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, December 21, 2009

'Tis the season to be very jolly indeed

This was our tree in 2007 - but it looks the same every year. None of this tasteful, colour-themed minimalist nonsense. The three daughters decorate it - this year on Christmas Eve - and throw everything we've got at it. And we have a LOT. Husband buys one new bauble in every shop we visit in the Christmas season and we have this year been given some as presents.

After feeling frighteningly behind with everything, I am now more ahead than I have ever been. Cards and parcels all got done on time in spite of fewer than half the cards we had ordered arriving. The crackers never did arrive but I got some more at M & S. And all the presents ordered on line will be here on time, except for one, which is for someone we aren't seeing anyway, so it can be posted on. Our Christmas shopping in London was very successful.We even managed a carol service with mulled wine afterwards.

I got that Grace picturebook written and both editor and agent like it, so that's a relief. Also wrote a Guardian review for January.

The most eventful day was 10th December, though this was a mixed blessing:I had my last Art History class of term, then a quick glass of champagne at one party and off to London for the Bloomsbury bash.Before the first party, there was a call from middlest daughter to say she and partner had exchanged contracts on their flat. (The offer had been accepted in September so that was a relief!)

The Bloomsbury party was fun and I basked in the congratulations on the Costa shortlist.It was a pleasure to meet up with old friends and put faces to new ones I'd met on Facebook (Gillian Philip, Chris Priestley). I was delighted to discover that Chris draws the Payne's Grey cartoon in the New Statesman, which is coming back! Seven of us went out for a Lebanese meal afterwards but I got a call in the middle of it to say my cousin had died in San Diego. This had been coming a while but was very upsetting, especially since my sister and I realised there was no way we could get to the funeral, which was on 19th.R.I.P Sylvia, a lovely lady taken too soon.

I stayed the night with a writer friend, who had invited someone to meet me at breakfast. We woke up 20 minutes before friend was due, thus giving support to the idea that all writers are a bit louche and disorganised.

Husband's work had two parties and my "office party", i.e. the local SAS Christmas lunch happened in Stroud. I drove there in powdery snow with another writer friend and we all signed our books in the children's bookshop next door to the bistrot

The weekend was spent cooking up a Christmas storm and there are many good things sitting in the freezer or fridge.

I saw the Turner and his masters exhibition at Tate Britain, with two friends. I like him much better when he stops being influenced by other people and develops that wonderful dissolving gold style.

And I watched the Cranford creative extension this Sunday. Some of it delightful but harsh in places.

I read Fontamara by Ignazio Silone, which is our set text and really enjoyed it, even though parts of it are grim.

Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary and we are off to London to do complicated car exchanges and see the matinee of The Habit of Art. So this evening will be spent wrapping presents and putting up more decorations. The time to be very jolly indeed!

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Well, the first draft of the adult novel is finished and I'm now writing the next Grace picturebook, which has to be delivered by Christmas. The chapterheads for City of Ships have been corrected and the sea-battle plan approved.

The Kids Lit Quiz Final was won in Oxford by a local team of four boys from Wheatley.It was quite different from the regional finals, with 30 teams all racing to press buzzers. One of the only two questions no-one knew the answers to related to JanMark, who died in 2006. So sad that 120 of the brightest readers in the country had never heard of this marvellous writer.

I have only one Art History class left this term and last Thursday's was a field trip to the National Gallery, so I've seen Titians and Bellinis, Leonardo and Michelangelo, Sebastiano del Piombo and Raphael.

The Italian Literature has already finished till January and I have to write an essay for both courses by 8th Jan.

I've read Ann Turnbull's Alice in Love and War, Neil Shusterman's Everlost and Pat Walsh's first novel, The Crowfield Curse, which I'm reviewing for the Guardian.

I've also been watching, with absurd enjoyment, the comedy series on TV called Miranda. Only one left to go next week and each one has made me laugh out loud.

We went to the annual turning on of the Christmas lights in Bourton-on-the-Water. We haven't managed this for the last three years. We didn't buy much but it always marks the beginning of Christmas. And tomorrow we go to Oxford Street to do our Christmas shopping. Publishers' party on Thursday and Carol Service at the weekend - if only the parcel that we think holds our cards hadn't gone missing, we'd be completely immersed in Christmassy activities.

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