Monday, March 28, 2011

Yours, Maggie

Just a few days ago, Diana Wynne Jones died. She was one of the greats of children's fantasy. I'm not sure what to say about this, so I'll just paste the letter that I wrote to her here on this blog back in June.

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.



There are not many people in the world I can point to and say "they changed my life completely," but she's one of them. It would be an incredible thing to be one of those life-changing people for someone else someday, because of her.
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