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

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

F for Freddie

Tremendous excitement on the home front as Stevie’s half sister gave birth to her first child last Thursday – Frederick Rufus Hawkeye. He will be known as Freddie. And he’s the first child in the family since our youngest, twenty-three years ago, as well as being the first boy for thirty-five years.

The news came just as I was leaving for a CWIG meeting in London, preceded by lunch with a Swedish journalist. She was very nice and wanted to do an interview about Stravaganza for a newspaper whose name means Daily News and which she says is the largest circulation paper in Sweden.

Can you imagine the equivalent the other way round? I suppose it would be the Telegraph going to Stockholm to interview Inger Edelfeldt. I suppose it wouldn’t have been impossible in the days of Astrid Lindgren. Anyway, I can say without giving too much away that a character dies in City of Masks and Lotta said she had just re-read it. “I kept hoping it would end differently this time!” she said. I was very charmed.

In the evening we had a meeting with Lawrence and Catherine Anholt, and a publisher and agent, on how to make a living as an illustrator. It was a rather gloomy prospect. The publisher had been made redundant between our invitation and the meeting and said that her publishing house (one of the big ones) was cutting down from forty to between twelve and fifteen picture book titles a year.

The only positive angle was that “these things go in cycles” and there was time when children’s fiction wasn’t selling well. And I managed to have a good talk with young Italian artist Sara Fanelli about a possible collaboration.

I’ve seen some very different kinds of story-telling in four films recently: Kinky Boots – very predictable, every cliché in the book, but enlivened by the central performance of Chewitel Ojiefor as transvestite Lola; Serenity – Chewitel again this time as a space villain in a story that relied heavily on viewers already knowing the original 15-part TV series Firefly; Mean Girls on TV – another stereotyped movie, like Clueless, but more vicious and Wallace and Gromit – full of jokes set in a near mythical 50s Britain, where bobbies walk the beat and villagers vie for who can grow the largest marrow.

I enjoyed them all, which only goes to show how little enjoyment has to do with quality. (Though I did feel like walking out of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy earlier this year and we switched off Elizabeth on TV halfway through the second episode). It’s like calling a book a “page-turner.” Plot will do a lot but not everything. You need stuff to happen but the desire to know what happens next is very easily stimulated.

Stuff is happening in The Falconer’s Knot at last; it was really hard to get back into it after working on the adult novel but I think I’m there now. Full steam ahead between now and the end of January. I think 2006 will have to be the year of seclusion if I’m to get everything written that I’m committed to.