a PhD on drama and translation. She was extremely knowledgeable about early 14th-century Franciscanism in Umbria - and wasn't even a mediaevalist! How do you know so much, I wondered, and was told that Italians are well taught history in school. She will be an invaluable consultant. Thank you, Liz.

I can't do my "presentazione" at my last Italian class of term tomorrow, since the book I had ordered from an Italian online bookshop, with express delivery, is not going to arrive. After nine days, I telephoned, and had two e-mails back the same day telling me 1/ that it was out of print and 2/ it was out of stock. These are automatically generated so you can't write back and say, "These are not the same thing!" And I can't face ringing them again.

This week has begun well, though, with a phone call from Graziella Rossi from the contrada of Valdimontone in Siena. I had sent her a copy of City of Stars in Italian, in which she gets an acknowledgment for showing us round the museum and making sure we had tickets for the street dinner on the night before the Palio. She was so sweet about it and so full of offers to help with future books. Maybe I'll pop over and see her after Bologna. I have her e-mail address now.

The Italian for @ is "chiocciola" (kyOchola), which means "snail" - how nice is that? And Chiocciola is one of Siena's contrade too - very strange to be a competitor in a race and be called Snail or Caterpillar or Porcupine.

The cover of Bravo, Grace! has arrived, in light purple, with Jacqueline Wilson's kind words on the back. I'm told the City of Flowers one is due imminently. It's very hard to concentrate on work with all this Christmas going on - our shopping day is next Wednesday and we're going to see a Nativity play based on my Three Wise Women in a school in Lambeth on Friday afternoon. We've seen it before there - and An Angel Just Like Me. They must be my most enthusiastic fans.

I'm going to the Edinburgh Festval next year - must make a list of all the appearances and remember not to let them interfere with the writing. Nice long train journeys + laptop will be a help.

Must go - have some snow to order