Monday, April 16, 2012

Margaret Mahy and the Writer's Life

"Perhaps we are all born with witches, lions, magicians and heroes in us, who recognize their counterparts in the outside world and invite them in to sleep or dance in the various spare rooms that open off the main corridors of the human mind." - Margaret Mahy

Lately I've been exploring the whimsical and enchanted world of Margaret Mahy. Like many children, I grew up reading her picture books, such as "The Lion In The Meadow." Only recently I have become more aware of the breadth of young adult fantasy books she has written -- many award-winning and critically acclaimed. It's inspiring and encouraging to know about other New Zealand authors who have found not only that they can make a living from their art and creativity, but have become immensely successful and popular on a world-wide scale.

Now that I have almost finished reading her biography ("Margaret Mahy: A Writer's Life" by Tessa Duder) I have begun Mahy's most popular young adult novel "The Changeover" which won the Carnegie Medal in 1984. Perusing the shelves of a local secondhand bookstore, I found it sitting there, the only Mahy book available. I just about jumped out of my skin. The book was used, yellow-leafed, spine-worn. Inside it's cover it was stamped with previous bookstores that had sold it over the years, marking it like tattoos or tree-rings to tell it's age. It cost $4 NZD.

Paying so little felt like stealing, for such a precious treasure.

 Even though it's not a recent release, it's a beautiful, otherworldly book that really turns reality right on it's head. It was the second year in a row that Margaret won the Carnegie Medal -- which really is a fantastical achievement for any author, not just a New Zealander.

If a Kiwi, a librarian and solo mother can climb the literary mountain and prove her stuff to the international community, get published by a New York editor, and spend the next forty years publishing books, scripts and poetry, what's stopping the rest of us? 

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