I deeply regret, as I knew I would, that I didn’t make it to the special Diana Wynne Jones convention in Britain a few years back. It was my one real chance to meet her, and honestly? If I could meet any writer in the world, I probably would have chosen her. Possibly even if “any writer in the world” is expanded to “in history, too,” because Shakespeare’s cool and all, but what would I say to him? His plays may be awesome, but Diana Wynne Jones is the one who made me into a writer.
It was Fire and Hemlock that did it. Polly and Tom telling their story, within the story about them, and the blurring between the two — it’s a story about stories, in many ways, because among other things the book is about “Thomas the Rhymer” and “Tam Lin,” too. I was nine when I read it, and when I put the book down, one thought stood out clearly, for the first time in my life: I want to tell a story.
I did get to tell her that, at least, via the proxy of Sharyn November, when her (I think) seventy-fifth birthday rolled by. Sharyn was collecting birthday messages, so I typed up the tale of how Fire and Hemlock turned the nebulous storytelling impulses so many children have into a firm intention, and lo and behold I am now a writer. But I would have loved to shake her hand, and to thank her for inspiring me to my purpose in life. I don’t think I write anything like her — I don’t think I write anything like most of the authors I really admire — but it all grew out of the little seed of hemlock she planted in my mind.
. . . to heck with the part of me saying, “um, this would be a huge project and I’m not sure you really have the time.” I think I will undertake to re-read her complete works, and to blog about them as I go. It’s the best tribute I can think to give.
That, and to keep on writing.