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

Friday, July 08, 2005

All change

I really should have kept my promise and blogged last week, since all news of festivals and kittens seems so trivial now.

I was a Londoner till four years ago and know all those places; it was horrendous watching the news coverage. But my London daughter phoned me before I'd heard anything so I was not anxious for her. Unlike those poor people on News 24 today showing pictures of the loved ones they haven't heard from. 9/11 all over again. I expect in time it will be known as 7/7.

But in the spirit of "life must go on," I will post some of my news. The best thing about the ALOUD festival was meeting Alex, my fan, who came out for a coffee break afterwards and had a typed list of Stravaganza questions - marvellous. Oh, and finding a newly-arrived and somewhat jetlagged Jackie Wilson standing by the lifts in our hotel. She did very well and stayed up till the equivalent of 3am.

My flight to Chicago was cancelled, but I was fast-tracked on to an earlier one, being rushed through the whole fingerprint-and-photo business so fast I didn't know what was happening. "Your fingers are VERY dry," said the immigration official, disapprovingly.

Got to Chicago in time for the Listening Library reception in the Civic Opera House, where Judy Blume gave a pretty speech and met Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted), who looks like the Fairy Godmother - tiny and potent. My hotel offered a goldfish for company so I accepted. I called him Ringo, because we've had the other three Beatles over the years.

ALA was great - I signed lots of copies of Bravo, Grace! at the Frances Lincoln stand in the morning and ditto of City of Flowers at the Bloomsbury one in the afternoon. In between I had lunch with both sets of publishers in a restaurant at the conference centre. When we reached coffee and Victoria (Bloomsbury USA) ordered a cappuccino, they said they couldn't do it because there was a Starbucks in the centre and they had the monopoly on cappuccino! This is absolutely true.

After fitting in another quick party, I went to the dinner that Bloomsbury were giving for me and American author Rick Yancey, to meet librarians and journalists. That was wonderful and stimulating. We walked back a few blocks to our hotel afterwards which was the first real experience of Chicago I'd had and I loved it.

I skipped breakfast because Frances Lincoln were having a two-hour brunch at the Four Seasons and I have never seen anything like it! Yes, you could have croissants and fruit and coffee, but also soup, sushi, roast beef, greek salad, couscous, prawns, mini-bagels, pasta, meat stew, and a range of puddings. Oh, and I forgot the eggs Benedict, stacks of pancakes, and omelettes made to measure. At 11am they opened the Bloody Mary bar. It's amazing that we managed to engage with our group of librarians at all but we did, most effectively.

Then I had about two hours free befor the next event and spent it first dashing to Urban Outfitters to buy tops for girls, then at last getting to the Art Institute. They have room after room of Monets, Van Goghs, Matisses, Seurats etc. And there will be a new wing built by Renzo Piano by 2009.

Back for one last party - the VOYA reception, a magazine which had chosen City of Stars as one of 24 best fiction titles of 2003/4 - and then off to the airport. It left me with a great yen to return to Chicago. Toronto, too since I had no free time there.

Once the jetlag wore off this side, we were ready to fetch the first two kittens. Lonza is a small cat really, stunningly beautiful and very sensitive but loving and companionable too. She didn't think much of being given a sister the next day but Lila didn't care. (she specialises in not caring). Lila purred all the way home in the car and started playing the minute she got out of the cage.

It took three and a half days for Lonza to stop hissing and for the two of them to snuggle up and wash each other. Now they are inseparable. But we'll be adding Lorenzo to the mix the day after tomorrow and anticipate fireworks well into next week.

I haven't written much beyond a Press Release on children's writers' earnings since we've had them. But I'm going on an SAS retreat the week after next and will take my laptop.

London on Tuesday to chair a committee meeting of CWIG and then a session on illustrating. Anthony Browne, Jane Ray and Korky Paul were brilliant, showing us their roughs and even passing round finished artwork. The audience was full of other artists - Shirley Hughes, Ted Dewan, Ros Asquith, Colin West, Nicola Smee, Caroline Holden, were all spotted.

To Oxford on Wednesday for the launch of Troll Mill, the second of Kath Langrish's troll trilogy. Very good. I met Julie Hearn, who said she doesn't use e-mail. Or rather she reads it but doesn't reply. However she does occasionally read this blog, so Hi Julie!

And so to 7/7. Today should have been the announcement of the Carnegie and Greenaway Awards in London, but it was postponed out of respect for the victims and consideration for the emergency services. Frank Cottrell Boyce won the Carnegie medal for his book "Millions", now an exciting motion picture, as they say.

Both cats are "helping" me write this blog so I'm going to stop whil it's still intelligible!