The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy

The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy

by Leonard S. Marcus

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In a series of incisive interviews, Leonard S. Marcus engages thirteen master storytellers in spirited conversation about their life and work, providing inspiring reading for fantasy fans and future writers alike.

What kind of child were you? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? Why do you write fantasy?

"Fantasy," writes Leonard S.


In a series of incisive interviews, Leonard S. Marcus engages thirteen master storytellers in spirited conversation about their life and work, providing inspiring reading for fantasy fans and future writers alike.

What kind of child were you? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? Why do you write fantasy?

"Fantasy," writes Leonard S. Marcus, "is storytelling with the beguiling power to transform the impossible into the imaginable and to reveal our own ‘real' world in a fresh and truth-bearing light." Few have harnessed this power with the artistry, verve, and imagination of the authors encountered in this compelling book. How do they work their magic?

Finely nuanced and continually revealing, Leonard S. Marcus's interviews range widely over questions of literary craft and moral vision, as he asks thirteen noted fantasy authors about their pivotal life experiences, their literary influences and work routines, and their core beliefs about the place of fantasy in literature and in our lives.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy, ed. by Leonard S. Marcus, gathers in a Q&A format Marcus's discussions with 13 prominent fantasy writers, such as Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Brian Jacques and Ursula K. Le Guin. Photographs of rough drafts-often handwritten-and writers' libraries or desks, along with these probing interviews, make this a must for fantasy fans. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
Susan Cooper says that fantasy writers "live in the same world as everyone else but…see around corners." By asking thirteen masters of fantasy identical questions, Marcus allows the reader access to their inner selves and helps us to see around their corners. Rather than glaring differences there is a great similarity among this group, among them Lloyd Alexander, Cooper, Brian Jacques, Ursula Le Guin, Madeline L'Engle, Phillip Pullman, and Jane Yolen. Many were shy children who led solitary lives; many profess not to have been good students (L'Engle, Jacques), except for reading. They were voracious readers and began to write as young as age six (Garth Nix) and as old as 40 (Nancy Farmer). Many experienced the deprivations of World War II (Cooper, Alexander, Jacques, Wynne Jones), were influenced by the storytellers in their families, and looked to folklore, mythology, and fairy tales for inspiration. In some way, Tolkien touched all of them, either in personal meetings or through his trilogy. Among them are the spiritual, the agnostic, and the atheist. The most colorful is Brian Jacques, who ran away to sea at age 15, wrote comic monologues, and still retains his broad, irreverent Liverpool dialect. Their advice to budding writers ranges from Cooper's "Read, read, read" to Terry Pratchett's "Read a lot. Write a lot. Revise a lot. Submit a lot… Repeat." "Then" and "now" photos of each writer are provided, and a much worked over sample manuscript page for each is solid evidence that writing is a challenging task. The conversational tone and incisive answers make this a delightful read for the literary professional, the fantasy aficionado, or the just plain curious. Here is something tosavor and enjoy. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
Children's Literature
Marcus interviews thirteen writers of modern fantasy, elicits secrets, connections, and insider information enough to keep any fantasy lover in ecstasy. Common threads include, what each owes to Tolkien, what kinds of readers/writers they were as children, working habits, and advice. But the real beauty of Marcus is his ability to ask the follow-up question rather than simply march through his list. He is the ideal prepared reader/interviewer. Pictures in each chapter include the writer now and as a child, the writing space, marked-up manuscripts, and a short bibliography. Writers include the usual: Garth Nix, Madeline L'Engle, Terry Pratchett, Fanny Billingsly, Susan Cooper, Philip Pullman, Jane Yolen, Lloyd Alexander, etc. This one belongs on everyone's shelf. 2006, Candlewick, Ages 10 to 14.
—Susan Hepler, Ph.D.
Young fantasy readers are in for a treat. Marcus presents thirteen writers of fantasy in their own words, including Susan Cooper, Nancy Farmer, Ursula K. LeGuin, Madeleine L'Engle, Garth Nix, Terry Pratchett, and Philip Pullman. He devotes a chapter to each author, including a brief introduction, an extensive interview, at least one photograph of the author, a manuscript page from an early draft, and a selective list of works. The interviews focus on the writer's childhood, evolution as a writer, daily routine, writing process, reasons for writing fantasy, influences (Tolkien is mentioned often), and advice to young writers. By collecting so many author interviews in one book, Marcus illuminates fascinating differences and similarities in approach and process. Some authors write at a specific time each day; others when inspiration strikes. Some create an outline of the story, some know only the beginning and end, and others let the story take them where it will. Tamora Pierce states, "I say that you have to find your own way of doing things. . . . I want kids to realize that there are a variety of possibilities and that we all have to try different things to keep learning." The design of this book is very attractive, and it is printed on heavy paper with generous spacing and excellent photographs add to its appeal. Although the cover art is clearly aimed at young readers, the book itself is perfect for those middle readers who dream of putting their own imaginings down on paper. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2006, Candlewick, 202p.; Index.Photos., Ages 11 to 15.
—Angela Carstensen
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-Using well-focused questions, Marcus interviewed 13 master writers of the genre. He asked each one about wellsprings, the influence of antecedents, writing habits, revisions, and the effects of the times (many carry memories of World War II) in which they wrote. In the process, he uncovered fascinating revelations about where writers' ideas come from and the themes that the authors deal with. One common thread is homage to J. R. R. Tolkien: Susan Cooper took a class from him; Madeleine L'Engle devoured the three LOTR volumes in as many days; and Ursula LeGuin returns to the novels again and again. However, Philip Pullman can find little in the works now that resonates for him. Marcus also elicits pithy quotes, such as this one from Terry Pratchett: "Fantasy is like an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not actually take you anywhere, but it does exercise the muscles that will." Each lively and highly readable interview ends with some advice to would-be writers that, unsurprisingly, suggests that reading voraciously, as did Garth Nix and Nancy Farmer, and writing anything (stories for the school paper, bits of character descriptions) are ways in. The elegantly designed volume includes photos of the authors, their working spaces, and a typical manuscript page or working outline. Interviews with Tamora Pierce, Lloyd Alexander, Franny Billingsley, Brian Jacques, Diana Wynne Jones, and Jane Yolen are also included in this essential volume for fantasy readers of all ages.-Susan Hepler, formerly at Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.94(w) x 9.56(h) x 0.89(d)
940L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

LEONARD S. MARCUS: How did you choose the daemons for the characters of His Dark Materials?

PHILIP PULLMAN: Some I didn't have to choose. It was obvious what they should be. I knew that Mrs. Coulter's daemon was going to be a golden monkey. Monkeys for me have a kind of sinister quality to them.
There's a wonderful ghost story by the Victorian writer Sheridan Le Fanu called 'Green Tea.' An apparition of an evil little monkey appears in that story, and it made a huge impression on me when I first read it as a child.
Maybe the memory of that story was haunting me, and that's why it was so clear what Mrs. Coulter's daemon would be.

Q: Why does Lyra's daemon become a marten?

A: There is a painting by Leonardo da Vinci showing a young woman holding her pet, a ferret in its white winter coat - an ermine. I've always liked that picture. I make a habit of looking out for pictures of people, as it were, with their daemons. . . .

Q: You must have thought about what your own daemon would be.

A: Not very much, actually. I suppose I think of her as a bird, probably one of those dull, drab-looking birds, like a jackdaw, which makes a habit of stealing bright things. She hangs around inconspicuously listening for little bright snippets of conversation or an anecdote and then picks them up when nobody's looking and brings them back to me, and we make a story out of them.


THE WAND IN THE WORD compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus. Copyright © 2006 by Leonard S. Marcus. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

Meet the Author

LEONARD S. MARCUS is one of the world's most respected writers about children's literature. His essays, interviews, and reviews appear in the NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, a regular column for PARENTING magazine, and numerous other publications. His books include A CALDECOTT CELEBRATION, AUTHOR TALK, STORIED CITY, DEAR GENIOUS: THE LETTERS OF URSULA NORDSTROM, and other titles for both adults and young readers. He says of THE WAND IN THE WARD, "Anyone can wave a wand. The real magic of each of these remarkable storytellers lies in the telling."

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