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, September 20, 2009

Another literary week

Well, I watched the men's singles final at the Us Open and didn't get to bed till 2am on Tuesday. But I'm glad I stayed up. Much as I admire the elegance of Roger Federer's play, I applaud Del Potro for the way he hung in and slogged it out to win decisively in the fifth set. But Federer will be back. Exciting times in tennis, men's and women's.

Later on Tuesday I went up to London, arriving in the pouring rain, in sandals, not having heard a weather forecast. It was Naomi Lewis's memorial event and the great and the good of the children's book world had turned out. Russell Hoban was there, looking incredibly frail and vulnerable, and Elaine Moss, who was always the softer critic compared with Naomi. And Brian Alderson, still going strong, who read Naomi's poem, Printemps, written earlier in 2009, her 98th year.

I got soaked again going home and shivered damply on the Oxford Tube. Back at 11.30, having to put all my clothes in the airing cupboard, and drink a hot posset.

Next day I had a running phone call with my new copy-editor at Bloomsbury going through the last (I hope) queries on City of Ships. We started at 10.30 am and finished at 3.30pm, with breaks for coffee, lunch and my paying the window-cleaner! But she was good -really good - and had brought herself up to speed on the series very quickly.

On Thursday I went to a Literary Quiz as part of the Woodstock Festival, with husband, oldest daughter and another writer friend. We all love quizzes and are quite competitive, so were pleased to come joint 3rd out of twelve teams. It was quite hard and we shall do even better next year! We called ourselves the Mything Link, which we thought was quite clever but the quizmaster (James Walton from Radio 4's The Write Stuff) kept pronouncing it to rhyme with "scything"!

Yesterday we had to send poems for a birthday album for a close friend whose birthday and party fall while we're away in Athens next week. I chose Louis MacNeice's Sunlight on the Garden and husband Waller's Go Lovely Rose, which was one of our courtship poems.

I finished The Book Thief and must own myself to be rather disappointed. It has such a huge reputation and has sold so many copies, that I expected better. It was very annoyingly written and I simply didn't believe in the character who was supposed to have survived 2 years in Dachau.

Am now reading Michelle Lovric's The Undrowned Child and then I will be into holiday reading. We're off to Athens on Tuesday for a week so I shall see lots of antiquities.

On matters non-literary, middle daughter and partner have had an offer accepted on a flat and are in the thick of all that goes with first-time-buying. Thank goodness for Phil and Kirsty's book, which we gave daughter years ago; she has been in training a long time!

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Monday, September 14, 2009

All things Venetian

Well, all my plans for getting six chapters written before Athens were thrown into confusion. Because of late arrival of review books I had only a week to read and review two books about Venice - around 550 pages together. It meant I had to spend five days just reading - which felt very odd and I had to keep telling myself I was actually working.

I've written only one more chapter and my hopes to complete two more will probably be scuppered by the "final" copyedits on City of Ships, which I won't get till after tomorrow.

Last Thursday I went to the launch of Michelle Lovric's The Undrowned Child at the Italian Bookshop. It is set in Venice, where Michelle lives when not in London. I now have the book and will look forward to reading it, since the extracts read by actors Claire Bloom and Geraldine Paige were very enticing.

There have been social occasions every weekend! Two family birthday celebrated with a feast at middle daughter's home in London and then the naming ceremony of my two little nephews the next week. Both very happy events.

And then this weekend we had a friend staying. We took her to Compton Verney,which is a real haven of civilisation, in Warwickshire. Among the pictures in its art gallery were several of Naples and Vesuvius which, despite being the wrong city also had a Venetian quality - or perhaps by then I was just obsessed.

There has been so much good TV - a lot of it clashing. Peter Ackroyd's Venice, Joanna Lumley Catwoman, Stephen Fry's Last Chance to See - even a new Miss Marple. But basically when not working I have been glued to the US Open tennis Grand Slam. The loss of Andy Murray now seems so last week, since we have had the rise of Del Potro, the victory of Kim Clijsters, the collapse of Nadal and the tantrum of Serena Williams. I am poised to stay up late to see the men's final, which I hope Federer will win, though I think Del Potro will give him a good run.

I didn't stay up for the semi-final last night and missed that phenomenal shot of Federer backwards through his legs at match point. But I've seen the clip. What a player!

I am now reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which has been an unaccountable omission up till now.

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