April 12 was the kickoff date for an online extravaganza celebrating the life and work of the renowned British fantasy and science fiction writer Diana Wynne Jones, who died a little over a year ago on March 26, 2011.
Key elements of the celebration are: a multiday blog tour, during which children’s book bloggers share their thoughts about Wynne Jones’s books—and in some cases recollections of their encounters with the author herself; a dedicated Twitter hashtag (#dwj2012), which admirers can use to broadcast their favorite lines from her books; and a Tumblr, which invites enthusiasts to contribute more remembrances, along with artwork, and a variety of fan-centric craft projects—including a Year of the Griffin-inspired shawl and a crochet-it-yourself version of fiery Calcifer from Howl’s Moving Castle. (The Tumblr will also serve as the spot for all the online postings to be aggregated.)
The freewheeling online fete is the brainchild of Greenwillow publisher Virginia Duncan and Viking senior editor/Firebird editorial director Sharyn November. The inspiration was a serendipitous concurrence of events that included the one-year anniversary of Wynne Jones’s death, a forthcoming celebration of the author’s life scheduled to take place in Bristol, England this Sunday, April 22; Greenwillow’s publication of the author’s final novel, Earwig and the Witch, this past January; and Firebird’s April 12 paperback reissues of Dogsbody, A Tale of Time City, and Fire and Hemlock.
“Some months back Sharyn and I were talking about traveling to Diana’s memorial service and realizing that a year had gone by since her death, and talking about Diana’s upcoming books,” Duncan recalled. “[We wondered] what we could collectively do to let everyone know that these books were available. One thing led to another and soon we were determined to work together and combine our resources to celebrate Diana.”
“Put it all together,” said November, “and it's a perfect opportunity to celebrate the woman herself, and her work.”
For the record, this online happening is hardly the first time the two have worked side by side. “Sharyn and I were editorial assistants together at Macmillan,” said Duncan. “We go way back.”
With their plan in place, the two collaborators set to work, using their extensive networks to spread the word. “Sharyn and I both reached out to Diana’s readers, other writers, other editors, several of the artists who worked on her jackets, fans of Diana’s books in the school/library/bookstore communities, our own in-house sales and marketing staffs, Diana’s agents, sub-agents, and her publishers around the world, including Harper UK,” said Duncan. “Both the Penguin and Harper marketing departments have been reaching out via social media to let fans know about the celebration.”
The response has been “very enthusiastic,” according to November, who added, “It’s been a hard year for many of us, missing her; this celebration acknowledges the loss, but also the fact that she will live on through her work, which is thoughtful, wise, funny, and deeply inventive and intelligent (as she was).”
As it happens, 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.”
In keeping with the generous spirit of the author, fans of all ages and from all walks of life are encouraged to take part. “PLEASE participate!” said November. “Diana is an author whose work travels from hand to hand and mind to mind, and there is nothing more wonderful than sharing it. If you have a blog, post! If you tweet, put up your favorite lines! And please contribute to the Tumblr.”
In another instance of fortuitous timing, the Wynne Jones tribute’s April 12 launch coincided with this year’s Support Teen Lit Day, which followers of the Readergirlz blog and others celebrated by taking part in “Rock the Drop,” the guerilla-style book distribution scheme in which YA fans leave copies of favorite books in public spaces for readers to pick up and enjoy.
Judging from the #rockthedrop Twitter postings, quite a few of Wynne Jones’s books found their way into new hands. Greenwillow’s Duncan shared the account of one Rock-the-Dropper: Lois Adams, the copyeditor and proofreader for many of Wynne Jones’s books in the U.S. “I walked up to a public atrium on 56th Street with Enchanted Glass,” Adams said, “and as I walked in I saw an 11-year-old girl with her dad, eating an ice-cream cone. I told her that I was part of a daylong book giveaway project, and that I had to photograph the book first but then she could have it. She watched me taking the pictures, and when I walked away she headed right over to pick it up. I hope she loves it!”
While the virtual commemoration is scheduled to continue through April 26 if not longer, this Sunday the author’s life will be celebrated on solid ground in her home city of Bristol (which devoted readers may recall as the setting of some memorable scenes in Fire and Hemlock).
Open to all who wish to attend, the event was organized by the author’s family and friends, along with her literary agent Laura Cecil. Festivities will include a reading from an unfinished story by Wynne Jones, live music from the ballet of Black Maria, and a tower built from copies of all her books—including the translations. (Details are available here.)
Devotees will have one more great reason to celebrate Diana Wynne Jones come September, when Greenwillow/Harper will publish a collection of her essays, entitled Reflections: On the Magic of Writing.