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The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy

Review

The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy

Did you know that Lloyd Alexander used his experiences as a soldier in World War II to describe battle scenes in THE HIGH KING? Did you know that Diana Wynne Jones is dyslexic? Were you aware that Madeleine L'Engle plays the piano when she feels writers' block coming on?

These glimpses into fantasy writers' lives and works are just a few of the insights gleaned from the interviews collected in THE WAND IN THE WORD. Leonard Marcus, perhaps the preeminent children's book critic, engages 13 authors of fantasies for young people in wide-ranging conversations.

Not surprisingly, many of the questions center on the writers' own childhoods, as Marcus asks almost all of them to describe their childhood, their early exposure to books and libraries, their contact with other storytellers, favorite teachers, or other mentors. One common element is the authors' early engagement with J. R. R. Tolkien's LORD OF THE RINGS; many authors, such as Susan Cooper, mention the books as major influences on their own works, while others, such as Tamora Pierce and Philip Pullman, note that their books run counter to Tolkien's goals.

Although Marcus poses many of the same questions to several of the authors, these are merely starting places for what become real conversations, not simply interviews. Like good conversations, these are comfortable, dynamic and sometimes surprising, as new questions grow from authors' answers and lead the discussion in new directions.

Most interesting to older readers (even to the many adults who relish the works of these fantasy masters) and to aspiring writers will be the authors' discussions of their philosophies of writing fantasy, their writing rituals, and their decision-making processes. Among the numerous illustrations are original manuscript pages from the authors' works, where the revision process comes to life in vivid images.

Writers-to-be will find true inspiration and encouragement from these writers' life stories and approach to writing really great fiction for young people.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on April 27, 2010

The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy
edited by Leonard S. Marcus

  • Publication Date: February 14, 2006
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick
  • ISBN-10: 0763626252
  • ISBN-13: 9780763626259