Thursday, June 3, 2010

Letter to Diana Wynne Jones

Dear Diana,

I found out yesterday that you'll be discontinuing the chemotherapy you'd been undergoing for your lung cancer and I realized it was time to write a letter. Past due time.

Again and again in interviews, I've listed your books and career as one of my main influences, but I never actually told you directly. So here goes. When I was a young, evil child, I read your books again and again. I'm pretty sure I stumbled on Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant first, during my years living in between the shelves of my public library. Then Archer's Goon and The Ogre Downstairs, checked out again and again. Then I hit on Fire and Hemlock, which I didn't like the first time, partially because I was too young and partially because my sister loved it, and there was no way I was going to be caught dead loving something that she loved. She must feel so vindicated now that I've finally agreed to love it.

All the while I was writing horrible books with overwrought characters and dreaming of being an author.

Then some summer I hit upon Dogsbody and I know I did other things that summer, but I don't remember any of them. Because I read Dogsbody back to back six times. I still remember laying on my bed -- on a hot, muggy, thunderstorming Virginia afternoon -- closing the last page of the book, sighing, and then flipping it back over to the front to read it again, not even getting up to stretch my legs.

And somewhere along the way, I decided, that was why I wanted to be an author. I wanted to be that author who changed someone's life. Not through deep and weight philosophical tomes, but merely by the sheer physical weight of the days spent lost in the pages and mood of the book. So much of my childhood was reading and so many of those books were yours. So even after hitting the bestseller list and getting lovely emails from around the globe, my favorite ones are still the ones that say: "I have reread Shiver or Ballad or Lament 14 times."

Thank you so much for being part of my childhood and adulthood and everything in between. I owe a debt more than any letter sent via e-mail or post could say, and I'm sorry that it took bad news for me to send it.

The other day, I pulled out Fire and Hemlock and reread it for the first time in years. And you know what I did when I got to the end? I flipped it back around and started reading it again.


Yours,


Maggie

13 comments:

Jonathon Arntson said...

Well said, Maggie. These moments are awesome reminders of who we are and what we are and when things just totally don't make sense - like right now for me - reading this is so epiphanitastic. And sad. But happy too.

Creepy Query Girl said...

I think its great to remember those who've made you who you are, even if they aren't aware of it. L.J. Smith might be currently ridiculed for her recent books, but I'll never forget the way 'The Secret Circle' and 'The Vampire Diaries' pushed me to read and write.

Not Hannah said...

Beautiful.

Crystal Cook said...

This letter really touched my heart Maggie. You are a wonderful person. :)

pammalu said...

what a touching thing to share...even your letters are gorgeous and rich with thoughtful details.

Samantha said...

That was a wonderful letter. I think every reader can empathize with your sentiments on the joys of getting lost in a book. And Diana Wynne Jones deserves a lot of praise for her brilliant collection.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Thanks, guys. Even now I keep thinking of even more of her books that I loved.

alanasays said...

I agree completely. She's amazing. Fire and Hemlock is one of my favourite books in the world. I own nearly all of her books and I have kept revisiting those worlds time and time again.

I love how even her craziest of story lines always wrap up so neatly at the end leaving you with the warm, happy, satisfied feeling of a book well written and well read.

I really hope she pulls through!

doing it write said...

Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favorite authors-- this is such a sad and touching letter to read.

Zoƫ Marriott said...

Whenever anyone asks what authors have influenced me, her name is literally the first one out of my mouth. She's an astonishing writer and a really remarkable person. I'm sure she would be pleased to read this letter.

Janie said...

Gosh, I didn't know she was ill. How sad! And it's a great letter.

Riv Re said...

After hearing the recent news, I thought of this little tribute and I came to pop in again. *hugs*
I should probably go read Dogsbody.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

@Riv Re - great minds -- I just reposted it on my blog this morning.

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