Reflections: On the Magic of Writing
By: Diana Wynne Jones
Format/Source: Hardback; my copy
Diana Wynne Jones is best-known for her novels and stories – of magical fantasy – written mainly for children. She received a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2007, as well as two Mythopoeic Awards and the Guardian Fiction Award for Charmed Life. But she was also a witty, entertaining speaker, a popular guest at science fiction and fantasy conventions and an engaged, scholarly critic of writing that interested her.
This collection of more than twenty-five papers, chosen by Diana herself, includes fascinating literary criticism (such as a study of narrative structure in The Lord of the Rings and a ringing endorsement of the value of learning Anglo Saxon) alongside autobiographical anecdotes about reading tours (including an account of her famous travel jinx), revelations about the origins of her books, and thoughts in general about the life of an author and the value of writing. The longest autobiographical piece, ‘Something About the Author’, details Diana’s extraordinary childhood and is illustrated with family photographs. Reflections is essential reading for anyone interested in Diana’s works, fantasy or creative writing.
The collection features a foreword by Neil Gaiman and an introduction and interview by Charlie Butler, a respected expert on fantasy writing.
As you know, I love her book Howl’s Moving Castle (review). I’ve been meaning to read more of her books, but I also really wanted to read this book and learn more about her approach to writing. So I was delighted when I found a copy at the bookstore months ago and snatched it up immediately.
I don’t know how much I can say about this book. Reflections: On the Magic of Writing is a fantastic collection of lecture notes, essays, and letters from Diana Wynne Jones about writing, about her books, about historical narratives, and about her life. It’s a fascinating look at the author herself as well as, more importantly, her approach to her writing and about writing in itself. It’s quite illuminating, and encouraging in a way, and writers I think will find this book incredly useful in the little gems she talks about when it comes to writing. The pieces written by others–Neil Gaiman, Charlie Butler, and her sons–were also very interesting pieces about the author and the impact of her works. My favourites pieces in this collection were “The Shape and Narrative in The Lord of the Rings“, “Two Kinds of Writing?” (especially interesting), “The Value of Learning Anglo-Saxon”, A Talk About Rules”, “Some Hints on Writing”, “Freedom to Write”, and “Characterization: Advice for Young Writers.”
There’s not much else I can say about this book except that it was an interesting one and that I learned a lot about Diana Wynne Jones the writer and the person. Fans of the author’s works as well as writers will want to check out this book!