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

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Such a lot has happened since my last. Rhiannon and I had a fabulous week on Rhodes, where it was still really hot and sunny. There was lots of sunbathing and swimming but also plenty of talk about books, read, written and in embryo. I'd read and reviewed Katherine Roberts' The Colossus Crisis, which was set on the island in 227 BC and of course Christina Hardyment's book on Malory hypothesises a vist to Rhodes Town. And we both read Adele Geras' Ithaka in the brilliant white sunshine under blue skies by turquoise seas and sandy beaches.

Rhodes Town, the mysterious island of Symi, where everyone owns art least three houses because the population plummeted once synthetic sponges were invented, and Lindos with its Doric acropolist encircled by a Mediaeval fortress, containing a Byzantine church - lots of food for thought. It's time someone did for the Knights Hospitaller what Dan Brown and all the other conspiracy theorists have done for the Templars.

Four hours at home and then straight to Chair the CWIG conference at St. Cats in Oxford. Very tiring but wonderful and stimulating. Not many publishers, since most were at the YLG conference, which clashed. But we were very well supported by the wonderful Templar Press, who provided folders and wine. We were of course concerned about the proposed bid by HMV/Waterstone's for Ottakar's, which will reduce choice and mean even greater discounting of authors' titles. Rhiannon also attended and was refreshed by being among so many authors, where she certainly held her own.

I did a session on Creating Secondary Worlds, useful since I have to help school students create an alternative Durham next month. I had prepared the autumn issue of Armadillo before we left for Greece and Rhainnon coded it up as soon as the conference was over. So it has gone up only one day late, in spite of Rhodes and CWIG.

The flow of e-mails has stopped completely, which wasn't quite what I meant. But I have been too available and mustn't repine. More time for writing, which is what it's all about.

Have just finished reading HP6 and must admit I rather enjoyed it. Much better than HP5.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Rosemary and Thyme

My jangled nerves were a bit soothed by making four pots of raspberry jam from frozen Scottish fruit. Turned out not to be necessary, since there were still three pots from last year but never mind.

I have written hardly anything this week. A thousand words or so on the adult novel and some forward planning for another possible Stravaganza trilogy is all. Friends came for the weekend to meet the cats, bearing a huge rosemary plant, to help remember the ones that went before. On Sunday we took them to Kingston Bagpuize House, a stately home of manageable size, rarely open. They sell plants and Sue bought two kinds of thyme.

It was near the farm shop where I bought the raspberries so Sue, another jam-maker, came with me there and bought some herself for the same purpose. But then we saw fresh damsons and a red mist descended and we each bought well over a kilo. So there will have to be more jam this week.

The second Edinburgh trip went so much better than the first. The sun was shining all the way up, apart from round Birmingham, and the Scottish countryside looked very tempting. Train on time, much nicer hotel room and a dinner with publisher Janetta, publicist Nicky and fellow-author Ifeoma at a vegetarian restaurant with proper ambience – not just the elbow-scrunching closeness you get at Henderson’s wooden tables and benches.

It was on the Holyrood side so we got our taxi-driver to take us past Enric Murailles’ stunning Scottish Parliament building. “It was terribly over-budget, wasn’t it?” asked Nicky and both Ifeoma and I thought she meant the meal! Fortunately not, but I wonder how long it will be before the Scots can forget the money and revel in the building? There is no illustrated book about it in the Princes Street Waterstones.

Stevie and I saw it two years ago when it was still being built and we were in Edinburgh celebrating our wedding anniversary.

My session was later in the day than last week so I went shopping and bought two guidebooks with Rhodes in mind – can’t believe I am off there next week. Perversely, England seems to have decided to have summer after all, though rather late. Maybe I should do some practice sun-bathing?

Anyway, the session went well – 175 people, mostly children. No PowerPoint hitches and a fair number of books sold. One child wanted me to sign a copy of a Harry Potter but I declined. Doesn’t JKR live in Edinburgh? But I believe she doesn’t sign books sent to her, even with return postage. I’m not criticising – I can see how it gets to that point. Thomas Hardy, asked by Yeats what he did about books sent to him for signing, took the poet into a large room filled with parcels and silently waved a hand.

I have taken the plunge and said I will no longer answer every e-mail. So many of them have wrong addresses and bounce back and many ask questions answered on the FAQs. They’ll all get a polite message saying this, in due course, but meanwhile there’s a batch of pre-cut-off ones I’ll need to answer.

The train back was over half an hour late and wasn'thome till 10.30pm so I suppose this week will not be one of my most productive either. But at least this time it’s only physical tiredness, not heartsickness.