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The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy

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Imported from USA

From School Library Journal

Grade 5 Up Using well-focused questions, Marcus interviewed 13 master writers of the genre. He asked each
one about wellsprings, the influence of antecedents, writing habits, revisions, and the effects of the times (many carry
memories of World War II) in which they wrote. In the process, he uncovered fascinating revelations about where writers'
ideas come from and the themes that the authors deal with. One common thread is homage to J. R. R. Tolkien: Susan Cooper
took a class from him; Madeleine L'Engle devoured the three LOTR volumes in as many days; and Ursula LeGuin returns to
the novels again and again. However, Philip Pullman can find little in the works now that resonates for him. Marcus also
elicits pithy quotes, such as this one from Terry Pratchett: Fantasy is like an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might
not actually take you anywhere, but it does exercise the muscles that will. Each lively and highly readable interview
ends with some advice to would-be writers that, unsurprisingly, suggests that reading voraciously, as did Garth Nix and
Nancy Farmer, and writing anything (stories for the school paper, bits of character descriptions) are ways in. The
elegantly designed volume includes photos of the authors, their working spaces, and a typical manuscript page or working
outline. Interviews with Tamora Pierce, Lloyd Alexander, Franny Billingsley, Brian Jacques, Diana Wynne Jones, and Jane
Yolen are also included in this essential volume for fantasy readers of all ages. Susan Hepler, formerly at Burgundy
Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA
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Gr. 6-9. Spotlighting a genre that has mushroomed in popularity, Marcus' latest may draw in even those
young people who typically prefer to read, rather than read about, the books and authors they admire. Following the same
format as his Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book (2000), Marcus presents interviews with 13
fantasy luminaries, including Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Nancy Farmer, Brian Jacques, Garth Nix, Tamora Pierce, and
Philip Pullman. The writers' distinct personalities and career paths emerge, as do intriguing similarities; many
authors, for instance, speak of the profound impact of World War II (Diane Wynne Jones recalls that wartime hazards
convinced her that "the most appalling and peculiar things are liable to happen at any time"). Each profile includes a
black-and-white author's photo, a reading list, and a bit of ephemera, often a handwritten manuscript page. Although the
absence of J. K. Rowling is surprising, this remains a rich resource that will be consulted as frequently by children's
literature professionals as by genre fans themselves, many of whom will particularly welcome each fantasist's advice to
aspiring authors--from the simple, sage words of Ursula Le Guin, "Read. Write. Read. Write. Go on reading. Go on
writing," to Jane Yolen's delightfully blunt "BIC: butt in chair!" Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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