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[personal profile] petermorwood
In 1979 I wrote what later (much, much later) became The Horse Lord.

Since I was at university, reading English Lit., I asked a couple of my tutors to have a look at it. Apart from the usual vague encouragements nothing much happened: it was a bit too far removed from Shakespeare and Chaucer.

Then in 1981 I got a letter from Alastair Minnis, who'd moved to Bristol Uni (he's now a full Professor at Yale.) I'd been mentioned, Lord knows why, to his colleague's wife Mrs Burrow, who was a Real Writer, and she'd expressed interest in reading the stuff. So I sent it to Alastair, he passed it on, and a few weeks later I got a letter back.

That was the first time I realised that Mrs Burrow was also Diana Wynne Jones, and I'd already been reading her books; I remember Cart and Cwidder and Power of Three in particular.

She was witty, perceptive, insightful, helpful... If it's possible to hold someone's hand across the wet bit between Belfast and Bristol, then Diana held mine. "One gets so little chance," she wrote, "to talk to anyone about writing, at least of the making-things-up kind."

There were other letters, with advice, with gossip, with encouragement - I still have them all in my scrapbook - and then the phonecall that wasn't a long-range hand-hold but a long-range pat on the back when Horse Lord finally sold.

My favourite among all her books is The Tough Guide to Fantasyland - my copy is ragged, dog-eared and usually bristles with bookmarks - because it's so full of the funny, accurate comments I first saw in those letters. And there are a few that are more pointed than others; "Apostrophes" for instance, or "Names" (SWORDS...seem very proud of being known to be really Excalibur or Widowmaker.) Not an uncommon sword-name, in fantasy or folklore, but I always get the feeling of being twinkled at over the rim of a pair of specs...

And then today's news.

Not the jolting shock of something totally unexpected, but the sadness that it didn't happen later, whenever that might be. Yet today is later, if you look at it from yesterday, and much, much later than last year.

I'm glad Diana had some later.

I wish she could have had some more.
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