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, 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.