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 clearly de rigeur if you were a famous children’s author living in the Lake District) though I have reason to believe that it may not have been Beatrix but her mom who did the deed.
J.R.R. Tolkien – Didn’t like him. Not as a lecturer anyway.
Neil Gaiman – To hear the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America tell it, in his early days Neil would follow Diana about like a lost puppy. And hey, if you’re going to wish for anyone’s magic to rub off onto you, Ms. Jones would be an excellent choice. Clearly it must have worked too.
If you can think of other great authors that crossed paths, either inadvertently or directly, with Ms. Jones I’d love to hear about them. Regardless, she didn’t really need to meet any of these people to be great. She was simply the best by dint of writing like nobody else. If you’d like more biographical information about Ms. Jones I suggest you check out the article Wrestling with an Angel and this autobiographical sketch from Something About the Author.
By the way, those of you who hanker for a couple Jones books of your own but have always found her covers (at least in America) to be a bit lacking, there is good news. The Firebird imprint of Penguin is releasing Fire and Hemlock, A Tale of Time City and Dogsbody (my personal favorite) all with brand new bright n’ shiny covers. Eh, voila:
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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