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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for Reflections: On the Magic of Writing

  1. 5 out of 5

    Spencer Orey

    I wish I could have talked to Diana Wynne Jones in person. This is a mix of insightful essays and interviews, with the amount of overlap between pieces that should be expected in this kind of collection. Most of the pieces deal with her own books and how or why she wrote them. There are also some insightful pieces on other writers, including a simultaneously hilarious and incredibly sharp piece on Tolkien. For anyone writing children's fiction (me!), there's a LOT of good advice here, much of whi I wish I could have talked to Diana Wynne Jones in person. This is a mix of insightful essays and interviews, with the amount of overlap between pieces that should be expected in this kind of collection. Most of the pieces deal with her own books and how or why she wrote them. There are also some insightful pieces on other writers, including a simultaneously hilarious and incredibly sharp piece on Tolkien. For anyone writing children's fiction (me!), there's a LOT of good advice here, much of which feels like breathing room. Come and look at all the ways you've been taught to limit your imagination and your writing. Laugh at the bad rules you didn't even realize you were following. The rules are still there, but maybe they're not as rigid as you thought.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Knox

    If I'd surrendered to my urge to quote from these talks and essays on Twitter or Facebook then 75% of it would be online, piecemeal. There is so much in this book that is worth repeating, reflecting on, and taking to heart. Better to buy a copy and treasure the wise, pithy, playful, and sometimes combative thoughts of this great writer. If I'd surrendered to my urge to quote from these talks and essays on Twitter or Facebook then 75% of it would be online, piecemeal. There is so much in this book that is worth repeating, reflecting on, and taking to heart. Better to buy a copy and treasure the wise, pithy, playful, and sometimes combative thoughts of this great writer.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Everyone who has ever thought about writing fantasy (for adults or children) should own a copy of this book. Diana Wynne Jones is one of my all time favorite writers, so I'm a little biased, but . . . wait, no, this isn't bias. This collection is gold. Here are speeches, essays, reviews, and interviews from one of the greatest children's fantasy writers of all time. She inspires and berates in equal measure, condemning cliches, urging on the imagination, and detailing the inspirations of her own Everyone who has ever thought about writing fantasy (for adults or children) should own a copy of this book. Diana Wynne Jones is one of my all time favorite writers, so I'm a little biased, but . . . wait, no, this isn't bias. This collection is gold. Here are speeches, essays, reviews, and interviews from one of the greatest children's fantasy writers of all time. She inspires and berates in equal measure, condemning cliches, urging on the imagination, and detailing the inspirations of her own wonderful books. And of course, as a fan of hers since childhood, I pored over every little personal anecdote, and reeled with horror all over again at her biography, a slightly less complete version of which is on her website. Her childhood is a horror story, and yet she was not completely unhappy, and I wonder if she would have been a writer at all, if not for what she endured. This book made me love Diana more. It made me love her books more. And it made me love my own books more. It makes me excited and proud to be a writer of fantasies for children! And has also inspired a book that I am on fire to write even though I have a tight schedule and my agent might cry if I tell her I'm starting something new . . .

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    Reflections is a collection of things Diana Wynne Jones wrote or used as speeches/lectures during her lifetime. There's a good range of stuff, including her fantastically clear academic work on Tolkien as well as her meditations on her own writing. Definitely worth reading -- I excitedly texted my friends with some facts, like the fact that Diana Wynne Jones was a left-handed dyslexic, and I really have the urge to reread The Lord of the Rings again thanks to her (not helped by Ursula Le Guin, w Reflections is a collection of things Diana Wynne Jones wrote or used as speeches/lectures during her lifetime. There's a good range of stuff, including her fantastically clear academic work on Tolkien as well as her meditations on her own writing. Definitely worth reading -- I excitedly texted my friends with some facts, like the fact that Diana Wynne Jones was a left-handed dyslexic, and I really have the urge to reread The Lord of the Rings again thanks to her (not helped by Ursula Le Guin, who also writes wonderfully about Tolkien in several of her essays). There's also a lot to discover about Diana as a person, about her family life, and about her side of what comes across as horrendous parental abuse by her family. There are also two pieces by her sons, included at the end, which jolt one into remembering real people are not simple, when one son complains that his mother made real people the bad guys in her books, including him, simply because he actually rather liked her mother... Glad I've got a couple of Diana Wynne Jones' other books out of the library at the moment. Definitely in the mood for them. The only thing with this book is that isn't written as a continuous piece, so there's a fair amount of repetition.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Arun Divakar

    At times when you get into a conversation with someone who mentions that they love reading, the conversation shifts lanes to favorite genres. Many, if not most of these conversations used to end up with me telling the other person that I loved fantasy. A look of incomprehension used to pass over their face followed by an exclamation of Oh, that Harry Potter kind ! While J. K. Rowling’s work has been extremely enjoyable and quite a landmark in fantasy literature, it is rather unfortunate that a l At times when you get into a conversation with someone who mentions that they love reading, the conversation shifts lanes to favorite genres. Many, if not most of these conversations used to end up with me telling the other person that I loved fantasy. A look of incomprehension used to pass over their face followed by an exclamation of Oh, that Harry Potter kind ! While J. K. Rowling’s work has been extremely enjoyable and quite a landmark in fantasy literature, it is rather unfortunate that a lot many readers do not step beyond this to explore and discover more in this field. This forms one of the key points which Diana Wynne Jones explores in depth through her essays. One essay in particular that caught my interest was her argument against why fantasy should not be distinguished from the so called ‘serious’ books. Like any other arena, the genre of fantasy had its black sheep too but to shelve this as next to uesless is rather unfortunate. Having never read a book by Diana, I was enticed into reading this by the glowing forward penned by personal favorite Neil Gaiman. It is a pragmatic, witty and sensible set of essays by a prodigious writer whose fantasy works for children are still masterpieces. One thing that set Diana apart even from the second essay on was that she treated her audience – children as individuals with their own perspectives. An essay which talks about the nuances that one needs to keep in mind while writing for children offers a good view at her mind as a writer. A lot many books for children dismiss them as rather slow and needing a lot of explanation while telling stories. The converse is however more true since a child will latch on quickly to spartan explanations while an adult needs paragraphs following paragraphs for the same thing.Diana has a sharp and rather dry wit which makes amusing observations at all that happens around her. She mocks a lot of things ranging from the insensitive nature of school authorities, the shallow opinions of critics and even her own forgetful nature while in the thrall of a good story. This quiet humor is something that I felt to be a hallmark of her alert and agile mind. All is not fun and games though for my favorite piece in the whole book is her essay on narrative structures within Tolkien’s LOTR. Having been a student to Tolkien and Lewis, her viewpoints on the whole work are extremely illuminating (I will certainly want to re-read it now !). Filled with observations on children’s literature, fantasy and even a book review of Mervyn Peake’s – Boy in Darkness, this is a good collection if you are into reading books about writing. The only down side of this collection is that since it covers a wide variety of essays, talks and writings over a few decades, the content tends to repeat a bit. Diana’s oppressive childhood, her catharsis through writing, love for history and myth, Tolkien’s lectures and a deep understanding of a child's pysche all repeat time and again through the articles. Keep at them though, she is a fantastic writer.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Erin the Avid Reader ⚜BFF's with the Cheshire Cat⚜

    What can I say more about Diana Wynne Jones that others have not said? She is perhaps one of the smartest, wittiest, most though-provoking writers I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing—not only with the magical, complex novels she wrote for children, but also with her science fiction, speculative fiction, and most recently, her wonderful collection of essays that contain personal experiences, book reviews, anecdotes, biographical information, criticisms of fantasy and science fiction, and pieces What can I say more about Diana Wynne Jones that others have not said? She is perhaps one of the smartest, wittiest, most though-provoking writers I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing—not only with the magical, complex novels she wrote for children, but also with her science fiction, speculative fiction, and most recently, her wonderful collection of essays that contain personal experiences, book reviews, anecdotes, biographical information, criticisms of fantasy and science fiction, and pieces detailing the process of being a fantasy writer. With each and every one, there is tidbits of wisdom sparkled with humor highlighted with the fiery passion of a woman who delicately shaped her craft like a piece by Michelangelo. Jones is very down to Earth and honest, something I have yet to see many authors be. I feel like so many writers would rather pull a pseudo-intellectual, holier-art-thou facade so that it adds a glimmer of sophistication and it makes them seem different from the rest of us common folk. Jones not only speaks from a direct tone, but also one that is to the point. She doesn’t throw around nebulous comments or ideas to leave the head scratching. She just does that with the narratives of her novels instead! She makes it look easy. So easy. You look at her prose and think “Gah! It’s so simple! Anybody could write this.” Hell, her talking about it makes it sound rather simple, but once you read about the process she goes through in order to create a book, to come up with ideas, to pick the most lovely cherries from the bountiful harvest, you realize it’s just like being any writer for any profession. Maybe harder actually. Adults can us jargon and complicated phrase to express something complex. Writers for younger people cannot do this, or the child won’t get it. Instead, Jones creates intertwining, labyrinthine plots that express themselves rather simply, but often end up being much more complicated that as it seems. Jones was not afraid to explore deep, complex, scientific topics such as parallel universes, time travel, metaphysics, and her most popular, exploring deep into the human psyche and relationships, and how it can affect a child/person or the people they know. She did this in a style so deceptively simple its almost surreal to re-read a work of hers and realize just how much there truly is to digest. She was a beautiful, talented individual. Far more so than certain more successful contemporaries I can think of (sorry Potter fans). She served as an inspiration for Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, and many, many others who I staunchly believe may not have held the acclaimed body of work they have if she wasn’t there to write these novels. One of the two introductions of this compendium of essays is even written by Gaiman, himself, who was both a friend and a fervent fan of Jones’ work. Jones’s essays will make you laugh. Some will make you depressed. Most of them will make you think. She had so many interesting things to share and say, and she was just as talented an essayist as she was a writer. I think the only thing holding me back from giving this collection 5 stars is some redundancy i encountered in some of her essays. Jones would sometimes have certain things repeated, but the reason for this was because these essays were not written in a single year, but rather collected over a long period of time (1978-2010 to be exact), which is a long period of time to sift through manuscripts and pick out which ones stand out to you. It’s also a rather interesting thing to note, because one of Jones’ most common themes in her work is childhood abandonment and the feeling of being marginalized. Jones, herself had a brutal childhood that I’m sure greatly influenced her work, so this inspiration she fed off of for many of her novels most likely leeched into her essays because it was important for her to talk about. I completely understand this, it’s just that after a while you don’t want to see the same theme or story told the third time with slightly different wording. Other than this, I highly recommend this collection. Jones was a treasure trove of writing knowledge, and I recommend people who are thinking about venturing into writing fantasy and science fiction to read her essays. She’s full of insightful pointers and provides excellent examples of good templates to follow if one wants to write an engaging story. She will be greatly, greatly missed.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    A definite must for the hard-core Diana Wynne Jones fan, offering a range of writing advice, background to books, interviews and anecdotes. Non-Diana Wynne Jones fans may get a little lost, since she uses examples drawn from her books, but there's still a solid soupcon of advice. A weak point is repetition. Because these are essays and articles drawn from the last couple of decades, readers will be forging through a few pieces of background over and over again. But DWJ is sharp and witty and deli A definite must for the hard-core Diana Wynne Jones fan, offering a range of writing advice, background to books, interviews and anecdotes. Non-Diana Wynne Jones fans may get a little lost, since she uses examples drawn from her books, but there's still a solid soupcon of advice. A weak point is repetition. Because these are essays and articles drawn from the last couple of decades, readers will be forging through a few pieces of background over and over again. But DWJ is sharp and witty and delightfully disdainful of the fashions which come and go in publishing.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sistermagpie

    Fantastic collections of essays by one of the best fantasy writers ever. It's a collection of things written over the years, so there's often repetition as she talks about her influences. Even better, I think, is the way she talks about writing, what she wants to do in her books, how books comes together. One of my favorite surprising nuggets was when she talked about two things coming together in a strange way to form something new and fantastic. The example she uses is from her childhood, when Fantastic collections of essays by one of the best fantasy writers ever. It's a collection of things written over the years, so there's often repetition as she talks about her influences. Even better, I think, is the way she talks about writing, what she wants to do in her books, how books comes together. One of my favorite surprising nuggets was when she talked about two things coming together in a strange way to form something new and fantastic. The example she uses is from her childhood, when she'd been relocated to the Lake District during WWII. She was told to fear Germans and never to drink from a tap that connected to water infested with typhoid germs. Being very young, she conflated Germans with germs, and typhoid with Twyford (the manufacturer of the tap), giving rise to a nightmare of Germans dashing across the surface of the lake and coming through the tap to give everyone Twyford. That story's just particularly fascinating for a fan of DWJ, because that kind of alchemy is at the center of her books--I've always found it there more than anywhere else. I also particularly liked one of the essays at the end by her son Colin, who talks about how his mother used real life in her books--only often inaccurately, in his view. I think I liked that because listening to DWJ talk about her life, I couldn't help but think that she was one of those people who turned every experience into a Diana-type story (or a "Girl Jones story" to use the language of the village where she grew up). I couldn't help but imagine that other people who had experienced these events with her would probably see the facts as distorted or shaped to her pov, and this seems to be exactly what Colin talks about in his essay. Though even there again you can see his pov shaping the events in ways that aren't quite accurate either. Just a fascinating read start to finish!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Roma

    General Rating: 9/10 Personal Rating: 8/10 As always Diana Wynne Jones reminds me that she was one genius witch

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Where to start? Diana Wynne Jones was a very individual and distinctive voice within British fantasy writing, highly regarded and rightly so, though that recognition was perhaps long coming: for example, though I was aware of the name I only first read her work in 2004, on a strong recommendation, beginning with The Merlin Conspiracy. However, from then on I was hooked. She had a growing loyal following from the mid-seventies onwards, but perhaps the fillip to her popularity came with an audienc Where to start? Diana Wynne Jones was a very individual and distinctive voice within British fantasy writing, highly regarded and rightly so, though that recognition was perhaps long coming: for example, though I was aware of the name I only first read her work in 2004, on a strong recommendation, beginning with The Merlin Conspiracy. However, from then on I was hooked. She had a growing loyal following from the mid-seventies onwards, but perhaps the fillip to her popularity came with an audience keen for more fiction along the lines of the Harry Potter books, aided by the success of the Japanese animated film of her Howl’s Moving Castle. Sadly, within a relatively little time she discovered she had cancer, dying just two years later in 2011. So, I’ve made a start. If you’ve read any of her books you’ll understand the appeal; if you haven’t then you are missing a treat. But what if you’re an adult, and especially an adult with an antipathy to fantasy? It’s all make-believe, isn’t it, not serious enough for grown-ups to bother with as it’s not about real life? Well, let’s put aside the fact that all fiction is made-up and, offering neat conclusions, not messy like reality, and that even writing non-fiction has to be both a selective and creative process: true fantasy is about the interface between daydreams and everyday life, and acquaintance with that starts at a very young age. As Diana writes (‘Fantasy Books for Children’), Writers of fantasy for children have a heavy responsibility: anything they write is likely to have a profound effect for the next fifty years. You can see why if you ask ten adults which book they remember best from their childhood. Nine of them will certainly name a fantasy. Crucially, she goes on to say, “If you enquire further, you will find your nine adults admitting that they acquired many of the rules they live by from the book that so impressed them.” These ‘rules’ about appropriate behaviour, recognising character, responding to crises or a general outlook on life stay with you and largely determine the way you live that life in the decades to come. And, as Diana notes, this is a heavy responsibility for any children’s writer. Those notions implanted at an early age by books are every bit as important as the oral lore you get from family or friends or society at large, from personal contact or through the media. As adults we shouldn’t belittle these early brushes with ‘virtual life’, and indeed we should be revisiting them to re-experience and re-assess how our world-views are formed and what validity they have. This is not to say that we should censor childhood fantasy to conform with our ossified adult world-views, as some pedagogues are wont to do. Instead, we should re-immerse ourselves in that childhood world where monsters exist under the bed and behind the curtains, and bullies of all ages lurk to make our lives miserable, and models of courage and cowardice and resourcefulness and helplessness are presented for us to help us learn to cope with ‘real’ life. And, yes, a childhood where we can believe that magic exists, as something to be in wonder and awe about, to prepare ourselves for the miracles of nature and the universe. Reflections: on the magic of writing is a wonderful collection of writings, mostly by Diana herself, for magazines, conferences and lectures. As discussed above, she discourses widely on the responsibilities of the writer, and the perils of visiting schools, the value of learning Anglo-Saxon and the craft of writing; she reflects on the creation of the fantasy worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia, particularly interesting as she attended lectures by both Tolkien and C S Lewis when she was at Oxford. Nearly all her addresses are peppered with recollections of singular incidents from her childhood, and while several anecdotes are repeated in different contexts, they are always apposite and telling. Her upbringing was unconventional, to say the least, but like all children she somehow thought it was ‘normal’ until she matured and discovered otherwise, thus not only highlighting how childhood experiences form the adult character but also underlining that however different all our childhoods are in specifics the generalities are what we have in common. Edited by Charlie Butler from the University of the West of England in Diana’s home city of Bristol, the pieces (nearly thirty of them) have self-explanatory titles like ‘A Day Visiting Schools’, ‘Advice for Young Writers’ and ‘Creating the Experience’. Butler, author of Four British Fantasists (a study which includes Diana Wynne Jones), provides an insightful introduction and an interview with her, and there is a Foreword by fantasy writer and DWJ fan Neil Gaiman, plus contributions by two of her sons, Colin and Richard Burrow; and the whole is rounded off by notes, a bibliography of her published writings and an index. Even if you’re not a fan, or have never read a word of her writing, there is much to enjoy; but if you are and you have, then, mitigating the sadness of her passing, Reflections is full of the joy of living in both the exterior ‘real’ world and the no less valid inner world. http://calmgrove.wordpress.com/2012/1...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    As a general rule, I don't read nonfiction- essays in particular- outside of school. However, this book came highly recommended by a friend, and is also by one of my favorite authors, so I decided I might as well get it out from the library. So I did, and it sat in my stack of to-be-read library books until my mother warned me that it was going to be due in a week and if I wanted to read it, I'd better do so soon. So, I read it. And, to my (foolish) surprise, I loved it. In fact, I loved it so mu As a general rule, I don't read nonfiction- essays in particular- outside of school. However, this book came highly recommended by a friend, and is also by one of my favorite authors, so I decided I might as well get it out from the library. So I did, and it sat in my stack of to-be-read library books until my mother warned me that it was going to be due in a week and if I wanted to read it, I'd better do so soon. So, I read it. And, to my (foolish) surprise, I loved it. In fact, I loved it so much that I nearly forgot to stop reading and actually write my own story- not the best situation when it's nearly the end of Camp NaNoWriMo (as far as my schedule was concerned) and I have a quarter of the book left to write in a very busy week. Thankfully, I managed, and I rather hope the flavor of Diana Wynne Jones's words crept into what I wrote in between reading her essays. The reason I left this book sit so long is that whenever I hear "essay," I think "something I or someone else had to write for school or another academic program, which is probably dry and boring and, if it's written by an adult, filled with large, professional-sounding terms that fly right over my head." (This is despite the fact that, for the past two years, I've had a chapter each year in Literature dedicated to essays and enjoyed it both years.) However, Diana Wynne Jones's style is anything but dry or boring, and certainly does not go right over my head. Reading these essays feels like listening to her talk to me in a friendly, conversational way, whether she's talking about writing or her life or "The Narrative Shape of the Lord of the Rings" (which sounds terribly imposing but is actually fascinating, if you like Tolkien). It's lovely. Most of the essays in this book focus on Jones's thoughts on writing- both her own and writing in general. These I find fascinating; while some bits are similar to advice I've heard before, most is new and interesting and makes me say "Hmm, I never thought of that before." A few are specificially about other peoples's writing, notably that of Tolkien and Lewis (both of whom she studied under at Oxford). Of these, "The Narrative Shape of the Lord of the Rings" is the best- though I may be a bit biased because I don't agree with several of her opinions about and interpretations of Narnia. I rather wish I'd started this book a great deal sooner, so that I could've paused after reading "The Narrative Shape" and reread The Lord of the Rings, just so I could see again for myself the things she pointed out as interesting. And, of course, many of the essays deal with her own life, especially her childhood- two specifically are about it, but it comes up in nearly every selection. These parts fascinate me as much as (or possibly more than) the rest, but also make me sad. Jones certainly did not have an easy life- which, I suppose, makes her all the more inspiring. If you have never read anything by Diana Wynne Jones before, I probably wouldn't give this book to you as an introduction. It's a splendid book, and well-representative of her style, but I feel like you need at least a fair acquaintance with her fantasy books before you read this. (The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Fire and Hemlock, and possibly Black Maria are the ones that seem to get referenced the most- which means I probably didn't get quite as much out of this book as I could've, since, of those three, I've only read The Chronicles of Chrestomanci. The other two are on my to-be-read list.) However, if you've read at least some of Diana Wynne Jones's books and loved them, then yes, yes, yes, read this book. You definitely won't regret it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    tori

    a must read for all storytellers to be. i was delighted to see DWJ's views on feminism, family oppression, childhood, dyslexia and how it all influenced her personal life and stories. her understandment of being a neglected child surrounded by unfairness in an adult world is way ahead of our time – a lot of ppl should take notes on that. she really does deserve more recognition for her work. i can only hope that her books will continue to live among us for many years. a must read for all storytellers to be. i was delighted to see DWJ's views on feminism, family oppression, childhood, dyslexia and how it all influenced her personal life and stories. her understandment of being a neglected child surrounded by unfairness in an adult world is way ahead of our time – a lot of ppl should take notes on that. she really does deserve more recognition for her work. i can only hope that her books will continue to live among us for many years.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chasia Lloyd

    Really good collection of essays that gave me a lot of food for thought re: writing fantasy, especially for younger audiences. I will add, however, that there a few (rare) passages that may not be friendly to my enby or aro or ace pals. Also I wasn't super fond of the way DWJ talked about the Aboriginal Australians in the ending interview...it wasn't exactly *problematic* but it didn't make me feel comfortable. Really good collection of essays that gave me a lot of food for thought re: writing fantasy, especially for younger audiences. I will add, however, that there a few (rare) passages that may not be friendly to my enby or aro or ace pals. Also I wasn't super fond of the way DWJ talked about the Aboriginal Australians in the ending interview...it wasn't exactly *problematic* but it didn't make me feel comfortable.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I purchased this for the library so I am definitely not challenging the YA call number. However, this is really adult nonfiction. It is a collection of Jones's lectures and writings on literature, mostly, of course, fantasy. In addition to some insightful comments on kids' lit and what is the real problem with "problem" type books, she gives a lot of insight into fantasy and the serious purpose it can have. She says it is a way of teaching kids how to do problem solving. She has a point. Her pro I purchased this for the library so I am definitely not challenging the YA call number. However, this is really adult nonfiction. It is a collection of Jones's lectures and writings on literature, mostly, of course, fantasy. In addition to some insightful comments on kids' lit and what is the real problem with "problem" type books, she gives a lot of insight into fantasy and the serious purpose it can have. She says it is a way of teaching kids how to do problem solving. She has a point. Her problem with "problem" lit for teens is that she certainly had an unhappy childhood (her youngest son disputes this) and the last book she'd have reached for was a fiction book on a similar problem. I don't one hundred percent agree with her. Sometimes it is really helpful to have problem books around, especially if the teen is afraid to confide in any adult. Besides, there is also the soap opera syndrome: people like to read about other people's problems. It makes them feel better about their lives. As Gaiman warns in the preface, these are lectures taken from throughout Jones's life. She tended to use many of the same stories over and over again in these lectures and articles which gets monotonous. That is not Jones's fault. The individual account is well told. And I can't blame her for having stock stories that she reused over and over again. The woman wrote an amazing amount of original books; expecting all her lectures and articles to be without repetition is expecting too much. She had a very unhappy childhood, quite neglected. A lot of this was the times, which she recognized. As she said in many of these articles: when I was five, the world went mad. I'm not checking the accuracy of that so it isn't in quotes but it is the essence of what she wrote time and time again. She is referring to World War II. So some of the neglect may have been from the times she lived in. However, it sounds as though her parents were highly unpleasant people. Her son Colin vehemently disagrees, at least about his grandmother. What Colin probably doesn't realize is a grandparent's relationship and a mother's relationship are entirely different. I'm quite sure Colin got a very different more sympathetic look at his grandmother but it does not invalidate his mother's opinion one bit. Fundamentally I enjoyed this. The story about Tolkien trying his best to drive away students but with five students hanging on throughout the course is hilarious! She doesn't have nearly as much to say about C.S Lewis even though she attended his lectures as well. I also found the comments about Ransome and Beatrix Potter fascinating. (Potter didn't like kids apparently. Who knew?) I recommend this to students who want to write, especially want to write fantasy. I also have placed a hold on one of her books that she mentions many times. I'm curious to reread or read for the first time, some of her work after reading her opinion of writing and fantasy writing specifically.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lightreads

    Curated collection of essays, speeches and the like. Enjoyable, if repetitious. I talked my girlfriend's ear off about this book for half an hour over dinner, which means I said most of what I wanted to there and don't have much left here. Except that she was a lovely, critical, complicated person. Her analysis of Lord of the Rings actually made me half want to reread it, and that takes doing, trust me. I also identified a great deal with what she said about her writing process: mine, too, is or Curated collection of essays, speeches and the like. Enjoyable, if repetitious. I talked my girlfriend's ear off about this book for half an hour over dinner, which means I said most of what I wanted to there and don't have much left here. Except that she was a lovely, critical, complicated person. Her analysis of Lord of the Rings actually made me half want to reread it, and that takes doing, trust me. I also identified a great deal with what she said about her writing process: mine, too, is organic and nonlinear, starting with a crystalized notion of a scene or emotional beat and building a story out from there in a 'feeling your way' kind of process. Her conviction that the author must know ten times more about a character than goes into the story is entirely opposite of my practice, but this is not the forum for the line of thinking that set me off on. But mostly, I enjoyed this glimpse into her social consciousness. Her feminism, in particular, stemmed from a keen observer's eye, but she didn't have a lot of the tools or background to really work her way through it. Hell, a lot of the tools and background didn't exist when she was coming into feminist consciousness. So she could observe the way children's literature encodes maleness as a default as a social artifact, but she couldn't . . . interrogate that, and when she could, later, it was to subvert it by leaning hard on gender stereotypes. So yeah. Interesting to the completest, the amateur scholar, the biographer (and oh man, how much do I want the excellent, meaty, analytical DWJ bio now?), and the fan.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Panda Incognito

    I enjoyed reading this collection of reflections from Diana Wynne Jones, because even though I have only read a small sampling of her works, I think that she was a fascinating person. This book confirmed why I have read so little of her fiction, since I don't prefer the magic-centered and sometimes occult themes that she focused on, but at the same time, the book also gave me a deeper appreciation for her pioneering work in fantasy and children's literature. Because this book collects speeches, e I enjoyed reading this collection of reflections from Diana Wynne Jones, because even though I have only read a small sampling of her works, I think that she was a fascinating person. This book confirmed why I have read so little of her fiction, since I don't prefer the magic-centered and sometimes occult themes that she focused on, but at the same time, the book also gave me a deeper appreciation for her pioneering work in fantasy and children's literature. Because this book collects speeches, essays, and other writings that Jones created over a broad expanse of time and addressed to different audiences, they repeat many of the same themes, anecdotes, and messages. I would have found this overly repetitive if I had plowed through it all at once, but because I spaced out my readings, I continued to find the book engaging, and was intrigued to see how different elements of the same stories and themes made appearances throughout the book. Overall, I learned a lot about her difficult and unusual childhood, the ways that she dealt with criticism and challenges during her career, and the core, guiding principles that informed her work for children. I would recommend this to Diana Wynne Jones fans, fantasy writers, fiction writers in general, and children's librarians.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kate Swed

    I enjoyed these reflections, particularly Jones’ thoughts on the responsibilities of writing for children—so much room for reflection there—and the value of fantasy stories. I also thought she had some savvy comments on genre divisions, and a lot of fascinating insights into process. Like many books on writing, there’s a feeling that sometimes comes across as ‘my way is THE way,’ and because of the manner in which the collection was compiled, it becomes repetitive at times. Well worth a read, th I enjoyed these reflections, particularly Jones’ thoughts on the responsibilities of writing for children—so much room for reflection there—and the value of fantasy stories. I also thought she had some savvy comments on genre divisions, and a lot of fascinating insights into process. Like many books on writing, there’s a feeling that sometimes comes across as ‘my way is THE way,’ and because of the manner in which the collection was compiled, it becomes repetitive at times. Well worth a read, though be forewarned of what struck me as some antiquated views on gender and political correctness.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Upjohn

    I LOVE this book. I suspect I'll never finish reading it because it is perfect for dipping in to any time. There is a great deal here to absorb. I have always found reading Diana Wynne Jones' books a comfort. They are always what I reach for if something is askew in my world. (I know I am not alone in this. Her son, Michael Burrow, writes about this in the "Address at Diana's Funeral", the last piece in the book.) This book is no different because it is her voice and the voices of those who knew I LOVE this book. I suspect I'll never finish reading it because it is perfect for dipping in to any time. There is a great deal here to absorb. I have always found reading Diana Wynne Jones' books a comfort. They are always what I reach for if something is askew in my world. (I know I am not alone in this. Her son, Michael Burrow, writes about this in the "Address at Diana's Funeral", the last piece in the book.) This book is no different because it is her voice and the voices of those who knew her talking about her with affection and respect. Reading about her approach to writing and books and being a writer brought that same comfort. Charles Butler, in the Introduction, tells us that he first read Diana Wynne Jones when he was already an adult. It was the same for me. Like Mr. Butler, my first book was Charmed Life. He says: "...from the opening page...I was hooked--by the twistiness, the wit, the superabundant imagination, and the emotional wisdom." Reading that first book was a turning point for me as a writer because it took me back to my reading experience as a child, the full out, no holds barred, I'm off the cliff and in a free fall. Reading her books gives me a place on the writing horizon to reach for and even if I never reach it, there is a standard to strive for. Neil Gaiman says in the Foreword: "It was easy, when you knew her, to forget what an astonishing intellect Diana Wynne Jones had, or how deeply and how well she understood her craft." In this book, she shares some of her craft with us. Her intellect, imagination, wit, twistiness and wisdom shine through. The final pieces, "Two Family Views on Diana and her Work", each written by one of her sons, are rich additions to the picture drawn of Diana and her craft. For any fans of Diana Wynne Jones, Reflections: On the Magic of Writing is a must read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sula

    This has left me with food for thought and having read this I now want to go back and reread many of her books! Some interesting thoughts on genre, restrictions she has come across in writing and on what children books should be. There are also few sections with advice to writers which even if you are not a writer yourself, they give an insight into how she viewed the process and how her books were formed. Hearing of her upbringing makes you start to understand the darker themes in her books, but This has left me with food for thought and having read this I now want to go back and reread many of her books! Some interesting thoughts on genre, restrictions she has come across in writing and on what children books should be. There are also few sections with advice to writers which even if you are not a writer yourself, they give an insight into how she viewed the process and how her books were formed. Hearing of her upbringing makes you start to understand the darker themes in her books, but also realise the importance of having some humour and lightness in these situations. I really wanted to hear more about the ideas that inspired specific books, the way she draws ideas together is really interesting. The only negative I have is that there is some repetition of ideas and anecdotes, but as she states in the preface that often happens with collections of writing. This did make me consider giving this four stars, but some bits were just too thought-provoking and amusing. Worth a read for fans of Diana Wynne jones, and also some of the essays in particular for aspiring writers. If you’ve not read any of her books, it’s probably not worth going out of your way for as the several bits talking about and referencing her books will probably be of little interest, but some bits may still be enjoyable.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    Diana Wynne Jones was for a time my Favorite Living Author, at least until Hilary McKay came along, and then they shared the honor. Along with Anne Tyler and Larry McMurtry. Ah well... The odd thing is that the other three authors write realistic fiction and DWJ wrote speculative fiction and it's only after I read this book of essays that I understood just how realistic her fantasies are. As well as how inventive and brave and wildly original, because, except maybe in the last few years of her l Diana Wynne Jones was for a time my Favorite Living Author, at least until Hilary McKay came along, and then they shared the honor. Along with Anne Tyler and Larry McMurtry. Ah well... The odd thing is that the other three authors write realistic fiction and DWJ wrote speculative fiction and it's only after I read this book of essays that I understood just how realistic her fantasies are. As well as how inventive and brave and wildly original, because, except maybe in the last few years of her life, she never wrote the same story twice. Even when I first started reading Diana Wynne Jones in the 1980's, I was impressed by her range. Now we're in an age when a series can go on long enough to take you through an entire alphabet of titles and I wish others could or would follow her example. I don't know whether reading Reflections on the Magic of Writing will be a roadmap (or multiverse map) for other writers. But I do know that reading it excited me to the point where I almost got my own back with my husband by reading so many bits out loud to him. (He is always, ALWAYS, reading me bits from reviews in TLS.) Best of all, I now have a mental list of all the Diana Wynne Jones books I want to re-read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sheila Agnew

    This book is a random canter through Diana Wynne Jones's childhood experiences, her fantastic books, the process behind her craft and her views on children's literature. It's a wonderful privilege to see inside the workings of her unique mind and I laughed out loud at her many refreshingly politically incorrect opinions. I think that the book is wonderful reading for anyone whether you're a fan or not but as a children's author, I felt like she'd just handed me Excalibur with a chuckle and a win This book is a random canter through Diana Wynne Jones's childhood experiences, her fantastic books, the process behind her craft and her views on children's literature. It's a wonderful privilege to see inside the workings of her unique mind and I laughed out loud at her many refreshingly politically incorrect opinions. I think that the book is wonderful reading for anyone whether you're a fan or not but as a children's author, I felt like she'd just handed me Excalibur with a chuckle and a wink. My published children's books are reality based. I never sent my children's fantasy book off on the rounds of submissions because I knew that it wasn't good enough. I'd fallen into practically every possible trap for a novice fantasy writer and added some traps of my own...the grumpy, pimply teenage dwarf character yada yada. My book fell so far short on every level that I doubted if I'd ever try my hand at fantasy again but lately I've been persistently shadowed by the idea for a children's fantasy book called The Witches Protection Program. It just won't go away! Reading Reflections has given me the power to write it. Diana Wynne Jones is a God of the highest order. I love her.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    Almost three years later and finally finished this one! It was my "read an essay before bed while between books" book, so that's the reason why it took me so long to finish instead of anything to do with its quality. Gosh, Diana Wynne Jones was wonderful. That's what I kept thinking throughout. And her actual voice reminds me so much of many of her characters - there's a matter-of-factness that's prevalent in a lot of them that so clearly came from how she was. It made me want to reread every bo Almost three years later and finally finished this one! It was my "read an essay before bed while between books" book, so that's the reason why it took me so long to finish instead of anything to do with its quality. Gosh, Diana Wynne Jones was wonderful. That's what I kept thinking throughout. And her actual voice reminds me so much of many of her characters - there's a matter-of-factness that's prevalent in a lot of them that so clearly came from how she was. It made me want to reread every book of hers that I own. Little things I loved --a whole essay (albeit three pages) on the origins of The Merline Conspiracy, which I think is low-key her best book --the observation that the Dalemark and Chrestomanci universes were so distinct that they could never switch because neither story could really exist in the other. --Tolkein scaring off students by mumbling so quietly no one could hear --Fire and Hemlock is partially about her and her husband, which maybe makes me like that book again.

  23. 4 out of 5

    J.A. Ironside

    If you write fantasy then this book is an absolute must read. The essay on Tolkien's narrative shape in Lord of the Rings alone is worth the rather steep asking price. This is a book for DWJ's older fans - young readers probably won't get so much from it. I found the whole collection of essays both brilliant and illuminating. The only downside (it's a minor one) there is a bit of repetition with some subjects as DWJ uses some similar material in a few of her lectures. It is still worth reading a If you write fantasy then this book is an absolute must read. The essay on Tolkien's narrative shape in Lord of the Rings alone is worth the rather steep asking price. This is a book for DWJ's older fans - young readers probably won't get so much from it. I found the whole collection of essays both brilliant and illuminating. The only downside (it's a minor one) there is a bit of repetition with some subjects as DWJ uses some similar material in a few of her lectures. It is still worth reading as whole however. For one thing you'll get an insight into how deeply thought out and complex her books are, while seeming simple on the surface. For another, as with most of her books, DWJ tricks you into looking at the world in a new light without once sermonizing or suggesting you should do so. The introduction by Neil Gaiman is also very moving. To be treasured and re-read and only leant to friends you absolutely trust to give it back :)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Melora

    Really I'd give this 3.5 stars. Goodreads needs half stars. This was interesting and often entertaining, but it would have been much improved by being edited down to half its length. Just too many of the same stories repeated. I Did enjoy her reminiscences of classes with Tolkien and Lewis, and her childhood stories were very good. The long interview at the end was the dullest bit, but it was followed by an essay by one of her sons which presented a welcome counterpoint to some of Jones's storie Really I'd give this 3.5 stars. Goodreads needs half stars. This was interesting and often entertaining, but it would have been much improved by being edited down to half its length. Just too many of the same stories repeated. I Did enjoy her reminiscences of classes with Tolkien and Lewis, and her childhood stories were very good. The long interview at the end was the dullest bit, but it was followed by an essay by one of her sons which presented a welcome counterpoint to some of Jones's stories. I've enjoyed reading many of Diana Wynne Jones's books -- I still remember loving Dogsbody when I read it, thirty-five years ago -- and this collection has inspired me to look for some of the ones I've missed!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Everything I read by or about Diana Wynne Jones makes her even more my hero. The special quality her books have was characterized best by her son in his address at her funeral: "Her books are sustained by an enormous love; a child-like yearning to create a world that fully satisfies the human soul...this yearning is so powerful that it creates an almost poetic language and rhythm which help to transform the everyday world." Reflections is a beautiful (because Diana wrote it), thought-provoking gl Everything I read by or about Diana Wynne Jones makes her even more my hero. The special quality her books have was characterized best by her son in his address at her funeral: "Her books are sustained by an enormous love; a child-like yearning to create a world that fully satisfies the human soul...this yearning is so powerful that it creates an almost poetic language and rhythm which help to transform the everyday world." Reflections is a beautiful (because Diana wrote it), thought-provoking glimpse into the mind and creative genius of one of the 20th century's most under-appreciated treasures.

  26. 5 out of 5

    E.L.

    Amazing and encouraging collection of essays. Some repetition, naturally, but the things repeated, such as the importance of fantasy, are things worth hearing again and again. I especially appreciated the two pieces by her sons at the end. It was a joy to see Jones' children's good (and honest) opinion of her. A wonderful book. One I'm glad to own, because otherwise I'd be checking it out of the library once a month. Amazing and encouraging collection of essays. Some repetition, naturally, but the things repeated, such as the importance of fantasy, are things worth hearing again and again. I especially appreciated the two pieces by her sons at the end. It was a joy to see Jones' children's good (and honest) opinion of her. A wonderful book. One I'm glad to own, because otherwise I'd be checking it out of the library once a month.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    As someone who loved her books as a kid, I really enjoyed learning about her writing process, differences she observed between child and adult readers, and how the fantasy and children's genres changed over the years. It's amazing how much thought she put into every detail of her books. But because it's a pretty comprehensive collection of speeches and essays, it repeats itself a LOT. Especially biographical stories and basic notes on her process. So I did wind up skimming some. As someone who loved her books as a kid, I really enjoyed learning about her writing process, differences she observed between child and adult readers, and how the fantasy and children's genres changed over the years. It's amazing how much thought she put into every detail of her books. But because it's a pretty comprehensive collection of speeches and essays, it repeats itself a LOT. Especially biographical stories and basic notes on her process. So I did wind up skimming some.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jasmiina F

    I have only read one short story from Diana Wynne Jones, but when I saw this in the bookcrossing meetup I just had to grab this. And it really didn’t bother me much that I haven’t read her books. This just made me want to read those even more. I’m not much of a writer, but I like to read about writing and about books. And Diana Wynne Jones wrote quite a bit about her childhood in here and it was fascinating to read about it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tarja

    A must-read for any DWJ fan. Though there is a lot of repetition in her talks, etc., this volume offers a very good overall picture of her person and her views on writing, young adult fiction, and fantasy in general.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Deborah O'Carroll

    Sheer gold.

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