Happy Diana Wynne Jones March! #DWJMarch and #MarchMagics are hosted by WeBeReading.
I cheated a little bit and reread Reflections, Diana’s collection of essays, last month. I encourage you to read it if you like her work, if you’re a writer, or if you’re a reader of fantasy. There is a big variety of topics in the book, but most of the pieces are focused on writing, Diana’s life, and books/reading.
If you want to learn about Diana herself, my favorites in this collection are:
• Something About the Author
• The Girl Jones
• Halloween Worms
• A Day Visiting Schools
They have lots of humorous anecdotes (and not-so-humorous) about her childhood and about her professional life. You can spot a lot of connections to things in her stories, too (especially Time of the Ghost!).
If you’re a writer or you want to know more about Diana’s process, my favorites in this collection are:
• The Heroic Ideal: A Personal Odyssey
• A Talk About Rules
• Answers to Some Questions
• Two Kinds of Writing?
• Writing for Children: A Matter of Responsibility
“The Heroic Ideal” goes into detail on the structure of Fire and Hemlock, which I find one of her most perplexing books. I always think of it as the “Tam Lin” book but as she explains, she drew from a LOT of stories as well as her personal life to write this one. “A Talk About Rules” and “Answers to Some Questions” are just fabulous insights on how to tell a good story and craft it. “Two Kinds of Writing?” and “Writing for Children” explain why she mostly wrote for children, and discusses how formative childhood books are and why that’s both amazing and dangerous.
In addition, I really enjoyed these two essays, which are directed specifically toward young writers:
• Our Hidden Gifts
• Characterization: Advice for Young Writers
They’re helpful for older writers too! She’s sneaky like that.
Last but not least, if you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings you absolutely have to read:
• The Shape of the Narrative in the Lord of the Rings
It’s one of the best structural analyses of these books, and it’s fun to read because Diana is both respectful of Tolkien’s genius and critical of his weaknesses.
The ones I’ve listed above are only a smattering of the pieces in this collection, and it’s well worth reading all the way through.
As a more general #DWJMarch update, I’ve begun reading the Islands of Chaldea and it is, unsurprisingly, delightful.