Skip to content

Celebrating Diana Wynne Jones

Back on March 26, 2011 at 9:38am I posted one of my favorite quotes on Facebook (because that’s what you do nowadays, right?):

How hard is the road to Babylon?
As hard as grief or greed.
What do I ask for when I get there?
Only for what you need.
If you travel in need and travel light
You can get there by candle-light.
–Deep Secret, Diana Wynne Jones, 1934-2011

Diana Wynne Jones, from her official website

I remember reading the news on her official website after hearing it from a friend: “I am sorry to have to report the desperately sad news that Diana Wynne Jones died on 26th March, 2011. She enjoyed a mini-remission late last year … but this year the cancer developed, and she sickened again. I am sure all Diana’s fans will want to extend their sympathies to her family.” I have no qualms about admitting I immediately found myself in tears—especially not here, since I bet I’m not the only one. After all, why not? One of my all-time favorite writers, whose books had been formative and affirming at a point when I desperately needed them (don’t we all, during our teen and young adult years?) was gone.

But no, I remember thinking, not really gone.

I can’t remember which book I read first, Deep Secret or Fire and Hemlock, but it doesn’t really matter. I found Diana Wynne Jones and new worlds opened and I never looked back. I devoured every book I could find, and went back for seconds and thirds. The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Dogsbody, Dark Lord of Derkholm, the Chrestomanci Chronicles … so many books that meant so much to me. I do remember when I read The Game for the first time, mostly because I remember grabbing a notebook to copy out a quote that seemed to sum up the world of stories I lived in so often: “This is the mythosphere. It’s made up of all the stories, theories, and beliefs, legends, myths and hopes, that are generated here on Earth. As you can see, it’s constantly growing and moving as people invent new tales to tell or find new things to believe.” Diana Wynne Jones contributed so much to my own personal mythosphere it’s sometimes hard for me to remember which parts are me and which parts I borrowed from her. She’s definitely not gone.

Hub blogger Sarah Debraski described discovering Dark Lord of Derkholm in her post on Jones’s passing, noting that “Jones’s unique voice and wicked sense of humor in the world of fantasy will certainly be missed.” A year later it’s clear that while Diana Wynne Jones is sorely missed, she is, perhaps more importantly, remembered.

In addition to the public celebration of her life that was held on April 22nd, a unique and wondrous virtual memorial is ongoing, centered at the Celebrate Diana Wynne Jones tumblr. The site declares itself “a place where readers and fans can share their favorite DWJ books, quotes, stories, characters, covers, memories, interviews,” and it doesn’t disappoint. Celebrate DWJ features fan art and photographs, unbelievable cakes, crochet and knitting projects, and papercraft inspired by her fictional worlds. There are discussions of DWJ movie adaptations, especially Howl’s Moving Castle, and cover art, an interview with two of her editors, audio and video interviews of DWJ herself, and a wealth of quotes. Stories, memories, and appreciations have been submitted by readers, writers, and friends including Robin McKinley, Megan Whalen Turner, Maggie Stiefvater, Garth Nix, Paul O. Zelinsky, and Ursula K. Le Guin, among many others.

And in addition to all of that, a blog tour, which began April 12th at Chasing Ray and is ongoing, has traveled the Internet, stopping for book reviews, tributes, discussions, and more. A dedicated Twitter hashtag (#dwj2012) and official Facebook page join the official DWJ website to round out the author’s online presence. (In addition to the DWJ tumblr, the official DWJ website is certainly worth a visit. If you haven’t read her short autobiography I highly recommend it as, in its own way, her true life story is just as engrossing as her books.)

Diana as a child, from her official website

I get unhappy if I don’t write. Each book is an experiment, an attempt to write the ideal book, the book my children would like, the book I didn’t have as a child myself. I have still not, after twenty-odd books, written that book. But I keep trying.” –Autobiography, Diana Wynne Jones

This online celebration, planned to coincide with the public celebration; the recent publication by Greenwillow of her last book Earwig and the Witch (January 2012); and Firebird’s reissues of Dogsbody, A Tale of Time City, and Fire and Hemlock (April 2012), was orchestrated by Greenwillow publisher Virginia Duncan and Viking senior editor/Firebird editorial director Sharyn November. As Publishers Weekly noted in its coverage, “the multipronged web celebration may just be the first of its kind. ‘So far as I know this is the first time publishers have come together to do something in this vein,’ said November. ‘It’s collaborative and in the spirit of her work.'”

That spirit certainly permeates the ongoing celebration, and what better way to join in than to extend the discussion to the Hub? So tell us, what is your favorite Diana Wynne Jones book? Do you have a story to tell about her or her work? Have you contributed to the DWJ tumblr or participated in some other way?

Of course, you can also do what I did (if you haven’t already) and pick up a book. I started reading Fire and Hemlock again last week.

— Julie Bartel, currently reading Fire and Hemlock and The Space Between

One Comment

  1. I’ve never yet managed to definitively choose a favorite Diana Wynne Jones book–there are so many wonderful ones! I lean towards A Tale of Time City, or possibly the Crestomanci books en masse. And visiting the blogs on this tour have given me ideas on the ones I haven’t read yet that I ought to snatch up!

Comments are closed.