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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Diana Wynne Jones, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Advice that helped me

I love to read writers' autobiographies, for many reasons: the differences between their lives and their books,  the experiences they've had, the descriptions of their writing processes. But I don't think I've ever picked up any advice that I followed until Diana Wynne Jones's Reflections -- not an autobiography, but a collection of essays and talks and interviews.

These are the things that  helped or inspired me or just really interested me.

She thinks about her books for a long time before she writes them, but doesn't plan them out. Usually when she begins she knows only the beginning, the end, and something in the middle -- until she can see this scene in vivid detail, she doesn't start writing. Part of the fun of writing is learning how the characters got from the beginning to the middle.

She knows ALL her characters -- even the minor ones -- really well before she starts. She says that if you do, you'll rarely get stuck: when you need a character to be somewhere doing something you will remember that someone else, say, owns a grocery store and...You don't tell the reader NEARLY everything you know -- she, for example, knows exactly what all her characters look like, but rarely describes them: if you know, she says, their looks will come through to the reader.

She writes her first drafts in what she describes as a "white heat" -- just pours them out. Then in the second draft she gets very analytical and critical.

This was especially helpful to me -- I often get bogged down in being critical, and it really hampers the flow of ideas. The more the two processes can be separated, the better.

She advises  modeling villians on people we know; there is no need to worry that they will recognize themselves, she says, because few people think of themselves as bad...unfortunately I was unable to do this -- none of the people I wanted to use were quite right for the things they had to do -- but it's a good idea.

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2. The Logic of Magic - C.J. Busby

I have always loved the idea of magic, ever since I was read my first fairy tales. It didn't matter whether they were twinkly ones with fairy godmothers and wonderful pink ball-gown confections, Ladybird books with powdered Regency princes, or the dark, tangled, thrilling tales in Andrew Lang's collections, illustrated, preferably, by Arthur Rackham.  All of them had magic, and so all of them had something that fed my strong desire for the unknown, the extraordinary.

As I got older, I graduated to C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones - wonderful, glorious books that made it seem entirely plausible that there was magic in the real world, or at least held out the chance of slipping into other worlds where magic existed. As an adult, I veered away from fantasy (mainly because most adult fantasy conforms too closely to the model lampooned so hilariously by Diana Wynne Jones in her Tough Guide to Fantasyland) but I never really lost the sense that magic was out there, just out of reach, visible in the corner of your eye.

So, when I started write my own books for children, I knew they'd have magic in them. The question was, what kind? What would be the logic of the magic I wrote? Fairy-tale magic is mostly based on cauldrons, spells, witches and waving wands, although there are some strange and wonderful ways that magic works, too - feather cloaks that turn their wearers into swans; geese that lay golden eggs; combs that, thrown behind you, turn into mountain ranges. My first and best guide to magic in older fiction, though, was Diana Wynne Jones.  

In Jones's Chrestomanci series, there are witches, warlocks and potions, ingredients like newt's eyes, snake's tongues and dragon's blood, and spells that are made by grinding, heating and muttering, as in all the best fairy tales. But she also has more powerful and exciting magic, magic that happens when someone with the right sort of power simply tells the world to be different - and it is. This is the magic that belongs specifically to enchanters, and when you realise that someone in a Diana Wynne Jones book has it (and you nearly always find at least one) you know you are in for some seriously delightful mayhem.
There's another, very different, magical logic at work in Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus books. Here, magicians lord it over the non-magical commoners, but their dark secret is that none of their magic is really done by themselves. Wizards' only power is the ability to raise afrits, imps, djinni and demons from the 'other place', and all their apparently wonderful spells are carried out by the sweat and toil of these enslaved and invisible beings. It allows Stroud to have a lot of fun with the quarrelsome, vain and power-hungry magicians of his alternative London, while also giving us possibly the best fictional depiction of a djinni ever - Bartimaeus himself.

Perhaps the most technically minded inventor of magic for children is J.K. Rowling. I thoroughly enjoyed the Harry Potter books (despite being slightly bemused at how much attention they received) but I find magic in her books to be very 'National Curriculum': once spotted at 11, you just have to learn how to do it the right way, and pass exams, and then you are a proper witch or wizard. Despite the constant reiteration that some wizards are more powerful than others, we never really see much evidence of this. Hermione Granger is said to be 'the best witch of her generation', but we get no sense of any raw power that is simply part of her very being - instead, we get the impression that she's just very precise and has a good memory. The witch as swot, rather than enchanter.

 So when I wrote 'Frogspell', which is set in the mythical time of King Arthur, I decided to go with the cauldrons, spells and potions of fairy-tale and legend, but I also wanted a sense that magic was something not just anyone could do - there had to be a special part of you, a power you had that others didn't. As the stories progress, my novice wizard, Max Pendragon, discovers more and more about the logic of magic, learns to tell one person's magic apart from another's, and finally realises that he doesn't need potions or spells, he can (like his hero, Merlin) do spells with his mind. Max, in fact, is an enchanter, of sorts - and it's a power that is crucial, in the end, to his defeat of the icy sorceress, Morgana le Fay.

In the process of writing the whole series, I found myself discovering and exploring more and more about how magic in this world worked, and I realised something else that gave me a huge thrill. Writing is a little like doing magic. Finally, I am a kind of enchanter!

C.J. Busby is the author of the Spell Series (http://www.frogspell.co.uk)

5 Comments on The Logic of Magic - C.J. Busby, last added: 4/1/2013
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3. Constructing Complexity - Cathy Butler

Fiction for adults, fiction for children – which is more complex?

The obvious answer is that books for adults are generally more complex than books for children. They use a wider vocabulary, more sophisticated language, deal in “adult” concepts and experiences, are fluent in abstract ideas and thoughts, and assume a familiarity with literary genres and devices that cannot be counted on in the average child reader.

Once we look carefully at this list, however, some of its items appear rather less solid. First, not all books for adults are in fact particularly sophisticated. Literary fiction of the kind that makes the Man Booker shortlist represents only a small percentage of the adult fiction published and sold, and it would misleading to take Hilary Mantel and her peers as representative of “adult fiction”. Moreover, if the vocabulary of (some) children’s books is limited, this need not imply simplicity: ask Hemingway or William Blake. Nor are sophisticated post-modern devices such as intertextuality, frame-breaking, genre-mixing and mise en abyme the preserve of adult literature: in fact, they are probably found more often in picture books for young children, from Lauren Child’s Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Bookto the Ahlbergs’ Jolly Postman.

It’s true that children’s books don’t generally deal with specifically adult experiences such as old age or marital infidelity (although some do); but equally, adult books don’t in general deal with the specific experiences of children, such as going to school for the first time. None of these experiences is more, or less, deserving of treatment in fiction than the others.

What about plots, though? Are the plots of adult books more complex than those of children’s books? Here I’m reminded of an article written by Diana Wynne Jones shortly after she started writing adult fiction in the early 1990s, having already been a children’s writer for almost twenty years. She explains that her assumptions were in fact the opposite – that a point she would have explained only once in a book for children she felt the need to repeat several times for adult readers: “These poor adults are never going to understand this; I must explain it to them twice more and then remind them again later in different terms.” This idea derived from her experience of being told by adults that they found the plots of some of her children’s books hard to follow (and that therefore they must be "too difficult for children"). Children themselves, however, never seemed to have any difficulty. Jones’s explanation is an interesting one:

Children are used to making an effort to understand. They are asked for this effort every hour of every school day and, though they may not make the effort willingly, they at least expect it.

Adults, by contrast, are used to knowing things already, and their tolerance for uncertainty – negative capability would be a good term, if Keats hadn’t already nabbed it – is correspondingly less. All of us, when we read a novel, will encounter unfamiliar ideas and unexplained facts. I suppose we must have a kind of mental “holding pen” in which to place such items, in the hope that they will be clarified and resolved at some later point. But perhaps children’s holding pens have a greater capacity than those of adults, simply because they are more accustomed to dealing with new experiences? If so, we might expect them to be more able to deal with complex plots – and, in that sense at least, to be more sophisticated readers.

I don’t think that’s a complete answer to the rather silly question with which I started – because of course complexity is multifaceted – but I do find it an intriguing idea. In any case, if I ever see an adult book with as complex a plot as Jones’s Hexwood I'll be very surprised.

11 Comments on Constructing Complexity - Cathy Butler, last added: 2/12/2013
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4. BOOKSELLER SUNDAYS: What greater pleasure? – Eve Griffiths at The Bookcase, Lowdham

The second in our new series of Sunday guest blogs by booksellers who work with children’s authors. These guest blogs are designed to show life behind the scenes of a crucial but neglected relationship – the one between a writer and a bookseller. These days, such relationships are more intense and more important, as increasing numbers of authors go on the road to promote children’s books – a goal shared by the booksellers who will contribute to this series.

The Bookcase is a ‘small independent bookshop with a big imagination’ situated in the village of Lowdham, eight miles north of Nottingham. The Bookcase’s proprietor is Jane Streeter (second from right), who runs the shop with a friendly team: Louise Haines, Jo Blaney, myself, Marion Turner and Kendall Turner (pictured left to right above).

Three years ago I (as one of the assistants) began a reading group at our local village school. This coincided with our 10th Annual Book Festival. So, to celebrate, I went in once a month until we had read 10 books. The 12 children read each book and then wrote a review, which formed the basis of a display at our book festival. We read all sorts – from contemporary authors to Enid Blyton and Richmal Crompton – and one poetry book. I have used a few different poetry books, but the first was Carol Ann Duffy’s The Hat, which was very timely as I’d handed it out to the children just before she was announced as the Poet Laureate! We’ve also used Gervase Phinn’s There’s an Alien in the Classroom, and others over the three years we’ve been involved in the project.

Each month I went into school so that we could have a discussion, which made the youngsters feel very grown up!

The idea became so popular that I have been approached by other schools, so this year I am working in four schools – always with Year 6 children. The group is aimed at the more able readers. (The thinking behind this is that so much is done to encourage the less able readers: those who are keen readers need some sort of outlet for their enthusiasm.)

This year, I have found a real difference in ability from one school to another. Not only is the reading ability markedly higher in one school, but the children are much more mature. This makes it harder for me to choose appropriate books, so I’m always keen to hear of the experiences of others who work with children of a similar age.

Michael Morpurgo is, of course, unfailingly popular, but I’ve also had real success with Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother and Morris Gleitzman’s Once. In both cases, several of the children have gone on to read the sequels. We have offered a discount to reading group members who have ordered sequels.

After Christmas I will be discussing David Al

7 Comments on BOOKSELLER SUNDAYS: What greater pleasure? – Eve Griffiths at The Bookcase, Lowdham, last added: 6/11/2012
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5. Earwig and the Witch

Earwig is used to getting her own way. An orphan left on the doorstep of St. Morwald's Home for Children, Earwig knows how to make others do her bidding. At her request the cook prepares her favorite lunch of shepherd's pie, the matron hurries to keep her supplied in  red sweaters, and her fellow orphans indulge her in dimly-lit games of hide-and-seek, even the kids who are scared of the dark. Earwig is not among them. "Earwig was never frightened. She had a very strong personality."

This strong personality seems to meet her match when a strange couple visit the orphanage looking to foster a child. Till now Earwig has managed to fend off potential parents. For Earwig has no interest in leaving the orphanage. Why would she? She's got everyone in the joint under her thumb.

The couple choose Earwig, despite her best efforts to look unlovable, and take her home to their bungalow at Thirteen Lime Avenue. From the start, Earwig suspects the couple of being not what they seem. She's right. The "raggety, ribbly" woman in the big red hat is a bona fide witch and the man who has fiery eyes and what appear to be horns growing from his head is you-guessed-it. Earwig is put to work as the witch's assistant and spends her days pounding rat bones into powder and picking nettles from the garden. Her days of getting her own way are apparently over.

Or not. Earwig is a plucky child and she doesn't give in to despair. Refreshingly, she finds the odd situation she's in a challenge and one to be overcome not endured. Determined to learn magic, she pairs up with the witch's familiar, a talking black cat named Thomas, and together the two manage to turn the tables on the couple. By book's end Earwig is once again firmly in the driver's seat. How she gets there makes for a fast, entertaining read.

Knowing this is Diana Wynne Jones' last book made reading the story bittersweet. Although I can't know for sure, many signs pointed to this book being the first in a series. The question of Earwig's lineage (she was left at St. Morwald's with a tantalizing note pinned to her shawl) is left dangling, as is her friendship with Custard, a timid boy at the orphanage.

Earwig and the Witch
by Diana Wynne Jones
illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky
Greenwillow, 128 pages
Published: January 2012

1 Comments on Earwig and the Witch, last added: 5/30/2012
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6. rgz Newsflash: Wynne Jones and Rock the Drop in PW

In the awesome effort to remember and celebrate Diana Wynne Jones, folks are posting favorite lines from her works at #dwj2012. You can use Tumblr to share photos and further remembrances This is all the heartfelt brainstorm of Virginia Duncan and Sharyn November. Rock on, ladies! We heart you as well!

On April 19th, PW had this to say, which included a Rock the Drop recap:

In another instance of fortuitous timing, the Wynne Jones tribute’s April 12 launch coincided with this year’s Support Teen Lit Day, which followers of the Readergirlz blog and others celebrated by taking part in “Rock the Drop,” the guerilla-style book distribution scheme in which YA fans leave copies of favorite books in public spaces for readers to pick up and enjoy.

Diana Wynne Jones books were used in the recent "Rock the Drop" campaign on Support Teen Lit Day.
Judging from the #rockthedrop Twitter postings, quite a few of Wynne Jones’s books found their way into new hands. Greenwillow’s Duncan shared the account of one Rock-the-Dropper: Lois Adams, the copyeditor and proofreader for many of Wynne Jones’s books in the U.S. “I walked up to a public atrium on 56th Street with Enchanted Glass,” Adams said, “and as I walked in I saw an 11-year-old girl with her dad, eating an ice-cream cone. I told her that I was part of a daylong book giveaway project, and that I had to photograph the book first but then she could have it. She watched me taking the pictures, and when I walked away she headed right over to

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7. More On The Diana Wynne Jones Celebration

A Virtual Celebration of Diana Wynne Jones in Publishers Weekly has much, much more on the DWY on-line events I wrote about last Friday.

Turns out there is Wynne Jones' publishing news, too. A reissue of Fire and Hemlock, a book I just became interested in last week, came out earlier this month. And there will be a book of Diana Wynne Jones essays this fall. I am fond of essays.

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8. Fusenews: Fun with Doppelgangers

All right.  Time to bring the smackdown on my Brooklyn colleagues.  Um . . . okay, I got one.  *ahem*  Uh, hey, Brooklyn!  Yeah, you!  The one across the river!  Your libraries are so rodent infested you’ve got raccoons in your main branch!  Aw, I’m just messing with ya, Brooklyn.  Don’t think of it as an infestation, but rather a sign of a healthy ecosystem.  A raccoon couldn’t last a second in downtown Manhattan, after all.  Tee hee.  Thanks to Ann Baybrooks for the link!

  • Part of the reason the Under the Green Willow blog is perhaps the best children’s publisher imprint blog out there has to do with the fact that they (A) post every weekday (B) get great guest writers.  Case in point, the recent post by Peter Glassman (the Books of Wonder proprietor, doncha know) about Diana Wynne Jones.  Take particular care when he mentions how Diana was being pursued by an “overzealous fan”.  I have my own guess as to who that might have been.
  • Kidsmomo tweeted the other day that while watching the television show Top Chef they couldn’t help but notice that Tom Colicchio resembled Jon Scieszka.  I wasn’t believing a word of it until Travis of 100 Scope Notes (who is giving away books today and only today!) found a pretty convincing picture.  Let’s do a bit of compare and contrast then.

Which one is the real former Ambassador of Young Person’s Literature?

Thanks to Travis for the pic!

  • Required Reading for the Week: In terms of CommonSense Media (an organization I

    5 Comments on Fusenews: Fun with Doppelgangers, last added: 7/19/2010
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9. The End Of My Own Cybilizing This Year

I happened to have a couple of Cybil nominees in my TBR pile, and I've finally finished them. Which is a good thing because they're due at the library tomorrow.

Binky to the Rescue by Ashley Spires is a very clever and charming graphic novel for younger readers. The basic premise is that Binky, an indoor cat, believes that the outdoors is outer space. Insects that come into the house from outside are aliens. When Binky accidentally goes through a window, he's truly out in the great unknown. He manages to survive the ordeal, but his dear friend, Ted, has been stranded out there. Thus, Binky to the rescue.

A marvelous little book.

Marcus Sedgwick began his review of Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones with the line "It's always the sign of a truly accomplished writer when their book holds you, despite the fact that not awfully much happens." That's exactly how I felt about Enchanted Glass. I enjoyed reading it, liked slipping into that world, but when I finished it, I thought...Did much happen here?

Enchanted Glass is one of those books in which a character finds out something about himself. In this case, it's not that he can perform magic. Lots of people can perform magic in the world of Enchanted Glass. Young Aidan Cain knows about the magic. Learning who his family is is the surprise here.

In an interesting twist, there is also an adult character who is learning things about himself in this book. Adult Andrew Hope and young Aidan Cain are almost co-protagonists.

Wynne Jones is very good at dealing with powerful adult characters in children's books. They don't take over the story or overwhelm the kids. That's true here, too.

Enchanted Glass's ending reminded me of The Pinhoe Egg's in that both books are wrapped up with what I can only describe as a bizarre twist relating to what some people would call morality. In the case of Enchanted Glass, the ending also seemed to be essentially saying that the action of the book had all been a big mistake.

I had the feeling that this book could be the jumping off point to a series. I'd be happy to see that happen, and if that's the plan, I hope Wynne Jones gets the opportunity to do it.

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10. Diana Wynne Jones

I am so saddened to hear of the passing of Diana Wynne Jones. She is one of my favorite writers. If you've never read her work please go out and find one of her books. They are magic. I can barely begin to express the impact she's had on my work.

3 Comments on Diana Wynne Jones, last added: 3/27/2011
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11. Being Alive. Mostly about Diana.

posted by Neil
I'm in the UK right now, in the middle of nowhere, working on Monkey, about to go offline for a few days.

I came over to do three things: to give the BBC a day to promote Episode Four of the next season of Doctor Who, which I have written; to see Hilary Bevan Jones, a wonderful producer with whom I've been working for years, about a couple of things; and to see Diana Wynne Jones.

Thursday I was interviewed about Doctor Who all day. Mostly the interviews would go like this:

Them: "So, can you tell us the title of the episode?"
Me: "No."

It was a fun but sometimes frustrating day.

(This is a photo of Diana Wynne Jones around the time I first got to know her.)

Diana's been my friend since about 1985, but I was a fan of hers since I read Charmed Life in about 1978, aged 18. I've loved being her friend, and I'm pretty sure she loved being my friend. She was the funniest, wisest, fiercest, sharpest person I've known, a witchy and wonderful woman, intensely practical, filled with opinions, who wrote the best books about magic, who wrote the finest and most perceptive letters, who hated the telephone but would still talk to me on it if I called, albeit, always, nervously, as if she expected the phone she was holding to explode.

She adopted me as a 24 year old writer for magazines of dubious respectability, and spent the next 25 years being proud of me as I made art that she liked (and, sometimes, I didn't. She'd tell me what she thought, and her opinions and criticism were brilliant and precise and honest, and if she said "Yee-ees. I thought you made a bit of a mess of that one," then I probably had, so when she really liked something it meant the world to me).

As an author she was astonishing. The most astonishing thing was the ease with which she'd do things (which may be the kind of thing that impresses other writers more than it does the public, who take it for granted that all writer are magicians.But those of us who write for a living know how hard it is to do what she did. The honest, often prickly characters, the inspired, often unlikely plots, the jaw-dropping resolutions.

(She's a wonderful author to read aloud, by the way, as I discovered when reading her books to my kids. Not only does she read aloud beautifully, but denouments which seemed baffling read alone seem obvious and elegantly set up and constructed when read aloud. "Children are much more careful readers than adults," she'd say. "You don't have to repeat everything for children. You do with adults, because they aren't paying full attention."

She dedicated her book Hexwood to me, telling me that it was inspired by something that I'd once said about the interior size of British Woods, and I wrote a doggerel poem to thank her.

(Hang on. I bet I can find it. There.)

There's a kitten curled up in Kilkenny was given a perfect pot of cream
And a princess asleep in a thornwrapped castle who's dreaming a perfect dream
There's a dog in Alaska who'll dance with delight on a pile of mastodon bones
But I've got a copy of Hexwood (dedicated to me) by Diana Wynne Jones<

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12. Diana Wynne Jones Has Died

Science-fiction writer Diana Wynne Jones (pictured, via) has passed away. She was 76-years-old.

Jones wrote several bestselling children’s books including Chrestomanci, Castle, and the Magids series. The first novel in the Castle series, Howl’s Moving Castle was adapted by filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki into an Oscar-nominated animation movie. Throughout her writing career, she also published picture books, short story collections, and fiction for adults.

Here’s a tribute from Neil Gaiman on his site: “She adopted me when I was a 24 year old writer for magazines of dubious respectability, and spent the next 25 years being proud of me as I made art that she liked (and, sometimes, I didn’t. She’d tell me what she thought, and her opinions and criticism were brilliant and precise and honest, and if she said ‘Yee-ees. I thought you made a bit of a mess of that one,’ then I probably had, so when she really liked something it meant the world to me). As an author she was astonishing.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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13. We Will Not See Their Like... Celia Rees

I was shocked, as I expect many who read this blog will have been, by the death of Diana Wynne Jones. I'm not a devoted fan, I will confess that now, so anyone who was planning to write their own obit. can feel free, but nevertheless, I mourn her loss. She was one of those writers that one simply thought would always be there, somewhere, a necessary presence, there to remind us of what fantasy should be like, can be like if you know enough, think enough, write hard enough, a reminder to fantasy writers of what they should be trying to attain. She was a writer of endless inventiveness, originality and imagination, an inspiration, acknowledged or not, to later generations of writers. She knew fantasy inside out and the mythos on which it is largely based, because of that, she knew how hard it is to be original. For me, originality is the hallmark of really great fantasy and Diana Wynne Jones had it in spades.

Taking a leaf from the Bookwitch's blog and adopting a bit of serendipity, going off at a bit of a tangent, I'll admit to another shock this week, with the death of Elizabeth Taylor. Again, I've never been a great fan of hers, but like Diana, I just always thought that she would be there, somewhere, being impossibly beautiful and sultry, a last reminder of a lost world of Hollywood glamour when stars were stars. I read Camille Paglia's article in yesterday's Sunday Times, mourning the loss of 'Hollywood's last great goddess of erotic power' and found myself wondering with her at the contrast between Elizabeth Taylor, the 'pre-feminist woman', and the 'skeletal, pilates-honed, anorexic silhouettes' of modern female stars, like Gwyneth Paltrow, Keira Knightley and most others that you could name. As though, somehow, Hollywood has rejected the depiction of real women in favour of androids.

I don't suppose that Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Wynne Jones will appear together anywhere else, but isn't that what ABBA is for? Nostalgia is probably just another word for getting old, but for me the world will be much the poorer for the loss of these two very different women.

7 Comments on We Will Not See Their Like... Celia Rees, last added: 3/29/2011
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14. Diana Wynne Jones: Best Loved Books - Ellen Renner

This post is a tribute to Diana Wynne Jones, who died last month. I discovered her books nearly fifteen years ago, just at the moment when I had realised I wanted to write for children, and promptly fell in love. She is my favourite of favourites; one of only half a dozen writers whose books I can re-read and enjoy as much each time. She could do it all: elegant prose, big themes, clever plotting. But a clever plot is mere problem solving. Magic rests in characters. That is a gift of imagination and ear. To write characters who live off the page, a writer has to become her characters as she writes, and no amount of intellect will make up for a deficit of empathy. Diana Wynne Jones understood pain. All her main characters are flawed or damaged, and that's what makes them interesting.

I knew it would be no simple task to pick only three books by Wynne Jones to write about here, and so it proved.

I have to start with Charmed Life, the first book of hers I read and still, probably, the one I love most. Charmed Life illustrates a repeated theme in DWJ: a young person in search of their identity, coming to terms with their unique gifts. The young Cat Chant, orphaned, bewildered and stubbornly gullible, must come to terms with who and what he is. Why is Cat such an attractive character? Wynne Jones revisited him twice more: in the deliciously dark novella, Stealer of Souls, and the long awaited sequel to Charmed Life, The Pinhoe Egg. In neither of these does she quite pull off the magic Cat has over the reader in his first outing. And that, I think, is because in the later stories he knows what and who and what he is. Cat's magic in his first adventure is that he is running from himself as fast as he can, and we wait with bated breath for his destiny to catch him up.

My second choice has to be Howl's Moving Castle. Here it is another orphan, Sophie Hatter, who in classic fairy tale mode sets out to seek her fortune. Like Cat Chant, Sophie seems almost wilfully blind to her magic ability, her identity, until forced to accept her powers. And again, it is this avoidance of the obvious, this refusal of talent, which drives both plot and characterisation. But the real star of the book is the slippery, vain wizard Howl (that ultimate slitherer-outer) who is, like Sophie, hiding from himself. In the turn-upon-twist denouement, a real tour-de-force of plotting, both hero and heroine are forced to accept their gifts and use them honestly.

It was difficult to choose a third title. So many vie for next loved: Dogsbody, Fire and Hemlock, The Lives of Christopher Chant, The Homeward Bounders, Deep Secret (and its sort-of sequel, The Merlin Conspiracy), Hexwood, Black Maria, The Ogre Downstairs and A Tale of Time City. I especially enjoy the fact that, although Wynne Jones revisits certain character types and themes, each book is different.

But in the end, I chose The Magicians of Caprona, partly because of one, perfectly realised scene. An enchantress known as the White Devil turns the two children, Tonino and Angelica, into a living Punch and Judy and they are forced to re-enact the puppet show, with all its violence, before an audience of adult

14 Comments on Diana Wynne Jones: Best Loved Books - Ellen Renner, last added: 4/15/2011
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15. Mary Norton’s The Borrowers and Studio Ghibli’s Arietty

First, there’s the book and then there’s the movie.  Where to encounter the narrative first is always the question!  Most of us ‘older’ folk tend to encounter the narrative first in a book, and then later in the movie version.  But for today’s children and for me — especially in the case of Japan’s Studio Ghibli movies at any rate — it’s often the movie first.    When I first got wind of Studio Ghibli’s movie release, Arietty (it came out in Japan in 2010, DVD release July 2011) I noted quickly that it was based on Mary Norton’s The Borrowers (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1953).  The directors at Studio Ghibli — notably Hayao Miyazaki and son, Goro Miyazaki — have occasionally gone to British children’s books for inspiration for their movies.  Their previously released Howl’s Moving Castle was based on Diana Wynne Jones’ book of the same title (published in 1986) and it was through that movie, that I was introduced to Wynne Jones’ writing.

Thanks to Studio Ghibli again, my daughter and I have had a chance to experience The Borrowers by Mary Norton.  I picked up a hardback edition of the novel at a used book sale in Nishinomiya where I lived and began reading it at night to my daughter.  The Borrowers are little people who live under a house in England, and who ‘borrow’ things from the much larger humans that dwell above them.  The family in the first series of the Borrowers books is a small one comprising of the father, Pod, the mother, Homily, and their fourteen year old daughter, Arietty (on whom the movie title is based.)    My daughter and I got about halfway through the novel before she got to see the movie (we rented the DVD in Japan just before the day we left) and it was clear from the snippets I saw of it that the Studio Ghibli team was well into animating the tiny world of the Borrowers with its signature, detailed and colorful animation for which it is famous.  I hope Arietty makes it into the North American viewing market soon, but barring that, The Borrowers still make a great read for parents and children alike.

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16. Fusenews: She could be Fuse #8.1

Okey-doke. So today we begin with an addendum.  I believe that it was not long ago that with the announcement of the new Printz Award blog Someday My Printz Will Come I mentioned its existence without acknowledging that there may have been another and previously existing Printz Award blog out there.  Well slap my sides and call me sally, my fellow co-author on an upcoming Candlewick book Peter Sieruta (who’s post delves deep into that moment when as an adult reader you discover that you are older than the parents in a children’s book) points out that there was already a Printz blog out there of venerable character and infinite wit called Printz Picks.  I can only claim ignorance, not being particularly familiar with the world of YA . . . but I think we all know that’s a bit of a cop out on my part.  Mea culpa, Peter.  I shall now read every entry on that blog to make suitable amends.

  • I do know enough about YA to concede that this news is big news, though.  Also, how amazing is it that her editor told her to rewrite it from scratch?  Now THAT is editing, my friends!  Well played, Kathy Dawson.  Well played, indeed.
  • Trend Alert: Well, it had to happen eventually.  I’ve been rendered obsolete.  Back in the day when I started visiting publisher previews and blogging about them I admit that I felt pretty clever about the whole thing.  No one else was blogging them, after all.  Here we had a brand new untapped resource for interesting blog fodder.  And from 2006 until today I was still one of the very few bloggers to do this.  It took roughly five years before a publisher thought to themselves, “Hey . . . Betsy’s not the only blogger in town, is she?”  No she is not.  So it is that Simon & Schuster has taken what I am regarding as the logical next step.  They’ve engaged the group Buzzing Bloggers (seen here:  http://twitter.com/#!/buzzingbloggers) to round up a group of NYC parental, toy, and gift bloggers for their very own preview, sans librarians.  I was invited to both the blogger preview (complete with childcare services) and the librarian preview (not so much) this season.  I am unable to go to either of them, sadly.  That’s okay, though.  I suspect that this is one preview that will be getting plenty o’ coverage.  Don’t be surprised if other publishers begin to follow suit.
  • Speaking of which, I attended a Penguin preview the other day that I need to write up.  Until then, some of you may be interested to know that there will be a new edition of that old Tam Lin takeoff Fire & Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones on the horizon. As editor Sharyn November tweets, “Yes — Spring 2012, along w/ A TALE OF TIME CITY and DOGSBODY, all w/ stellar introductions. These will be the definitive editions.”  You heard it here.
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17. Creative Differences - John Dougherty

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be thoroughly alarmed by the late Diana Wynne Jones.

I went to see her at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. In response to the inevitable question about her next book, she said that it would be published in February and was about a child who goes to visit relatives in Ireland only to find that strange things connected with Celtic mythology begin to happen.

"Eeek!" I thought; and at the end of the session I approached her with a question of my own.

"How do I tell my publisher," I asked her, "that my next book, about a child who goes to visit a relative in Ireland only to find that strange events connected with Celtic mythology begin to happen, is going to bomb because Diana Wynne Jones's book about the same thing comes out a month earlier?"

Well, she was absolutely lovely. She told me that this sort of thing was always happening, and that she was sure my book would be completely different from hers. Which, as it turned out, was completely accurate: I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Game, and my Bansi O'Hara and the Bloodline Prophecy was - thankfully! - nothing like it.

I'm thinking about this now because I've just read a terrific book about a boy who accidentally summons an ancient deity. The deity accepts as a prayer something which wasn't intended to be a prayer at all, manifests before the boy, and asks for worship and sacrifices. In the story that follows, the gods are shown to be capricious, self-centred and arrogant, with little regard for the rights and feelings of mere mortals.

If you're familiar with my work, you might think I'm describing my first Zeus book, Zeus on the Loose. But many of you may guess that I'm talking about Wishful Thinking by Ali Sparkes - and if you haven't read it, I can thoroughly recommend it. It's very different from Zeus - much more of an adventure and less of a comedy, though it does have some genuinely funny moments - and is clearly aimed at an older readership. It's also beautifully structured, and includ

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18. Interesting Aspects Of A Lesser Known Work

Wild Robert, which I stumbled upon at a library a few weeks ago, is one of Diana Wynne Jones books for younger readers. I have to say that I found it rather plodding, myself. It seems like an idea that could have become something much more sophisticated than what it ended up being.

However, there were a couple of aspects to the work that are interesting for someone who has read other of her books and has some superficial knowledge of a later fantasy bestseller.

First off, Wild Robert, which was originally published in 1989, provides another charming, childish, male character similiar to Howl in Howl's Moving Castle, which was published three years earlier, and even to Christopher Chant as he appears in some of the Chrestomanci books, which were published from the 1970s onward.

Secondly, in Charmed Life, originally published in 1977, Wynne Jones has figures in stained glass windows come to life and fight with one another. In Wild Robert, (published in 1989, remember) she has figures in paintings in a castle gallery do the same thing, in a much more elaborate scene.

The whole paintings-come-to-life thing was used regularly in the Harry Potter books, the first of which was published in 1997. Whether Rowling was influenced by Wynne Jones or simply hit upon the idea independently (which definitely happens), it's interesting to see two writers using the same detail in their work.

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19. Diana Wynne Jones Celebration

A Diana Wynne Jones blog tour is under way. You can follow it at Celebrate Diana Wynne Jones and see other material relating to her. I have a particular fondness for her Chrestomanci books, so  I was interested in the portrait of Chrestomanci  posted there. The blog tour begins at Chasing Ray (a blog I just haven't been able to visit much this past year), and I will be trying to keep Wynne Jones' Fire and Hemlock in mind as a possible read after seeing what Colleen had to say about it.

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20. When the Wynne Jones

Generally speaking I don’t do much in the way of blog tours.  They’re a-okay for other folks but a heckuva lot of work when all is said and done.  Really, it takes someone particularly spectacular to get me to participate in one.  Someone divine.  Someone extraordinary.  Someone, let’s face it, who’s dead.

Diana Wynne Jones fits the bill, wouldn’t you say?  I am one of those pitiable souls who discovered her not as a child or teen but as an adult in library school.  If I’m not too mistaken I think my roundabout reading list at that time caused me to read her books in the order of Howl’s Moving Castle (before the movie, mind you), Dogsbody, Archer’s Goon, Fire and Hemlock, Castle in the Air, and many others.  Of these, I’m one of those freaks who prefers Archer’s Goon to anything else she wrote.  I acknowledge that it’s one of her weirder plot twists but I don’t care.  It had a goon.  Ipso facto, awesome.

I was told that I could write about any aspect of Jones’s life for this post today, and I did have an inkling of an idea.  What always struck me funny about her was that she led a far more interesting life than most of the fantasy writers out there.  You see, she had this strange propensity for falling in with other great writers for children.  Few can say they’ve made connections to the authors of the 19th, 20th, and 21st century but Jones was one of the few.

Right now I’m working on a book for Candlewick alongside fellow bloggers Jules from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (did you see that marvelous post she did on Jan Thomas and Anita Lobel?) and Peter from Collecting Children’s Books (if you grew up near a famous author or illustrator you should tell him now!).  The book we’re all toiling away on is about the true stories behind your favorite children’s books and writers.  As you might imagine, DWJ features prominently.

Now the trouble with this post is that on the one hand I want to tell you all the juicy tidbits involving Jones.  On the other hand, I want you to buy our book when it comes out (next year?).  So let’s settle on a compromise.  I’ll tell you which authors and such she came in contact with.  The details are easy enough to find out there if you’re desperate for them but I’ll not say too much.

And now . . .

Famous Folks and Diana Wynne Jones

John Ruskin – Actually his story is closely tied to that of Kate Greenaway (and what a tawdry affair that was!) but Ms. Jones did have the distinction of personally destroying some of his art when she was a kid.  A fine beginning!

Arthur Ransome – Yelled at Diana’s mom.  And he was probably right to have done so, though he did not seem a very jolly fellow.

Beatrix Potter – Reportedly yelled (or worse) at one or more of Diana’s sisters (yelling at the Joneses was cl

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21. The Other Half

by Diana Wynne Jones

This is not about my own school. I prefer to forget that. This is about how a large part of the job description when you write for children is the remorseless visiting of schools. When I was young and strong, I was required to do this almost once a week. Half of the time, the visit was entirely rewarding: the children, as always, were lovely; the staff, enthusiastic; and I could find the school entrance. Even when I lost my way (or, on one memorable occasion, when a silly old man jumped off the moving train and someone had to pull the emergency cord) and I arrived late, this kind of visit was always wonderful. On the occasion of the man jumping off the train, one of the boys actually gave me the idea for my book Howl’s Moving Castle.

These visits kept me going for the other half of the time, in which there was never any problem with the children, but the adults behaved atrociously. At the very least, the Headmaster would rush at me as I arrived, wring my hand in a crunching grip, and say, “I haven’t read any of your books, of course.” I was always too busy shaking my right hand and wondering when I’d recover the use of it to ask the obvious questions: “Why haven’t you? And why of course?” Headmistresses were less predictable. Here the common factor was that they regarded me as an intrusive nuisance and were liable to have arranged for the whole school to do something else. I would arrive at the school at the stated hour, having allowed time to hunt around the buildings for the way in, to be met by the School Secretary saying, “The Headmistress has them all in Maypole Dancing practice. Do you mind waiting an hour and a half?” It often took strong resolution not to simply turn around and go away.

The visit which caused me eventually to decide not to visit schools anymore was arranged as part of a citywide book festival. All schools in the city were supposed to participate. I was escorted to this particular school by two nice but nervous librarians in a small old car. As we chugged up the forecourt to the dark and forbidding school buildings, an obvious School Secretary came rushing toward us, holding out one hand to stop us. We stopped. “No Supply Teachers today,” she shouted. “We don’t need any extra staff. Go away!” Somewhat shaken by this welcome, we explained that we were not in fact spare teachers but an Author Visit arranged by the city. “Oh, then come in if you must,” she replied, “but the Deputy Head won’t be pleased.” The said Deputy Head, whom we encountered at the entrance, seemingly standing by to repel visitors, was indeed not pleased. She told us brusquely that we had better get ourselves to Room Eleven then. After some hunting about, we found this room. It was large, anemically lit, and full of empty desks. Scattered about at the desks were seven or so depressed-looking girls and boys. The skinny, angry-looking teacher in charge said to us, “The rest of the class have gone to a Latin lesson. You wouldn’t want them to miss their Latin, would you?” I suppressed a desire to tell him that, yes, I thought they might miss their Latin just this once, because the librarians by now both looked as if they might cry. Instead I sat where the man told me to and started to get on terms with the remaining children. After six or so minutes, we were beginning to loosen up and enjoy ourselves and the kids were starting to ask questions when the door burst open and the Deputy Head reappeared, energetically ringing a large brass bell. “Everybody out!” she shouted. “Children, go home. The rest of you go away. We’re on strike from this moment on!”

There was nothing to do but go. The librarians and I went and had coffee and stared at one another limply. Schools, I thought, would be fine if it wasn’t for the adults running them.

Diana Wynne Jones’s latest book is The House of Many Ways (Greenwillow).

From the September/October 2008 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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22. Eleven Days or Thereabouts

posted by Neil
Dear Diary

right. When last heard of I was putting on fancy clothes to go to the Newbery Caldecott Alcott Awards Dinner, and receive the Newbery Medal.

I wrote the speech back in April, and recorded it then, so that it could be given out to people at ALA as a CD and printed in The Hornbook. Then I didn't look at it again, figuring that way it would be new and interesting to me when I got to it at ALA.

This did nothing to decrease my nervousness; neither did wearing a suit.

Beth Krommes gave her acceptance speech for the Caldecott Medal for her book The House in the Night, written by Susan Marie Swanson. I gave my speech and somehow wasn't nervous any more when I gave it. Then Ashley Bryan was given the Louisa May Alcott award, and had a thousand librarians singing and reciting poetry together. It was pretty wonderful.

Here's a Scripps report on the evening, my editor Elise Howard writing about the experience of getting The Graveyard Book a chapter at a time over three years; and at http://wowlit.web.arizona.edu/blog there is a multi-part interview with Nick Glass, who was on the Newbery Medal Committee.

So I won the Newbery Medal (or did I? At http://jameskennedy.com/2009/07/13/i-win-the-newbery/ James Kennedy tells a very different story.)

The following morning was a signing that went on for a very long time. As I walked away from it I got two phone calls: the first to tell me that a dear friend, Diana Wynne Jones would be going in for an operation. I called Diana, and I'm not sure whether we reassured each other (although the operation was a success, and by the time you read this she should be back at home). As I put down the phone on her the phone rang again, and I learned that my old friend Charles Brown of LOCUS Magazine had died, peacefully, asleep on the plane on his way back from Readercon, one of his favourite SF conventions.

Charles was irreverent, astonishingly well-read, opinionated, funny, and he knew where pretty much all the bodies were buried in the world of science fiction and fantasy, or fancied he did. I enjoyed his company from the first time I met him, in the UK, in around 1987, enjoyed and was frustrated in equal measure by his interviewing technique from about 1989 on (he would ask opinionated questions and make statements and really have a terrific conversation with you - then, when he wrote up the interview he would leave himself and everything he had said out, as if it was a long monologue). (Here's an extract from one of those with me in 2005.)

He had been expecting to die for a long time - his health was not great - and had put various mechanisms in place to make sure that Locus Magazine continued after his death. Having been dragooned into being part of one of these mechanisms, I wound up seeing Charles every few years at meetings which existed, as far as I could tell, solely so that he could see a bunch of his friends once a year and point out to them, with a delighted chortle, that he was not dead yet and had no need of their help: have a bagel.

(I suspect, by the way, that the Locus Special Offer for readers of this blog still applies, seeing the webpage is still up.)

This is his placeholder Obituary in Locus.

The last time I saw him we had brunch in the Hotel Claremont in Berkeley. He told me delighted stories about the 1968 Worldcon there, of the intersection at that con of the SF old guard and the (then) young hippies, told scandalous stories and named names. I have forgotten all the stories and all the names, except for the information that convention attendees used the laundry chutes as a quick way to get downstairs, which was the least scandalous thing I learned.

Then I did a CBLDF panel, during which I took pleasure in pointing out that the same Nick Bertozzi comic, The Salon that had almost got Gordon Lee imprisoned in Rome, Georgia, last year, was in this year's Lynda Barry edited Best American Comics 2008.

Home from Chicago. Signed hundreds of book jackets with Miss Amanda Palmer for her Who Killed Amanda Palmer book. Then, in company with Miss Maddy and Maddy's friend Claire, we set out on a mad adventure (which we are still on).

In San Francisco we stayed at the Hotel Union Square, which was amazingly convenient and nice. Visited Google, got to be backstage at the Fire Festival, dined with Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman and their marvellous family (I suspect Michael and Ayelet of having acquired their children from some amazing Madeleine L'Engle-like Wrinkle in Time kit)(also they have a drumkit for their kids in the lounge), saw Wicked because the girls wanted to se it, and they loved it utterly (my mini-review? love Gregory Maguire's book, liked the book of the show, was sort of unmoved by the songs which seemed no better than they had to be), lunched with Daniel Handler and Lisa Brown, and generally tried to be on holiday, except for Sunday Morning.

Sunday Morning I did a reading and a signing for Brian Hibbs (and a hundred people) at Comix Experience. It celebrated Brian's Twentieth Comix Experience Year. Brian describes the signing here. (He also describes the problem with Twitter and signings and suchlike in a fascinating essay here.)

On Tuesday evening, as I blogged at the time, we found ourselves in Las Vegas, where an improvisational Tarot comedy troupe had much fun interviewing me and then making comedic theatre, and a great time was had by all... ( my card was the three of cups)

Neil was amazing and so was the Tarot troupe. Thanks @neilhim... on Twitpic
Picture by Tarot show producer Emily Jillette.

And now I am in San Diego, where tomorrow, Friday, I will be doing a Coraline panel (room 6A at 10:30) and an autographing (turn up in the autographing area at 9.00am and pull tickets from a hat. 100 of you will get in).

Tonight I had dinner with Henry Selick and friends, and bumped into Mr Miyazaki and the Studio Ghibli crew outside the restaurant, so got to introduce Henry Selick to Mr Miyazaki, which made Henry happy. A wonderful San Diego moment.

and that's all




This brought me joy: The Independent newpaper in the UK put the Graveyard Book audiobook second on their list of Year's Best audiobooks (and the first was a Doctor Who audiobook).

This made me smile too, Wired's list of unfilmable comics and books: http://www.wired.com/underwire/2009/07/after-watchmen-whats-unfilmable-these-legendary-texts/

On the other hand, my appearance on Kevin Smith's list of the five coolest people I've met at the San Diego Comic-Con http://popwatch.ew.com/popwatch/2009/07/kevin-smith-comic-con.html put me in mind of the time I encountered Kevin Smith. It was round the back of the San Diego Convention Centre, near the loading bay. I was on my way to a panel when a gentleman with a kerchief-mask covering his lower face, holding a brace of pistols and wearing a rakish tricorn hat leapt out and demanded my wallet, and to dance a measure with my female companions. Obviously, I was having none of it, and with a cry of "Never, miscreant!" I stumbled into the fray. During our struggle the kerchief-mask slipped and I was shocked to see that our attacker was in fact director, writer and raconteur Kevin Smith himself. He fled, dropping my wallet and also several of the original Graphitti Buddy Christ and Jay & Silent Bob toys.

I can only presume that Mr Smith's description of me in EW as "a sweetheart" was due to the fact that I did not turn him in that day to the San Diego magistrates that day to be hanged and gibbeted as a common highwayman or footpad.

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23. Confessions of a Youthful Misdemeanour - Lucy Coats

The anticipated delight of a new title from an author you have been reading for years cannot be underestimated, and I am happy to report that I enjoyed Diana Wynne Jones' latest book, the just-published Enchanted Glass,very much indeed.  It's a stand-alone, and it has all the old W J magic about it--at least I thought so. There is just something about her writing which fuses the mundane and the magical in a way which makes me feel that were I to walk into one of her country villages, I would recognise the landscape and characters immediately.  I would even go so far as to say that if I had to choose a fantasy landscape to walk into, then it would be one of hers. They are so comfortably English, and yet have an edge of hidden danger and wild mystery about them which I find very appealing. 

I didn't discover Diana Wynne Jones at all till I was in my twenties, but I loved her books no less for that. I was working in those far off days as an editor for Heinemann, and was nominally in charge of some of the (then) new and shiny yellow Banana Books.  It was terribly exciting to be editing such literary luminaries as Mary Hoffman, Penelope Lively, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Dick King-Smith (to whom I was known as the Lacy Scout) and the late, lovely Douglas Hill with whom I had possibly the longest, chattiest and best author lunch ever and never got back to work at all.  It was a wonderful time, and I plunged headfirst into reading every modern children's book I could get my hands on to catch up on the ten or so years I'd missed out on. 

That included Charmed Life, and I fell in love with Chrestomanci Castle and its inhabitants at once.  You can imagine my delight when a Banana Book story from Diana Wynne Jones fell onto my desk. And now here comes the Dreadful Confession.  I found that I wasn't actually very keen on it, and I had to write and say so to her agent. Did I do the right thing? It is a question which haunts me even now, and I'll never know the answer.  Apart from anything else, I was longing to meet her.  But even the best of us have an off writing day now and then.  At least,  I know I do. It's part of the rocky territory which goes with this author business.

PS: In mitigation, I now own every book Diana has ever written, both adult and children's and reread them often when in need of comfort--and my own children pounce on them as eagerly as I do.  I do hope that's some small recompense for that one youthful editorial misdemeanour, (and if anyone else out there has a deep dark literary secret they'd like to confess, here's the place to do it!).

Lucy's blog is HERE
Her website is HERE
Lucy is also on TWITTER
and has a fanpage on FACEBOOK

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24. At Last, The Chrestomanci Post

Okay, here it is, that Chrestomanci post I've been talking about.

Chrestomanci is a title held by a character named Christopher Chant who appears in six books and four short stories by Diana Wynne Jones. The universe of the book is made up of multiple worlds in which magic may or may not exist to varying degrees. The person who holds the title Chrestomanci is always an enchanter with nine lives, and his function is to "police" the use of magic. He's a government employee, actually.

The novels are available these days in three volumes, each containing two books. The short stories, I believe, are out of print. I got a copy from a library and then bought a beautiful paperback from an on-line dealer.

I have to admit, I found some technical glitches with these books:

Some may find this nitpicky, but I noticed from the very first book that Wynne Jones uses a noticable number of "echoes." Echoes occur when an author uses a word two or more times within a couple of sentences, making the second word strikingly noticeable to the reader. Echoes break flow, unlike parallel construction, which sort of forces flow to follow a certain flow. (Echo!) Echoes are usually caught by copy editors, which is why I know about them. Copy editors have caught (most) of the ones I've made in the past.

Chrestomanci is one of those Pimpernel/Wimsey like characters who appear to be far less powerful than they are. In Chrestomanci's case, he is often described as looking vague or appearing to be vague. That is a sign, for the people who know him, that he is on top of his game. The word "vague" is used to describe him so frequently that it becomes an annoying mannerism--like when a character is constantly adjusting her glasses or rolling his eyes. I also sometimes wondered if it really described anything. What the heck does vague mean in this context?

Some people might think that some of the boy main characters--Cat, young Christopher, and the Italian kid whose name I can't remember--seemed a bit alike. And some of the books include explanation scenes at the end, sort of like when the detective explains everything at the end of a mystery novel.

But as I said, those are all technical things. What is interesting and attention-grabbing about these books might be described as their more conceptual aspects.

Chrestomanci is a charismatic, adult character in a children's book. However, in most of his books, he is not the main character. The main characters are always children who are discovering who they really are. In fact, in the only book in which he is the main character, Chrestomanci is a child. What's more, though Chrestomanci appears to fix problems related to magic, he usually cannot do so without the assistance of child characters. He is not a grown-up who simply waves a magic wand and makes everything okay. There is no doubt whatsoever that these are kids' books, in spite of his presence.

Though these books always involve child characters discovering that they have magical abilities, and though there is a recurring adult character, the books are very different. Yes, the world building is the same, but the storylines are different, and the settings are often much different.


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25. Notes for Diana Wynne Jones

Via Charlotte at Charlotte's Library:

"I kicked off this post with a squee for MWT's Conspiracy of Kings, which is dedicated to Diana Wynne Jones (whose most recent book, Enchanted Glass, is shown at right). DWJ's struggle with lung cancer continues, and her editor at Greenwillow said in a comment at Sounis that she would welcome notes and such. Here's the address:

Diana Wynne Jones
c/o Greenwillow Books
1350 Avenue of the Americas
New York NY 10019 USA

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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