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Reflections: On the Magic of Writing

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4.33  ·  Rating details ·  796 ratings  ·  127 reviews
Diana Wynne Jones is best-known for her novels and stories - of magical fantasy - written mainly for children. She received a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2007, as well as two Mythopoeic Awards and the Guardian Fiction Award for Charmed Life. But she was also a witty, entertaining speaker, a popular guest at science fiction and fantasy conventions and an ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 3rd 2012 by David Fickling Books
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Average rating 4.33  · 
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Elizabeth Knox
Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If I'd surrendered to my urge to quote from these talks and essays on Twitter or Facebook then 75% of it would be online, piecemeal. There is so much in this book that is worth repeating, reflecting on, and taking to heart. Better to buy a copy and treasure the wise, pithy, playful, and sometimes combative thoughts of this great writer.
Nicky
Oct 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Reflections is a collection of things Diana Wynne Jones wrote or used as speeches/lectures during her lifetime. There's a good range of stuff, including her fantastically clear academic work on Tolkien as well as her meditations on her own writing. Definitely worth reading -- I excitedly texted my friends with some facts, like the fact that Diana Wynne Jones was a left-handed dyslexic, and I really have the urge to reread The Lord of the Rings again thanks to her (not helped by Ursula Le Guin, w ...more
Jessica
Everyone who has ever thought about writing fantasy (for adults or children) should own a copy of this book. Diana Wynne Jones is one of my all time favorite writers, so I'm a little biased, but . . . wait, no, this isn't bias. This collection is gold.

Here are speeches, essays, reviews, and interviews from one of the greatest children's fantasy writers of all time. She inspires and berates in equal measure, condemning cliches, urging on the imagination, and detailing the inspirations of her own
...more
Arun Divakar
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At times when you get into a conversation with someone who mentions that they love reading, the conversation shifts lanes to favorite genres. Many, if not most of these conversations used to end up with me telling the other person that I loved fantasy. A look of incomprehension used to pass over their face followed by an exclamation of Oh, that Harry Potter kind ! While J. K. Rowling’s work has been extremely enjoyable and quite a landmark in fantasy literature, it is rather unfortunate that a l ...more
Andrea
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfic
A definite must for the hard-core Diana Wynne Jones fan, offering a range of writing advice, background to books, interviews and anecdotes. Non-Diana Wynne Jones fans may get a little lost, since she uses examples drawn from her books, but there's still a solid soupcon of advice.

A weak point is repetition. Because these are essays and articles drawn from the last couple of decades, readers will be forging through a few pieces of background over and over again. But DWJ is sharp and witty and deli
...more
Erin the Avid Reader ⚜BFF's with the Cheshire Cat⚜
What can I say more about Diana Wynne Jones that others have not said? She is perhaps one of the smartest, wittiest, most though-provoking writers I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing—not only with the magical, complex novels she wrote for children, but also with her science fiction, speculative fiction, and most recently, her wonderful collection of essays that contain personal experiences, book reviews, anecdotes, biographical information, criticisms of fantasy and science fiction, and pieces ...more
Sistermagpie
Oct 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic collections of essays by one of the best fantasy writers ever. It's a collection of things written over the years, so there's often repetition as she talks about her influences. Even better, I think, is the way she talks about writing, what she wants to do in her books, how books comes together. One of my favorite surprising nuggets was when she talked about two things coming together in a strange way to form something new and fantastic. The example she uses is from her childhood, when ...more
Roma
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, 2020-favs
General Rating: 9/10
Personal Rating: 8/10

As always Diana Wynne Jones reminds me that she was one genius witch
Chris
Nov 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Where to start? Diana Wynne Jones was a very individual and distinctive voice within British fantasy writing, highly regarded and rightly so, though that recognition was perhaps long coming: for example, though I was aware of the name I only first read her work in 2004, on a strong recommendation, beginning with The Merlin Conspiracy. However, from then on I was hooked. She had a growing loyal following from the mid-seventies onwards, but perhaps the fillip to her popularity came with an audienc ...more
Sarah
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a general rule, I don't read nonfiction- essays in particular- outside of school. However, this book came highly recommended by a friend, and is also by one of my favorite authors, so I decided I might as well get it out from the library. So I did, and it sat in my stack of to-be-read library books until my mother warned me that it was going to be due in a week and if I wanted to read it, I'd better do so soon.

So, I read it. And, to my (foolish) surprise, I loved it. In fact, I loved it so mu
...more
Chasia Lloyd
Really good collection of essays that gave me a lot of food for thought re: writing fantasy, especially for younger audiences.

I will add, however, that there a few (rare) passages that may not be friendly to my enby or aro or ace pals. Also I wasn't super fond of the way DWJ talked about the Aboriginal Australians in the ending interview...it wasn't exactly *problematic* but it didn't make me feel comfortable.
Joan
May 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fantasy writers to be
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lightreads
Curated collection of essays, speeches and the like. Enjoyable, if repetitious. I talked my girlfriend's ear off about this book for half an hour over dinner, which means I said most of what I wanted to there and don't have much left here. Except that she was a lovely, critical, complicated person. Her analysis of Lord of the Rings actually made me half want to reread it, and that takes doing, trust me. I also identified a great deal with what she said about her writing process: mine, too, is or ...more
Panda Incognito
I enjoyed reading this collection of reflections from Diana Wynne Jones, because even though I have only read a small sampling of her works, I think that she was a fascinating person. This book confirmed why I have read so little of her fiction, since I don't prefer the magic-centered and sometimes occult themes that she focused on, but at the same time, the book also gave me a deeper appreciation for her pioneering work in fantasy and children's literature.

Because this book collects speeches, e
...more
Kate Swed
I enjoyed these reflections, particularly Jones’ thoughts on the responsibilities of writing for children—so much room for reflection there—and the value of fantasy stories. I also thought she had some savvy comments on genre divisions, and a lot of fascinating insights into process.

Like many books on writing, there’s a feeling that sometimes comes across as ‘my way is THE way,’ and because of the manner in which the collection was compiled, it becomes repetitive at times.

Well worth a read, th
...more
Rebecca Upjohn
Dec 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: about-writing
I LOVE this book. I suspect I'll never finish reading it because it is perfect for dipping in to any time. There is a great deal here to absorb. I have always found reading Diana Wynne Jones' books a comfort. They are always what I reach for if something is askew in my world. (I know I am not alone in this. Her son, Michael Burrow, writes about this in the "Address at Diana's Funeral", the last piece in the book.) This book is no different because it is her voice and the voices of those who knew ...more
Sula
This has left me with food for thought and having read this I now want to go back and reread many of her books!
Some interesting thoughts on genre, restrictions she has come across in writing and on what children books should be. There are also few sections with advice to writers which even if you are not a writer yourself, they give an insight into how she viewed the process and how her books were formed.
Hearing of her upbringing makes you start to understand the darker themes in her books, but
...more
Ellen
Jul 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Diana Wynne Jones was for a time my Favorite Living Author, at least until Hilary McKay came along, and then they shared the honor. Along with Anne Tyler and Larry McMurtry. Ah well... The odd thing is that the other three authors write realistic fiction and DWJ wrote speculative fiction and it's only after I read this book of essays that I understood just how realistic her fantasies are. As well as how inventive and brave and wildly original, because, except maybe in the last few years of her l ...more
Sheila Agnew
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is a random canter through Diana Wynne Jones's childhood experiences, her fantastic books, the process behind her craft and her views on children's literature. It's a wonderful privilege to see inside the workings of her unique mind and I laughed out loud at her many refreshingly politically incorrect opinions. I think that the book is wonderful reading for anyone whether you're a fan or not but as a children's author, I felt like she'd just handed me Excalibur with a chuckle and a win ...more
Claire
Almost three years later and finally finished this one! It was my "read an essay before bed while between books" book, so that's the reason why it took me so long to finish instead of anything to do with its quality.

Gosh, Diana Wynne Jones was wonderful. That's what I kept thinking throughout. And her actual voice reminds me so much of many of her characters - there's a matter-of-factness that's prevalent in a lot of them that so clearly came from how she was. It made me want to reread every bo
...more
J.A. Ironside
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you write fantasy then this book is an absolute must read. The essay on Tolkien's narrative shape in Lord of the Rings alone is worth the rather steep asking price. This is a book for DWJ's older fans - young readers probably won't get so much from it.
I found the whole collection of essays both brilliant and illuminating. The only downside (it's a minor one) there is a bit of repetition with some subjects as DWJ uses some similar material in a few of her lectures. It is still worth reading a
...more
Melora
Jun 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really I'd give this 3.5 stars. Goodreads needs half stars. This was interesting and often entertaining, but it would have been much improved by being edited down to half its length. Just too many of the same stories repeated. I Did enjoy her reminiscences of classes with Tolkien and Lewis, and her childhood stories were very good. The long interview at the end was the dullest bit, but it was followed by an essay by one of her sons which presented a welcome counterpoint to some of Jones's storie ...more
Melanie
Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: beautiful-books
Everything I read by or about Diana Wynne Jones makes her even more my hero. The special quality her books have was characterized best by her son in his address at her funeral: "Her books are sustained by an enormous love; a child-like yearning to create a world that fully satisfies the human soul...this yearning is so powerful that it creates an almost poetic language and rhythm which help to transform the everyday world."

Reflections is a beautiful (because Diana wrote it), thought-provoking gl
...more
E.L.
Amazing and encouraging collection of essays. Some repetition, naturally, but the things repeated, such as the importance of fantasy, are things worth hearing again and again.

I especially appreciated the two pieces by her sons at the end. It was a joy to see Jones' children's good (and honest) opinion of her.

A wonderful book. One I'm glad to own, because otherwise I'd be checking it out of the library once a month.
Liz
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
As someone who loved her books as a kid, I really enjoyed learning about her writing process, differences she observed between child and adult readers, and how the fantasy and children's genres changed over the years. It's amazing how much thought she put into every detail of her books. But because it's a pretty comprehensive collection of speeches and essays, it repeats itself a LOT. Especially biographical stories and basic notes on her process. So I did wind up skimming some.
Jasmiina F
Aug 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have only read one short story from Diana Wynne Jones, but when I saw this in the bookcrossing meetup I just had to grab this. And it really didn’t bother me much that I haven’t read her books. This just made me want to read those even more. I’m not much of a writer, but I like to read about writing and about books. And Diana Wynne Jones wrote quite a bit about her childhood in here and it was fascinating to read about it.
Tarja
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A must-read for any DWJ fan. Though there is a lot of repetition in her talks, etc., this volume offers a very good overall picture of her person and her views on writing, young adult fiction, and fantasy in general.
Sadie Slater
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Reflections is a posthumously-published collection of essays, reviews and transcripts of talks by Diana Wynne Jones, largely focused on the process of writing, either her own or other writers'. I have had my (hardback) copy since shortly after publication; it's been living in the pile beside my bed and I'd dipped in and read some of the pieces, but hadn't sat down and read the whole book from cover to cover until last week.

I think, in fact, that I had read almost all of the pieces before, althou
...more
Brendan
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
In maybe 1995, when I was already a Diana Wynne Jones superfan, I took advantage of my mom's university library membership to track down Jones's entry in the Something About The Author reference series. It was a brief but extraordinary story, particularly about her early life, and I wasn't the only one who absorbed it; judging by some comments at the end of this collection, for many years, it was the authoritative source for many journalists writing about her. She added onto the story and refine ...more
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Diana was born in London, the daughter of Marjorie (née Jackson) and Richard Aneurin Jones, both of whom were teachers. When war was announced, shortly after her fifth birthday, she was evacuated to Wales, and thereafter moved several times, including periods in Coniston Water, in York, and back in London. In 1943 her family finally settled in Thaxted, Essex, where her parents worked running an ed ...more

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“When I say "narrative", I do not mean simply the plot, I mean considerably more. Plots and their shapes--the bare outlines of stories--were something I know J.R.R. Tolkien himself was interested in. When I was an undergraduate, I went to a course of lectures he gave on the subject--at least, I think that was the subject, because Tolkien was all but inaudible. He evidently hated lecturing, and I suspect he also hated giving his thoughts away.” 12 likes
“I hate dialect. It gets in the way. If there is a need for dialect, you can render it quite easily by reproducing the rythm of that form of speech. Then you don't need to bother with silly spellings” 5 likes
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