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

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kill them all

I have blogged about what happened in this cathedral 800 years ago on my Book Maven blog: (no dot after www)

That was 22nd July, in the middle of last week.So I thought about it as I went round Sainsbury's.

The day before I had been talking about my books with a group of 20-something American students in London. Three hours flew by for me; I don't know if they did for them but one has become a Facebook friend and another wrote me an e-mail. We talked a bit about Twilight.

It came as a shock to realise that they would have been in High School for 9/11.

On the other days I managed to write a chapter and a bit of the new adult novel.

On Friday I was back in London again to look at Flats with middle daughter - what a hard time it is for young professionals. The housing market turns out to be pretty buoyant just in that pocket where she and her partner are looking.

I read Julian Barnes' Nothing to be Frightened of - an extended essay on his fear of death, beautifully written. It was sad to think that since he wrote it in 2006, his wife, the literary agent Pat Kavanagh, had developed a brain tumour and died in months. I can't help thinking about how it affected his own fears.

Barnes is a great Francophile - I wonder if he thought about Béziers this week?

Labels: , , ,

Friday, July 17, 2009

Retreat and advance

I didn't mean to imply in my last post that I hadn't seen more in Siena than the Palio and a swimming pool. e went, as always, to see the Duomo and Duccio's Maestà.This time, too, we revisited the Simones and Ambrogio Lorenzettis in the Palazzo Pubblico, using our new binoculars and my notes from Serena Quartermaine's fresco course. Brilliant!

Since we've been back, I've done all the edits on City of Ships and been to a writer's retreat at Charney Manor - my 7th I think. If the photo has come out above, the credit is to Karen Ball, a new young writer who was there too. Thanks Karen.

I finished Pascal Mercier's Night Train to Lisbon (got the title wrong last time). It was outstandingly good, although even this ended rather unsatisfactorily.

And while we are on the subject of unsatisfactory endings, I allowed Russell T Davies to wring me out with the Torchwood miniseries, Children of Earth. The first 4 were brilliant though the 4th heartbreaking, but the 5th was just too bleak and compromised the main character horribly.But I have had endless Facebook conversations public and private with friends about this so will not go on about it here.

We went to see The Apple Cart by GBS in Bath and it was excellent. Such a clever, witty play and so well done. It was a very wet Saturday afternoon (we went to the matinee) but cheered up by a fabulous dinner at Demuth's, the vegetarian restaurant.

But the most exciting thing to happen since my last post is that youngest daughter has got a job! She describes it as the only job in architecture going in London for a new graduate so we are more than thrilled for her. So tough to be an Arts graduate, as the Guardian has been saying all week, and the architects have been among the worst hit. Very sorry for all this young talent that will have to compete for jobs with another batch next year and the next.

But for now very happy for this one talented young person.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, July 06, 2009

Marmite summer

Well, we are officially empty-nesters now! Youngest has gone off, with another First Class degree, to seek her fortune in London (are the streets paved with gold in Shoreditch?) We haven't had long to miss her since we left for Siena a week later.

My editor from Frances Lincoln came for lunch and we went through the last of the art for The Great Big Book of Families. we've got publishers in the US, Denmark, Finland and Germany already, with more to come.

The day before we left I went back up to town for the Carnegie/Greenaway announcement party, which I blogged about on

And then we were off, leaving the house to oldest daughter and nine friends! We got to Santa Chiara just in time to go out for dinner with middle daughter and partner, who had come to join us after a week in Rome. So lovely to be back in the Italian city that, with Florence, most feels like home.We did serious Palio work all week, with the TV, Internet, daily purchases of Il Corriere di Siena,text updates and of course seeing some things live in the Campo, including the race itself!

I was so nervous that it would be postponed a day because of thunderstorms (which we had pretty much every day) since I was leaving on the morning of the following day. The nervousness was enhanced by being given a free ticket to see it from a stand in the campo.

And indeed the day before, when we went to the open air dinner in our contrada, we sat down to it two hours late, because of storms.

But it all worked out in the end. Not for Civettra (=Owl) whose horse had to be scratched because of injury the night before the race, or for us, in that Montone didn't win. But a part of me will always be in the Campo watching the Corteo Storico go by and hearing the wonderfully Charles Ives effect of the campanile bell tolling against the drumming of each comparsa and the brass band playing the Palio march!

The Blessing of the horse in the early afternoon is still the best bit for me.

When we weren't Palio-ing, we had hot hours by the pool and swimming. I read John Grisham's latest effort, The Appeal, which was quite poor. The baddies won! And, since one doesn't read him for style or profound insights that was disappointing, to say the least. 500 pages and the good guys got shafted.

But I also started and am still reading Pascal Mercier's wonderful Last Train to Lisbon, bought on a hunch. This is the real stuff.

Two days after we returned I saw the Federer/Roddick final. What an indulgence, to spend ALL Sunday afternoon on! But we were away in Siena last year for the other 5-set final, when Federer lost to Nadal so I felt I'd sort of earned it.

The first copy of Troubadour has arrived!

And this week I'm editing City of Ships.

I got only three mosquito bites in Italy, so I think the Marmite-eating as repellent is working! We'll see when I go to Athens in September; that will be a good test.

Labels: , , , ,