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, January 31, 2005

All about flowers

I think I didn't write my last entry very carefully! It is the Bargello in Florence, of course. All respect to it and its city.

Anyway, the big news is that City of Flowers has arrived! Two beautiful finished copies in their red marbled, silver fleur-de-lys-sprinkled jackets. It is chunky but not substantially thicker than Stars, in spite of being 30 or 40 pages longer. And there were nice ads to show it off in the Bookseller and elsewhere.

Isn't it mysterious how there is a solid book to hold several years after the idea for it? Wouldn't it be interesting if you could start from the finished book?

I'm inclined to count my blessings, having just finished writing up the results of a survey I did on the earnings of children's writers and illustrators. 29% were making £5,000 or less per year. Only about 17% earn more than £30K. A Publicity Director at a publishing house makes over £37K. It is topsy-turvy world where the promoter makes more than the creator. Perhaps they would like to start from the finished book?

We have been to see the snowdrops at Burford Priory - great drifts of them under the trees and on the river banks. You can't normally visit the Priory so it was intriguing to see inside: a log-fire in the huge stone fireplace in the entrance hall where we had tea and homemade cakes. How very Cotswolds! It was lovely and we hope to do it all over again next weekend with different vistors.

I have now seen the extended Return of the King and think that Peter Jackson should have left the Saruman scene in. And the Houses of Healing. We could have had one fewer scene each of Gothmog (the Orc with the pink cauliflower excrescences) and Frodo Sam and Gollum toiling through the rocks of Mordor.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Tomorrow is another day

These are the closing words of Antonio Tabucchi's latest novel, "Tristano Muore" (Tristan dies), about which I have just finished writing an essay. And of course of "Gone with the Wind," and, banal as they are, have made me return to the blog, after the sadness of the last entry. It does look as if relief is getting through.

I have been away myself, for a long weekend in Florence with Jessica. City of Flowers is dedicated to her and she loves the place as much as I do. Now she tells me which are the best restaurants and there was a certain amount of handbag-buying. And WALKING! I bought a pedometer after Christmas and struggle to reach 5,000 in my sedentary writing life but in Florence - !5, 13, 12 thousand steps on those three days. Just as well, considering the food and wine. There seems to be a new Duccio in the Nargello, which I must show to Stevie when we go back in April.

Only six weeks till publication now and many signings, conferences and book festivals are being planned both for Bravo, Grace! and City of Flowers. (details will be posted on both websites). I shall have to go to Edinburgh twice for appearances a week apart in August. Still, a train journey with a table and power-point might lead to lots of writing.

I've seen the Producers (brilliant) and Head/Case (Soho Theatre - brilliantly acted) but don't know how many more things I shall get to - so many dates taken up by book promotion.

I've also been to my first management committee meeting at the Societry of Authors and sat between Tracy Chevalier and Philippa Gregory, across from Jacky Wilson. Jacky and I walked back to the station together afterwards and she waxed lyrical on the subject of NOT having e-mail or the Internet. How different that must be! She loves it but I would hate it.

In Florence we had lunch with my dear friend Carla Poesio, who runs the Press Office at the Bologna Book Fair. I asked if her e-mail was working properly now. "Oh yes," she said "and I check it at least three times a week." I do that more than three times a day! But I swear I'll scream if another fan says "Have you ever thought of making a film out of the Stravaganza books?" ! One even added "Think about it," as if I am somehow failing to make it happen.

I can do only the bit I do and I have sent a proposal and two chapters to Bloomsbury for the next, non-Stravaganza book. More here when I have heard from them but my agent loves it and that is always a good start.

Went to the Marsh award for children's books in transl;ation and it was full of friends, including Lene Kaberbol, whom I met in Reykjavik. But the winner was Sarah Adams for Daniel Pennac's The Eye of the Wolf. Aidan Chambers made a passionate plea for more translated books, which gave me AN IDEA!

Monday, January 03, 2005

Waves of Despair

How quickly we were all brought down to earth after a happy family Christmas. Or rather to water. The terrifying power of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean brings home how remote from the forces of nature we live in the west. Water comes out of a tap when we need it or sits meek in an Evian bottle and the closest we ever get to its elemental strength is when a river bursts its banks and floods homes.

The day after the earthquake the television showed a documentary about how the village of Boscastle was devastated by floods a year ago. Talk about upstaged! That pretty village, which I have visited, lost not one single life. But the wild waters of the Indian Ocean showed something very like the catastrophe which might have befallen Atlantis.

As the horror sank in, it was heartening to hear of the generous response of the world's ordinary people. And the Brits seem to have shamed the government into upping their aid from £15 to £50 million. Bexy tells me the audience for Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang at the Palladium, where she is working front of house, give about £3,000 at each performance for the relief fund. The actors make the appeal from the stage and bring the buckets down into the auditorium themselves. That helps inspire people to give; I wonder whether the other West End theatres are doing the same?

Both my nieces have spent time in Thailand in the affected areas and we all sat glued to the TV news when they were here on 28th; their family had been travelling since Boxing Day and hadn't had a chance to see the coverage. Hard to imagine communities where every family has either lost someone or been entirely lost.

We have so much to be thankful for, most of us, and should stay mindful of it all year and every year.