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, March 23, 2006

Who do I think I am?

I can't believe I haven't blogged for a month!

There's noithing quite so busy-making as not writing a book. With The Falconer's Knot and Princess Grace both finished and approved of by agent and publishers, I have been doing some necessary literary housekeeping. Not just the writing tips though those are all up and running, but an issue of Armadillo, an Italiian presentation and today was answering fanmail.

I think it was five letters, about 25 e-mails and one joint one to 22 fans of Stravaganza who had NOT READ THE FAQs. It makes me quite irrationally cross that they don't even bother to check that before writing. I've also been listening to the tapes of City of Stars (12+ hours of it). It's a brilliant thing to do in the car on a long journey and I find myself wondering what happens next.

One of the long journeys was down to Sussex where I had to do a school visit so spent two nights with my sister. We had a massive wallow in old family photographs and family trees. It's a characterisric of our family - perhaps of all families - that people donb't stick to their given names. They change to second or third names or they choose a new name for themselves or they are known in the home by a pet name or they do all of the above.

Thus the census told my sister - who does all the genealogy - that our grandmother Laura was really Sidonia, though they do get things wrong in the census, naming a great-uncle we knew was Christian as Chester! All the Florences, Lavinias and Elinoras emerge out of the Internet as benign ghosts, some of them matched up with sepia photographs inherited from our parents or Uncle Vernon, known as Sam in the Navy and Frank by some friends.

When I showed the copy of a picture of my greatgradparents to Jessica she noticed that my great grandmother, Mary Ann, who married the German who gave me my surname, had exactly the same shaped face that she and I share. Isn't DNA wonderful? There is supposed to have been a Philip Hoffman who changed his surname to Brook in World War 1 and was a writer. But if I try him on the Net I just get the actor who predictably won this year's Oscar. It would be rather nice to have another writer in the family.

Of course I do have one in the next generation and we went on a writers' weekend together with the SAS. Rhiannon talked about websites and I talked about 2005 being my year of self-promotion. And I had a nice writerly lunch with Ann Jungman, Linda Newbery and Julia Jarman last week, followed by one with my dear friend Jules Cashford. We got instantly stuck in to the mythology, as I am going to Crete in May and Jules knows it well. A lot of her images of the Goddess come from that island so I shall be fascinated to track them down.

Another friend is coming tomorrow - finishing a book is also wonderful for catching up on one's social life. Work is starting outside the hoiuse next week on replacing broken paths and drive. It will be noisy and messy for a couple of weeks so I'll be glad to be working just on outlines and proposals. Meanwhile we have a huge and splendid orange digger like something from a children;s picture book sitting in our carport.

Screaming in the distance reminds me that all our cats are now one year old - Lorenzo today. We haven't had them that long of course but they've been here nearly nine months and we are very used to each other. They are all very vocal and have a great repertoire of yells.

A much less happy anniversary this month as we pass the third year since the invasion and the decision Rhiannon and I made to compile Lines in the Sand. With every week that goes by we hear of more and more people who supported the waer at the time changing their minds now. Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Basra, Samarra - it seems impossible that we didn't know these names four years ago. How will the Iragi children of today trace their families? There will be trees with broken branches only, whole boughs brought crashing down before their time and much bitter fruit.