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, March 23, 2007

History and a bit of geography

The SAS conference in Coventry was stimulating and helpful as ever.It was good to know that other writers get fanmail in which the e-mailers ask what's in the FAQs too! And it was a real eye-opener to hear how thoroughly some people plan a novel before they start writing. Back on the Sunday to Mother's Day cards and presents and supper cooked for me - bliss.

Monday was all preparation for the "presentazione" on Tuesday based on Dacia Maraini's new book.

Then I was off to London for a publicity and marketing meeting on Princess Grace, whose stunning artwork was just in. On Thursday I was at Broadcasting House recording an interview for Open Book (Radio 4) in which I had a conversation with Caroline Lawrence (Roman Mysteries) about writing historical fiction. We were just getting into our stride when it was all over!

Caroline and I have some points in common - we both went to Newnham College Cambridge and then University College London for postgrad work. And we both studied Classics, though she took it too a higher level than I did.

I've booked a weekend in Antwerp to visit the printing museum. It'll be my first visit to Belgium and I'm taking Jess. We're travelling by Eurostar and staying in a hotel with an acquarium next door.

This week I read Julie Bertagna's Exodus and Zenith (reviewing the latter) and Caroline Lawrence's The Slave Girl from Jerusalem (a Roman Mystery). Also Lene Kaaberbohl's Silverhorse. That's another "first of a trilogy", by a Danish writer I met in Iceland. I hope to get back to adult books next week!

I listened to Messaien's Turangalila-Symphonie at full volume in my new car and haven't been able to get it out of my head since. (This happens every time)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Total Eclipse

We celebrated Rhiannon's 30th birthday on 3rd, nearly a month late, but it coincided with a completely clear night sky and a total eclipse of the moon. Even I could see it - and the stars were magnificent. We are so lucky to have escaped the light pollution of the city.

I am now well stuck in to City of Secrets, the fourth Stravaganza novel. So I might be going into a sort of eclipse myself. Between now and going on holiday in late May, I plan to be eyes down. But the SAS are meeting in Coventry this weekend so I have have that one off.

I saw The Science of Sleep, a quite charming if not totally successful film by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Ienjoyed hugely, mainly because it's the first film I've seen for ages where I haven't known what was going to happen next. Also Pan's Labyrinth, with intolerable torture scenes and a failure to mesh the reality of the partisans in 1944 Spain with the fairytale. Some nice CGI, though and an interesting idea.

In the theatre I saw a preview of The Entertainer at the Old Vic. Robert Lindsay was wonderful as Archie Rice although perhaps just a bit too likeable a person to be believable in the role. But it isn't really a very good play and now seems a dated period piece. Osborne just wasn't sufficiently interested in women or didn't understand them (married 5 times but not by then) to be convincing about Phoebe, Archie's second wife. Once the news has come of her 19-year-old son's death in Suez, she is allowed no reaction. That is reserved for the father "who can't feel."

I read Il Gioco del Universo by Dacia Maraini (bought on the day of its publication, in Padua). Its her attempt to put her father's notebooks and diaries into some sort of order but is interesting more for the light it casts on their relationship than anything else.

I listened to Benjamin Britten's Nocturne and Les Illuminations and Stravinsky's Cantata on Old English texts and Mass. All these are old favourites and I wanted to contrast the way they both set the Lyke Wake Dirge. I was in bed with a sore throat so this was perfect.