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The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy

by Leonard S. Marcus

Other authors: Lloyd Alexander (Contributor), Franny Billingsley (Contributor), Susan Cooper (Contributor), Nancy Farmer (Contributor), Brian Jacques (Contributor)8 more, Diana Wynne Jones (Contributor), Madeleine L'Engle (Contributor), Ursula K. Le Guin (Contributor), Garth Nix (Contributor), Tamora Pierce (Contributor), Terry Pratchett (Contributor), Philip Pullman (Contributor), Jane Yolen (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2389113,798 (4.21)7
Interviews with 13 American and English authors of fantasy fiction discussing their lives, literary influences, work routines and their beliefs about the place of fantasy in literature and our lives. Includes a "reader" listing each author's major fantasy works.

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When I came across this at the library, I had to check it out, because all of the interviews are from my favorite fantasy authors. These people have had a huge impact on the genre, and have been inspirations to me both as a reader and a writer.

The Wand in the Word provides a brief look into the writers' lives in a quick-to-understand format. I enjoyed the pictures of the authors when they were younger, and I loved learning about their first experiences with reading, storytelling and fantasy. For some reason, I thought that this would be more writing instruction and less interview, (maybe because of the title?) but I quickly got over my disappointment. Being an aspiring writer and having read a lot of books from these people, it was interesting to compare their different views and ways of approaching stories and writing. And as always for people who live and breathe words, it is evident how they center their lives around books.

Though somewhat insightful and interesting, the questions aren't groundbreaking. If you're looking for a tell-all book about your favorite fantasy author, this isn't it. It provides nice overviews for all the authors involved, but nothing too in-depth. The best part for me was that all of these authors have an encouraging outlook for aspiring writers. They are all very different and have very different experiences with school, books, reading, and life in general. Yet, all of them have experienced success. That was a great thing to see -- there isn't a formula for becoming a writer, the only thing that's required is a love for stories.

Confession: I started writing right after I finished reading this book.

A great read for fans of these authors and for aspiring writers. ( )
  sedelia | Jun 24, 2013 |
Set-piece interviews with some of the best-known names in fantasy, including Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip Pullman, Brian Jacques, Tamora Pierce and Nancy Farmer. There's a photo of Lloyd Alexander that took my breath away. I've resolved to read something by Garth Nix, based on his interview. And Nancy Farmer, too. Jacques strikes me as an endearing rogue in the Heinlein vein. My verdict on the book is that it's spotty but interesting. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
This was a rather adorable collection of interviews with fantasy authors which I enjoyed very much. (It helped that of the thirteen authors interviewed, the only one I’d never read any of was Frannie Billingsley, which I am hoping to do something about soon.) It did annoy me a bit that the book was focused on YA/children’s fantasy, without ever actually saying that out loud, so keep that in mind if you’re looking at this book. It was a lovely little nostalgia trip, though, and reminded me that it’s been far too long since I’ve reread A Wrinkle in Time or The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Mar 30, 2013 |
This lovely collection of interviews with 13 well known fantasy authors concentrates mostly on their children's/YA fiction, but it gives lovely little glimpses in the varied world of writers. I only read the interviews with the authors with whom I was familiar -- Lloyd Alexander, Diane Wynn Jones, Ursula K. Le Guin, Madeleine L'Engle and Terry Pratchett -- and just glanced through the others. The interviews are not extensive or very personalized -- many of the questions are the same for each -- but that just made the comparisons more interesting.

What it really gave me was insight into the varied methods of writing. Some of these authors write daily, for set hours. Others write when moved. Some research, others consider their whole lives research for their writing. Some love to revise, some dread it, some have ambivalent feelings. Many faced difficulties getting published. All seem to love Tolkien. I enjoyed finding these little facts and knowing the authors that touched and formed me (Alexander's [b:Time Cat|822630|Time Cat|Lloyd Alexander|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1178690488s/822630.jpg|3016959] stands in my memory as my first indication science fiction and fantasy existed). ( )
  Murphy-Jacobs | Mar 30, 2013 |
I want to be Leonard Marcus. Well, except for the gender thing. But imagine earning a living by talking to some of the best known and loved authors of fiction for children and young adults.

In this collection of interviews, Marcus threads some identical questions throughout, and part of the fun is keeping track of the similarities in answers and noting the differences. Among the themes that emerge is that fantasy writing is an oblique way at getting at truths that reality-based fiction, or nonfiction, can't touch. Sprinkled amid the interviews are the writers' often charming stories of family members.

The authors are presented in alphabetical order, and eager as I was to get to Pratchett, I read them in sequence. Glad I did, too, because it saved what I found to be the best for last: Jane Yolen.

Marcus asks her one of his standard questions: What kind of child were you? Yolen responds: "... A little whiny. A performer. I was bossy to my brother. And I was very moral, which is probably why I love fantasy. In fantasy, you can talk about the great moral issues -- honor, heroism, truth, trust, loyalty, and evil -- things that become pretty clouded and gray in most modern 'realistic' literature."

Philip Pullman talks about a teacher who read poetry aloud to his class, leading him years later to tell his teaching students they shouldn't be afraid of poetry. "...they thought the thing to do was to explain it, to 'translate' it into simple language. I had to keep telling them, 'When you do that , you take the poetry out of it. If you don't understand a poem, so what? Just listen to it. Just taste it. Just say it. Just let it do its work without interfering with it. Sound first -- then meaning."

These are not just writers of fantasy. They are word magicians. ( )
1 vote wortklauberlein | May 4, 2010 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Leonard S. Marcusprimary authorall editionscalculated
Alexander, LloydContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Billingsley, FrannyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cooper, SusanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Farmer, NancyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jacques, BrianContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jones, Diana WynneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
L'Engle, MadeleineContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Le Guin, Ursula K.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nix, GarthContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pierce, TamoraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pratchett, TerryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pullman, PhilipContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Yolen, JaneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cieslawski, SteveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Interviews with 13 American and English authors of fantasy fiction discussing their lives, literary influences, work routines and their beliefs about the place of fantasy in literature and our lives. Includes a "reader" listing each author's major fantasy works.

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