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

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Well at last I know exactly what I have left to write in City of Ships - not only the last few chapters but the missing earlier scenes. I've done very good planning, received two books from the London Library and help from a friend and have been using the dining table to set up a (dry) sea battle!

It has to go on hold for a week though, as I'm off to Bologna tomorrow.

Coventry was great - very stimulating as always and great to see so many friends.

I saw the Byzantium exhibition at the Royal Academy and bought the catalogue and a gold torque. But I didn't find it quite such a sparker of ideas as the Babylon one.

Last night we saw Doctor Atomic by John Adams, which had some great music but absolutely atrocious libretto by Peter Sellars. A young ?Swedish couple in front of us did not return after he interval, they found the whole thing too embarrassing.

I wish that John Adams had been separated from Peter Sellars at birth - then his work would have been even better.

I've taken a break from Shakespeare to read Kevin Crossley-Holland's autobiography. What a strong sense of place he had from a young age. And his workroom in today's Guardian is the first one I've felt at all attracted to.

Also read First among Sequels, the 5th Thursday Next novel, which was slow going in the first half.

And this blog, which just maunders on about my daily life has been given the Sisterhood Award by TWO DIFFERENT BLOGGERS! There are Fiona Dunbar and the Bookwitch. I am humbled and honoured. Must get to bed now as I have not yet packed for Italy.

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Sunday, March 08, 2009


It's lovely when a school visit goes well. My trip to the Abbey School in Reading (girls' independent) was one such. It was a day early for World Book Day and everything went as it should, from the moment I saw the parking sign saying "Reserved for Mary Hoffman" till I left, bearing chocolates, flowers and wine. Even the PowerPoint worked! And the IT guy stayed through all three sessions, just to be helpful.

Only about a handful of the hundreds of school visits I've done in my life have been like that. If there were more, I'd be more willing to do them.

I took delivery of my four mosaic prints by Robert Field this week. Bob was organising an exhibition in Cirencester and came over for dinner with a friend.

We're not sure quite where to hang them yet but it must be somewhere good. They are quite stunning. We couldn't make it to the private view of this new exhibition but we'll have till May.

The details of the Mexican wedding we've been invited to in October just came. It sounds very exciting - in Tampico.

But now I realise that I'm leaving for the Bologna book fair a fortnight today and the weekend in between is the SAS conference in Coventry. But the book is going much better.

We went to see Julius Caesar in Bristol yesterday. It was very good and so much better than the one we saw at the RSC in Stratford two years ago or so. And it made me feel that it was a much better play than I had given it credit for.

We've seen the first segment of the film of The Garden of the Finzi-Contini in Italian class. I've seen it before but was struck by how strong the adaptation was. Bassani hated it and there are some bits towards the end where I'd agree with him. But I did enjoy it.

I'm now reading Peter Ackroyd's biography of Shakespeare and loving it.

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Plain sailing?

I've had a bit of a breakthrough with City of Ships this week, as well as getting another extension. So I hope to be sleeping better.

Jess is feeling better and made pancakes for us all on Tuesday. I'm giving up chocolate, wine and cake for Lent, not that I eat much of that. Still we had a trip to Worcester to see the cathedral yesterday and successfully eschewed cake with mid-morning coffee, pudding after lunch and stuck to just a cup of tea in the afternoon even though a friend was treating us.

I had a successful meeting with my Frances Lincoln editor about the Great Big Book of Families and we started plotting for the 20th anniversary celebrations of Grace.

We saw the RSC's Othello in Oxford which I pretty much hated. It was the direction, not the acting, I had a quarrel with. Patrice Maianbana was more than adequate in the main role and we knew him from the RSC Histories.The Cassio turned out to be an old friend of middle daughter's from the Guildhall. (This happens more and more often these days)

But we had a jazz band (OK), a clown in blackface, a golliwog, a Desdemona doll whose private parts were groped on two separate occasions, performances of You made me love you etc etc. The dress was '40s/'50s so Othello's wonderful line "Put up your bright swords or the dew will rust 'em" was delivered to soldiers wielding pistols.

We had to have a semi-naked Desdemona miming sex with Othello in the background in the early Cyprus scenes and - worst of all - the tender willow song scene between Desdemona and Emilia had Emilia's lines given to an incongruous apparition of Brabantio that turns up in D's bedroom.

The director who perpetrated all this was Kathryn Hunter. Beware!

Worcester cathedral next day was balm to the soul, with its Norman crypt, lady chapel and decagonal Chapter House.

I've at last finished The Audacity of Hope, which was good but much less readable than Dreams from my Father. And since then I've re-read Susan Price's two Sterkarm books because I had to write a review of the marvellous The Sterkarm Handshake for a book. And a book I'm reviewing for the Guardian.

World Book Day next week and I'm off to a school in Reading. I do hope the PowerPoint works!

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