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

Monday, January 22, 2007


If the winds of the week before were bad, it was nothing to Thursday's storms. Unfortunately, I had to travel to London that day. A couple of small trees had fallen on to roads between here and Oxford station but didn't obstruct the way. Hower, in the car park, a people carrier had slewed across the access route and wedged itself on the nose of another car.

The trains were all delayed or cancelled and couldn't travel at more than 55 mph. I had to stand all the way from Reading to Paddington and was very late for my meeting. On the way back I caught one of the last trains before the stations were closed and counted myself lucky. Back in the car park, I chanced on a very puzzled owner pushing his people carrier away from its embrace with the other car. When I told him I'd seen it like that in the morning, he said he'd parked in a bay shortly after seven and was "sure the brake was on."

But the problems of travel were all worth it, because I had a very good publicity planning meeting for The Falconer's Knot, full of interesting ideas. There's a big 2-page spread in the Bloomsbury April/May catalogue and it has had its first review - very positive - in Publishing News.

And I had lunch (very late) with Bex, who was on her penultimate day at Cameron Mackintosh. She started at the Old Vic today, with a "meet and greet" for cast and crew of The Entertainer - way to go.

This week I finished the Ya-Ya binge by re-reading Ya-Yas in Bloom. But I'm now reading Suite Francaise, which of course is much better written. but it's dreadfully upsetting. The idea of taking what you could carry and running away from your city while a foreign power invaded, without knowing how far their occupation would spread, as happened in the exodus from Paris in 1941, is deeply disturbing.

I saw many episodes of a UK History channel series about the Sixties, called The Beatles Decade. I remember it very well, since it covered the ages 15-25 in my life. But it looked so sort of frowsty and old - even seeing Mick Jagger in his little dress releasing the white butterflies at the Brian Jones memorial concert in the park looked just quaint. And the prime ministers! Macmillan, Alec Douglas -Hume, Harold Wilson and Edward Heath looked positively moribund.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Glasgow in the rain

I spent all Wednesday and Thursday travelling to and from Glasgow in order to give one hour-long session with 6-7-year-olds. It was part of Small Island Read, a project to commemorate the 200 years since the beginning of the end of slavery with Wilberforce's Bill going through Parliament. There were events in Bristol;, Hull and Liverpool as well. Adults are reading Andrea Levy's Small Island and older children are getting Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah but the littlees are having my Amazing Grace.

There were 173 of them, with tiny breathy little voices, sounding like little James McEvoys, asking lovely questions like "What is your favourite dressing up outfit?" We had our photos taken by a nice young man from the Glasgow Herald and talked to an equally nice reporter.

Oh but it was wet! My publicist had a worse journey back than I did, since her 2pm train was cancelled and she didn't get back to London till 10.30pm. But we were both affected by floods, "debris on the line" (a false alarm) and signal failures. I didn't get home till 9pm myself and the blustery weather had knocked down half of one of our ancient apple trees. I don't think anything can be done except turn it into logs.

This week I re-read Little Altars Everywhere and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells (train journeys). All the stuff about the friendship of the four women in Louisiana is wonderful, even though the main one is a monster, but the stuff set in contemporary New York with the thaetre director daughter is excriciating - especially the sex scenes!

I saw five episodes back to back, while cooking, of a UK History channel documentary series called Sex, Love and War. Full of lovely womenh in their 80s recalling their exploits in WW2. Rebecca Wells would have benefitted.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The martyr and the knight

New Year' Day brought the sickening picture of Saddam, hanged, on the front page of the Guardian. Apparently they received only 200 letters of complaint, including mine. But the readers' editor today said that a majority of Guardian journalists thought it was the wrong decision. And John Scarlett got a knighthood! This is sheer farce. The fact that Tony Blair refuses to comment on the execution, though he is happy to talk about the complete non-story of an ex-Secretary for Education sending her dyslexic child to a private school, is almont irrelevant, as he is. But knighting John Scarlett is just putting two fingers up to the public.

I seem to have committed myself to a lot of festivals, meetings and events this year. It will be probably be a repeat of 2005, when I said yes to almost everything, ran round ther coutry a lot, got exhausted and probably didn't sell many extra copies of my books. But with The Falconer's Lnot out in April, Princess Grace out in the autumn and Kings and Queens of the Bible somewhere along the way, I have to make myself available.

I finished reading, at last, the ghastly Una Donna by Sibilla Aleramo. It has taken ages because it is turgidly written, short of characters, dialogue and incidents, and lacking in any grace or wit. It was published in 1906 and I think our teacher thought we should read it but I'm thinking of leading a revolution in the tea-break tomorrow to see if we could be let off discussing it for weeks on end. No-one else I've spoken to thought it worthwhile either. And I have a pile of more interesting books - The Penelopiad, Suite Francaise, Screenwriting Updated - which I would rather have been reading.

I heard the CD of Spamalot, which Jess gave me at Christmas and it is very fine. We saw the DVD, not of Casablanca, which she also gave me, but the accompagnying one of extras, including a charming documentary on the Bogart/Bacall marriage. He did the right thing at the time of the McCarthy witch-hunts and spoke out against them. Good man. I also saw the final double bill of Torchwood, which was fantastic till the last, bonkers, quarter of an hour. And the first episode of the new sedries of ER, which put its fans through the wringer.